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A Guide to the Bush Administration's Environmental Doublespeak
October 2004

Sierra Club

By the time you read this article, it will be less than two months until Election Day. As November 2nd approaches, I'm hopeful that Sierra Club members are beginning to examine the environmental policies and actions of candidates. It's the time of year when many candidates-deserving or not-attempt to wrap themselves in the mantle of "Environmental Protector." The Bush administration is no exception.

Many citizens may be confused about what the Bush administration has been doing to protect our environment and public health. That's understandable, when one considers that our water now is getting dirtier for the first time in 30 years, that America has stopped funding toxic waste cleanup, and that the administration has removed protections for more land than the great Conservation President Teddy Roosevelt managed to protect during his entire presidency.

To clarify what the Bush administration means when they say one thing but do another, we've developed a quick reference guide:

The Healthy Forests Initiative - leave no tree behind. Pretend to protect our forests while allowing more logging. Couple the HFI with the Bush Administration's desire to repeal the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, and the result is opening up the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests for logging in previously protected areas. Healthy Forests? More like healthy profits for the timber companies, at the expense of Arkansas citizens.

A better solution is to target Forest Service projects around communities at greatest risk from wildfire, and thin the fire-prone small trees and brush while protecting old growth and leaving the fire-resistant big trees standing.

The "Clear Skies" Initiative - Allow our dirty old power plants to continue polluting. The Bush administration's Environmental Protection Agency has proposed weakening programs that would require power plants built last century to meet modern pollution control standards. More pollution in our air means more public health problems, especially asthma in young children.

A better solution would be to simply enforce the existing Clean Air Act to clean up dirty coal plants and keep making progress on cleaner air.

Clean water - A truly mercurial policy. The Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings to pregnant women to avoid eating tuna fish because of accumulated
mercury from the water, since mercury is a known toxin that causes developmental problems in young children. On the other hand, the administration's EPA proposes to delay mercury cleanup at coal-fired power plants, the major source of airborne mercury contamination of water.

A more consistent solution is to simply enforce previous programs to clean up mercury from industrial sources so fish are safe for mothers and children to eat.

Energy policy - Drill America first. Although the United States has only 3 percent of the world's oil and imports nearly two-thirds of what we use, the Bush administration has made using up our supply of nonrenewable fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, the top priority for our public lands, from our last remaining jewels like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to ranch land and forests across the Rocky Mountain West.

A better solution is to develop renewable solar and wind energy and increase energy efficiency, including miles per gallon standards for vehicles.

Climate change (global warming) - "Science, Schmience" The administration has ignored worldwide concern and general scientific agreement that global climate change is real, happening and could be caused by industrial pollution.

A more responsible policy is to support the Kyoto agreement on limiting air pollution from coal-fired plants, among other sources of carbon dioxide, and lead the world to a cleaner and safer energy future.

So the next time that you are confused by the language used by the Bush administration to describe their environmental policies, take a second look. Clean air, clean water, and open spaces are too critical for us to ignore. It's time for this administration to stop using pretty words to hide not-so-pretty actions. It's time for the Bush administration to stop putting polluters before the public, and be up-front with the American people - for our families, and for our future.

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