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Watch Out for Those Bush Photo-Ops
15 December 2001
When George W. Bush was governor of Texas, many political observers had a
theory that whenever he started holding photo ops with adorable little
children, it was time to grab your wallet because it meant some
unconscionable giveaway to the corporations was in the wind.
I did not fully subscribe to the theory, but having noticed a number of
adorable-child ops in the past few weeks, I decided to check for what might
be flying under the radar, with the following results:
- The Bush administration has reversed Clinton-era regulations for mining
on public lands, including a measure that gave federal officials power to
block mining operations that could cause "substantial and irreparable
harm." The Environmental Protection Agency says about 40 percent of
Western watersheds have been polluted by mining. From California to Alaska,
bankrupt and abandoned gold mines leak acid and heavy metals into streams.
There are 500,000 abandoned mines around the country with cleanup costs
estimated in the tens of billions.
More than a third of the Western United States, including Alaska and
Hawaii, is owned by the public, which receives no royalties from mining
companies that exploit it. Mark Rey, undersecretary of agriculture for
natural resources, told the Northwest Mining Association the administration
wants to reinvigorate mineral exploration in national forests, according to
The New York Times. The 1872 Mining Law, meant to help small-time
pick-and-shovel miners back in the day, is now the protector of giant
corporations mining for gold, silver, copper and uranium. The gold mines
use cyanide to leach out their product, which makes an unholy mess. The
Mineral Policy Center had already sued the administration, challenging the
-- Charles Peters of Washington Monthly notes that the Bushies did decide
to keep the Clinton standards on arsenic in drinking water, giving us a
policy of arsenic-no, but cyanide-yes.
- The administration has proceeded with plans to allow more road-building
in national parks, a notorious subsidy for the timber industry.
- It has decided to push back the planned phase-out of snowmobiles in
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The original plan was to shift
over to the less-polluting snow coaches, which also have far less impact
on wildlife, over three years.
- In another move, the administration has relaxed the rules on developing
wetlands: malls in the marshes, just what we need.
- The EPA has pulled information about chemical plants and pipeline safety
off the Web, apparently on the theory that terrorists might use the
information. "There are numerous information purges occurring," Paul Orum
of the Working Group on Community Right-to-Know told the Charleston
It's hard to see what terrorists could do with information on the pollution
of drinking water by chemical companies, but it's sure easy to see why the
chemical companies would like to keep it quiet. As Robert Rackleff,
chairman of the National Pipeline Reform Coalition points out, the lack of
information allows companies to "conceal existing safety problems from any
- The EPA has diverted about 40 percent of its criminal enforcement
division to anti-terrorist activities, also moving hazardous waste
inspectors to the World Trade Center site. This may well be advisable as we
all struggle to get a grip on "homeland security," but it also be smart to rem
ember that more people were killed by the 1984 chemical plant accident in
Bhopal (3,000 died immediately and 200,000 were injured -- more have died
every day since, so the tally is not final. It's generally put at 5,000)
than died on Sept. 11 (3,273, according to The New York Times).
- And, of course, the prize environmental move of all is the
administration's insistence that it is necessary to drill for oil in the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because of Sept. 11. The Philadelphia
Inquirer refers to this as the "It's patriotic to pollute" theme. Of
course, drilling in ANWAR will do nothing for our dependence on foreign
oil. Even the most optimistic estimates of ANWAR's output won't make a dent
in the 50 percent of the oil we use that comes from abroad.
I suspect that when the history of this era is written, the lack of vision
on the part of our government will be deemed the greatest tragedy of all.
This was the opportunity, this was the great shining moment when we could
have reversed energy policy — as Bush so stunningly reversed his foreign
policy — and moved toward energy independence based on conservation and
the development of renewable resources.
The president had only to ask: Americans are so eager to help. Instead of
asking us to begin to conserve and convert, he asked us to go shopping
instead. So we will remain dependent on some of the most backward and
unstable regimes in the world.
Our entire transportation system is based on oil, and we know it is
poisoning the planet, but still we do nothing. Well, Bush always did have
trouble with the vision thing. Watch out for those adorable-kid photo
Published in the Boulder Daily Camera.
(c) 2001 The Daily Camera ###
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