Sunday, December 05, 2004

Bush sets out plan to dismantle 30 years of environmental laws

George Bush's new administration, and its supporters controlling Congress, are setting out to dismantle three decades of US environmental protection.

In little over a month since his re-election, they have announced that they will comprehensively rewrite three of the country's most important environmental laws, open up vast new areas for oil and gas drilling, and reshape the official Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

They say that the election gave them a mandate for the measures - which, ironically, will overturn a legislative system originally established by the Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford - even though Mr Bush went out of his way to avoid emphasising his environmental plans during his campaign.

"The election was a validation of the philosophy and the agenda," said Mike Leavitt, the Bush-appointed head of the EPA. He points out that over a third of the agency's staff will become eligible for retirement over the President's four-year term, enabling him to fill it with people lenient to polluters.

So you got your red states, which voted for this. And your blue states, which didn't. What you won't have is green states.

Far more radical measures are also under way. Joe Barton, the Texas Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who is to help push through the energy bill, has also announced a comprehensive review of the Clean Air Act, one of the world's most successful environmental laws.

Environmentalists predict the emasculation of the Act, which has cut air pollution across the country by more than half over the last 30 years. Not to be outdone, the Republican chairman of the House Resources Committee, Richard Pombo, has announced a review of the Endangered Species Act, for the protection of wildlife. The law has been the main obstacle to the felling of much of the US's remaining endangered rain forest. And in a third assault, Congressional leaders have also announced an attack on the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires details of the environmental effects of major developments before they proceed.

Breathtaking. Today, figuratively. Tomorrow, literally.


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