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Bush's Quiet War
April 14, 2004
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 of Halliburton.

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 agenda.

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.

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