Bush and the Environment

A hit parade of the Bush Administration’s environmental foibles (and even a few good deeds). By Victoria Schlesinger

May 23: The DOE announces a new regulation that requires air conditioner manufacturers to make the machines 20 percent more energy efficient by 2006.  It replaces a regulation that required energy efficiency be improved by 30 percent.

June 3:
EPA posts a report titled “U.S. Climate Action Report 2002” on its web site. The report concludes that global warming is under way, its effects will be dire for the U.S., and that the primary culprit is man-made greenhouse-gas emissions.

June 26: The administration decides to continue to allow snowmobiling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

December 12: Bush announces a second round of proposals to allow the Forest Service to largely forego environmental-impact assessments before logging national forests. The studies have been required under the National Environmental Policy Act since 1970, when President Nixon signed it into law.


March 6: The DOE asks Congress to grant the military exemption from environmental regulations regarding sonar exercises that harm marine mammals and the disposal and cleanup of hazardous waste.

June 3: The DOE announces $270,000 in research grants to help oil companies devise schemes for using heavy drilling equipment during warm weather in Alaska, which is increasingly common due to global warming. The multi-ton machinery, which previously sat on thick ice packs, now routinely sinks into the slushy tundra.

August 27:
The EPA redefines the term “routine maintenance” as it pertains to power plants. If companies buy parts that are cheaper than the ones they’re replacing, the parts are not required to comply with emission standards defined in the Clean Air Act.

September 30: The EPA announces its new Air Quality Index, a daily prediction of the air quality in 141 U.S. cities where the air is deemed “unhealthy” at some point during the year.

December 22: A federal judge overturns the Bush administration’s new snowmobile rule for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, effectively halving the number of vehicles allowed in them.


January 22: Interior Secretary Gale Norton endorses a plan permitting oil and gas development on 9 million acres of Alaska’s North Slope, a wildlife-rich area adjacent to ANWR.

February 2: The new federal budget cuts EPA funding by 7.2 percent.

April 22:
On Earth Day, Bush announces a plan to increase the acreage of protected wetlands in the U.S. by 3 million over five years.

October 27:
Dr. James E. Hansen, a top climate scientist at NASA, accuses the Bush administration of suppressing scientific evidence of global warming.

December 7: Interior Department Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles resigns after an investigation determined that he maintained illicit dealings with former energy and mining clients from his lobbying firm.


February 17: Interior Secretary Gale Norton takes a tour of Yellow-stone by snowmobile, snubbing its quieter counterpart, the snow coach. “[The snow coach] is a much more ordinary kind of experience,” she explains. “It’s not as special as a snowmobile.’’

March 29: Nine states sue after a new EPA rule allows coal-fired power plants to emit ten tons more mercury pollution a year than need be, based on the best technology available.

May 5: The Administration repeals the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a Clinton policy that protected almost one-third of national forest lands (58.5 million acres) from logging and road building.

August 8: The National Marine Fisheries Service designates the Aleutian Islands in the Gulf of Alaska a marine protected area.

August 25: Hurricane Katrina hits land. In addition to the human toll, the hurricane causes at least 575 petroleum spills, more than 350,000 destroyed cars, and four disturbed Superfund sites.


January 31: “America is addicted to oil,” Bush says in his State of the Union speech.

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This is an informative timeline, but it should include the Bush administration's action on January 15, 2003 when they published an announcement of a new policy excluding an estimated 20 million acres of wetlands and many other waters from protection under the Clean Water Act. While the environmental community and its allies and members of Congress mounted a successful campaign to stop the administration from re-writing the definition of waters protected under the law, the administration's policy remains in place today.

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