By Joe Fields
With the war in Iraq, the 9/11 hearings, and the economy,
the media have little time and space left for other important
issues. While it is imperative to underscore the ramifications
of Bush's disastrous foreign policy, there is another war
that his administration is waging, which many feel has as
much or more cause for concern. It is the war against our
environment. This war is being fought behind closed doors,
with cabinet leaders and captains of industry setting the
rules of engagement. Their weapons of mass destruction are
money (lots of it) and influence.
The war began in early 2001, when the president set about
appointing top cabinet and agency posts. Positions in the
White House, the departments of the interior, agriculture
and commerce, were filled with CEO's and lobbyists from the
oil, mining, automobile and chemical industries. From that
early point on, they set the stage for environmental policies
that make Sherman's March to the sea look like child's play.
Some of the War on the Environment strategists were White
House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, a lobbyist for the auto
industry, Interior Secretary Gail Norton, who was a mouthpiece
for the chemical and mining industries, Treasury Secretary
Paul O'Neill, chairman of Alcoa, James Connaughton, a mining
and chemical industry lobbyist selected as the Chair of the
White House Council on Environmental Quality, Condoleezza
Rice, Chevron board member, now National Security Advisor,
J. Steven Griles, lobbyist for the mining and chemical industry,
now Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and Dick Cheney, chairman
These are but a few of the war council. In all, according
to the Sierra Club, more than thirty energy executives, lobbyists
and lawyers have been granted high level positions within
this administration. Not surprisingly, George W. Bush received
over $30 million in campaign contributions from the oil, gas,
mining, and timber industries in his run for the White House.
The first salvo fired in this war was the Bush-Cheney secret
energy policy meeting, known in some circles as the Kenneth
Lay plan. Since then, the White House has been busy identifying
environmental safeguards that industries object to. It has
set out to roll back, weaken, ignore or just plain refuse
to enforce existing laws, programs and policies. Their war
plan has been swift, precise and all too alarmingly effective.
Toxic site cleanups have been cut in half, due to the president's
refusal to re-authorize the pollution tax on industries. Now,
the White House expects tax-paying citizens to foot the bill
for Superfund sites. In another payback to corporate America,
this administration has exempted oil and gas companies in
certain circumstances from water pollution regulations. The
relaxing of mining regulations now allow companies to blow
the tops off of mountains, endangering hundreds of miles of
waterways and wildlife habitats.
Because of loopholes created by regulatory agencies, more
than twenty million acres of streams and wetlands, vital to
our environment, are threatened to be excluded from protection
of the Clean Water Act - this so mine owners and land developers
can claim use for their own purposes.
The gutting of rules regulating raw sewage discharges by
industries has put our drinking water at great risk. This
action has sent a clear signal to industries that they can
pollute at their discretion with little fear of being caught.
And if they are caught, at best they will only get a slap
on the wrist.
One more act of war is the president's "Clear Skies" proposal,
outlined in the January 2003 State of the Union address. As
was mentioned then, his plan to help clean up air pollution
would reduce emissions by seventy percent over the next fifteen
years. But like so many of his statements, just the opposite
is true. In fact, millions more tons of mercury, nitrogen
oxide and sulphur dioxide will be permitted into the air per
year than what the current laws allow.
The instances of deception and collusion are too numerous
to mention, leaving no doubt as to the disturbing and dangerous
intent of this administration. While corporations pollute
indiscriminately, our leadership and our regulatory agengies
turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Rules are sidestepped, loopholes
are constantly sought out and exploited, and court challenges
by environmental groups are barred.
It's sad to think of how things have become so twisted.
Years ago we had the wisdom to create agencies that were committed
to the stewardship of our wilderness and our wetlands, our
streams, rivers and lakes, as well as our soil and our air.
But these days those very departments and agencies have completely
abandoned the principles of stewardship, in favor of a dark
As this administration has adeptly pulled a sleight of hand
trick, causing us to focus on the war on terror, they have
created a terrifying war on the environment. We are more likely
to get hit by lightning than attacked by terrorists. But we
are all most likely to suffer the consequences of a ruined
environment. We all have to breathe the air. We all have to
drink the water. We must not allow more than thirty years
worth of responsible environmental legislation to be dismantled
by immoral politicians and corporate greed. This is a war
that we must become engaged in, for if we don't there will
be no safe place to live.