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Lay of the Land

Oil Trumps Art | Hummer and Hummerer | Phony Fire Protection | Small Fry | A Fish With Friends | Bold Strokes | Ecoterrorist Legislation | WWatch | On Wal-Mart Pond | Updates

Keeping tabs on the Bush administration

Cheney's Secrets | For the Record | A Better Way | By the Numbers

Cheney’s Secrets

Cheney's Secrets
   Illustration Zach Trenholm

At last we may find out what Vice President Cheney has to hide about the workings of his White House energy task force.

You may remember that in early 2001 the task force held repeated closed-door meetings with industry lobbyists and executives. The invitees included former Enron chair Kenneth Lay—a major supporter of President Bush now infamous for his sleazy financial dealings. When Cheney refused to share White House records of the meetings with the public, the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch sued. The vice president subsequently tried to convince a federal appeals court that the case should not be heard.

The judges rejected Cheney’s appeal in July, saying he wanted the court to extend the law "beyond its well-prescribed bounds," by asking for virtual immunity from lawsuits. As the London-based Daily Telegraph put it, the decision raises "the likelihood that embarrassing details will emerge about the extent to which a contributor to party funds influenced lawmaking." —Pat Joseph

For The Record

"I told the EPA that I am so frustrated with them that I am on the verge of inviting them to leave the state."

—Idaho governor Dirk Kempthorne (R) in his 2002 state of the state address. At press time, Kempthorne was considered George Bush’s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency, replacing Christie Whitman.

A Better Way

Sinking the Pork Barrels

In May, the White House nixed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ $108 million Oregon Inlet jetties project in North Carolina, a pork-barrel scheme that had long been championed by now-retired senator Jesse Helms. The jetties, dubiously promoted as a benefit to local fishermen, could have ravaged Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge by accelerating beach erosion.

This isn’t the first bloated, environmentally damaging Corps project the administration has blocked: It also halted a flood-control scheme in Dallas, an irrigation project that would have benefited a handful of Arkansas rice farmers, and the world’s largest flood-control pump on the lower Mississippi River delta. Unfortunately, the tightest of the tight fists, budget director Mitch Daniels, has left the Bush administration, and Congress is notorious for relentlessly reinserting pet construction projects into appropriations bills. But budget-cutting zeal sometimes pays off for the environment, and we can only hope for more unintended gifts from the Bush administration.
—Reed McManus

By the numbers

• Number of court cases involving the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that the Bush administration weighed in on during its first two years: 172

• Number of those cases in which the administration presented arguments hostile to NEPA: 94

• Number of new nuclear plants ordered since the 1979 nuclear accident at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island: 0

• Number of new nuclear plants that could be built with $16 billion in loan guarantees authorized by the Senate in a bill supporting the Bush administration’s nuclear expansion plan: 6

• Approximate percentage of the country’s 6,600 largest industrial facilities and wastewater-treatment plants that were in "significant noncompliance" with pollution limits between 1999 and 2001: 25

• Approximate percentage of firms in noncompliance against which the EPA took formal action:  15

• Percentage by which Rhode Island textile firm Kenyon Industries exceeded permissible levels for discharges of metallic sulfides between 1999 and 2001, according to the EPA:  1,285

• Fines levied by the EPA against Kenyon: 0

For more "W. Watch," including an expanded "By the Numbers" section, visit

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