Bush's 7 Deadly Sins Sierra's staff curmudgeon tallies the president's environmental crimes. by Bob Schildgen
I don't get it. And I've seen a lot of strange stuff in the past 60 years, going back to the two-headed calf on our farm in Wisconsin. I've spent quality time, as they
now call it, with smugglers, embezzlers, con men, celebrities, and a genuine blackmailer.
I've hung out with philosophers, Bible scholars, and Trotskyites, not to
mention a nuclear engineer who ran a Pizza Hut. And I've followed professors explaining Dante's psychological map of humanity, from the traitors being gnawed on
by Satan to angels yodeling in the farthest arc of the universe.
But I just can't understand George W. Bush.
A man who presents himself as a down-home Texan, Bush claims to be in touch with common folk. As president, he's been rock-solid in speaking about core
values: the rights of the unborn, law and order, compassionate conservatism, government accountability, and our great American heritage.
Why, then, has he been
hammering those core values in his environmental policy? See if you can figure him out.
Turning Mom Into a Superfund Site
A Bush proposal to weaken clean-air rules would put three times more mercury into our air and water than existing rules would allow. One in six women has enough
mercury in her system to risk her kid having brain damage, mental retardation, blindness, seizures, and speech impediments. Not exactly friendly to the rights of the
unborn, is it, George?
Belly Flop in a Cesspool
Nobody much likes sewage, except maybe sewer rats or those albino mutant lizards they say inhabit the pipes. So why did Bush, on his inauguration day, rescind a
rule to cut down on sewage dumping? And then he goes from belly flop to flip-flop. First, Bush whacked a new regulation to reduce the arsenic in drinking water. A
few months later--after a public outcry--he agreed to cut arsenic down to the same limits they have in Old Europe.
Playing With Fire
Bush touted his "Healthy Forests Initiative" as a way to stop catastrophic wildfires, but it actually allows more logging on 190 million acres--which could lead to
bigger fires, because it lets timber companies cut the large trees that resist burning. He also claimed this would protect family homes, even when these trees are
dozens of miles away, and when fire experts say the best way to keep a building from burning is to make a clearing around it, not in the next county.
Speaking of combustion, the United States burns through 20 million barrels of oil every day. But Bush's global-warming energy plan called for opening almost 70 million more acres to oil exploration.
Lying, Denying, Censoring, Cheating, and Other Misundemocratic Behavior
If global warming makes you nervous, well, ignore it. That's exactly what Bush's EPA did when it sliced a whole chapter on climate change from its 2002 annual
report on pollution.
There was plenty of practice for denial and deletion, the most notorious case being just after the attack on the World Trade Center. The EPA found levels of
asbestos and other pollution thousands of times above normal around the disaster site. But the White House ordered the agency to announce that it was safe.
Then Dick Cheney's energy task force refused to reveal what went on in its meetings--until the courts forced the Energy Department to cough up some of the
records. The department even swiped $136,000 from its solar, renewable energy, and energy conservation budgets to produce 10,000 copies of the task force's
A Texas-tough law-and-order guy, Bush executed 152 people while he was governor, and the state's prison population jumped 60 percent. Yet the first year he ran
America, clean-air inspections fell off 30 percent, clean-water and clean-air criminal referrals declined by 50 percent, and criminal referrals for violations of rules
controlling toxic substances dropped 80 percent.
Putting Polluters on Welfare
At the very heart of conservatism, compassionate or otherwise, is sturdy, all-American, bootstrap-grabbing self-reliance and responsibility. Therefore, you'd expect
Bush to make big-time polluters shell out to fix their messes, also known as Superfund sites. (That's how the notorious Love Canal got cleaned up.) But Bush policy
exempts the polluters from paying, so taxpayers will now foot the Superfund bill by themselves.
Flattening Teddy's Bears and Twain's Frogs
The Bush administration has weakened environmental protection on 234 million acres--as much as Teddy Roosevelt set aside. This means more logging,
roadbuilding, mining, oil drilling--and the manly art of snowmobiling. To make it easier for snowmobilers, Bush's Forest Service proposed building a bridge to roar
deeper into grizzly territory in Montana's Flathead National Forest. This was after he snuffed a ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National
Bush even went after Mark Twain's celebrated jumping frog, yanking protection from 4 million acres of the California red-legged's habitat. He did protect 33,000
acres in Southern California for the kangaroo rat. But since these rodents are marvelously adapted to arid environments, it may be that he's just saving them for a
role in desert warfare.