Heres the Bush administrations plan to dispose of 90 million gallons of liquid nuclear waste: change its classification from high-level to "incidental." The change would allow the waste to be left in concrete-covered tanks at old weapons facilities in Idaho, South Carolina, and Washington instead of being shipped to a deep-burial repository. State officials oppose the change, charging that the radioactive sludge could end up in nearby groundwater and aquifers; indeed, some of the tanks are already leaking.
Last summer, an Idaho judge ruled that the administrations scheme violated the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. But instead of abiding by the judges order, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham asked Congress to rewrite the law. Its not the first time Bushs team has attempted this type of end-run. To protect companies that dump mining waste in streams from challenges under the Clean Water Act, the administration rewrote the water regulations to classify the debris as "fill." And after a court blocked new oil drilling off the California coast, the Commerce Department proposed revised rules for the Coastal Zone Management Act that would weaken states authority over offshore drilling. Why follow the rules when you can just erase the ones you dont like? Jennifer Hattam
"We simplified the rules. . . . We trust the people in this plant to make the right decisions."
President Bush, at a Detroit Edison power plant in Monroe, Michigan, explaining his administrations roll back of "new source review" clean-air regulations. Detroit Edison was previously fined for trying to modify another plant in the state without installing appropriate pollution controls. Bushs plan would allow the coal-fired Monroe facility to increase its sulfur dioxide emissions by more than 35 percent.
The Bush administration has berated the European Union as "Luddite" and "antiscientific" for raising concerns about genetically modified organisms, but its actually the United States thats not keeping up with the times.
In September, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety went into effect, with the backing of 57 nations and the European Community. The landmark agreement sets up disclosure standards for exporters and allows nations to reject biotech shipments from other signatory countries. Genes from bioengineered crops can mix with other plants, a process that could disrupt ecosystems by introducing varieties invulnerable to pests and herbicides. Genetically modified food may also plague humans with new allergens and make antibiotics less effective, though studies of these problems remain inconclusive.
The Cartagena treaty covers genetically modified seeds, animals, and crops, but not processed food made from the same sources, an exclusion made under pressure by the United Statesa major biotech exporterand its allies Canada, Australia, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay. Despite the concession, the United States has not signed the protocol. Jennifer Hattam