We can’t blame everything on the Bush administration. It’s
DuPont, not the Bush administration, that’s pumping 12 million
pounds of toxic waste into the air and water in Harrison County,
Mississippi. (See September's article on DuPont's "Toxic
For the past several years, the Sierra Club has been connecting
the dots between local environmental problems—be they asthma
in children or mercury contamination of fish—and Bush administration
Those connections are seemingly everywhere.
So it’s easy to forget that it’s not the Bush administration
that is doing the actual polluting, or logging, or drilling. (Usually.)
It’s the oil industry, or the timber industry, or, in the
case of Harrison County, Mississippi, the chemical industry. But
we point the finger at the Bush administration because it has the
tools to enforce laws that protect citizens from industry abuses,
but doesn’t use them.
Instead, it weakens these laws and helps industry dodge them. In
fact, according to a Los Angeles Times investigative team, the Bush
administration has even created a “complaint desk” for
the energy industry, so that industry concerns get passed on quickly
to federal land management employees in the field.
In other words, if you’re an oil or mining company, you get
your own customer service department. Want to drill for natural
gas in the Rocky Mountains but some pesky BLM scientist says it
could hurt wildlife? Call the White House Task Force for Energy
Project Streamlining, which can turn the screws on the local field
The Los Angeles Times cites the example of a BLM archaeologist
who received such a call from the White House and initially thought
it was a joke. “You must have the thing in Iraq taken care
of if you have time to call somebody in a field office about a gas
well,” he answered.
Once he realized the call, about a drilling permit, was no prank,
he treated the matter seriously. He later explained to the Times,
“It becomes a top priority because you don’t want the
bosses to jump down your throat. I’ve worked for the federal
government since the Reagan administration, and that’s never
But what if you’re just an ordinary American citizen?
While operators are standing by for the administration’s industry
friends, input from regular citizens is pretty much ignored. The
Forest Service held more than 600 hearings for the Roadless Area
Conservation Rule and received more than 2 million public comments,
the vast majority of which favored strong protections for remaining
roadless areas. But the administration rewrote the rule to allow
more drilling, mining, and timber harvesting in roadless areas.
It’s the same story for the administration’s plan for
mercury pollution, which was practically written by the utility
industry. More than 500,000 concerned citizens flooded the EPA with
comments, mostly in support of stronger limits, but to no avail.
The message to ordinary citizens? “Your call is important
to us. Please stay on the line for the next available operator.”
And instead of soft rock, replace hold music with the whir of chainsaws
and the rumble of drilling pumps.
—John Byrne Barry
(Thanks to Sierra Club RAW)
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