League of Conservation Voters Slams Bush Record
By J.R. Pegg
WASHINGTON, DC, June 24, 2003 (ENS) - The League of Conservation Voters says President George W. Bush is well on the way to compiling the worst environmental record of any president in the history of the United States.
In a report card issued today, the environmental political lobby blasted Bush for undermining environmental protections on all fronts, including air, water, land and wildlife and gave him an "F" for his administration's environmental performance.
"Bush's dismal Report Card is dominated by a disturbing trend: time after time, Bush favors corporate interests over the public's interest in a clean, safe and healthy environment," said League of Conservation Voters President Deb Callahan. "Under the Bush administration, corporate polluters have been allowed to write the laws."
The organization says it calculated the failing grade by taking into account Bush administration appointments, administrative and executive actions, and legislative initiative.
Other than a proposed rule to reduce emissions from diesel engines, the League of Conservation Voters says that the "bulk of President Bush's actions on the environment" favor industry and corporate interests over protection of the environment and public health.
The primary beneficiaries of the administration's environmental actions have been timber, mining, oil and gas, and real estate development companies, according the League's Report Card.
The organization says that Bush is waging an aggressive, but subtle, campaign to rollback environmental protections by using "deceptive rhetoric, arcane procedural methods, and funding cuts."
This campaign, according to the League, crosses the realm of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
Within federal agencies, the organization says Bush administration officials are cutting budgets for key environmental protections and not enforcing existing laws.
It says the Bush administration is using the regulatory rulemaking process to slip through broad changes to land use policy and environmental protections that are "difficult to explain to the American public."
Within the judicial sphere, the League criticizes Bush for nominating anti-environmental judges to lifetime seats on federal courts and for settling a slew of lawsuits over federal land protections that conservationists believe favor industry over environmental protection.
On the legislative front, the League of Conservation Voters says the Bush administration is pushing forward "fraudulently named legislation."
The administration's air pollution plan, called Clear Skies, would weaken the current regulations of the Clean Air Act, the organization says, and its Healthy Forests Initiative would open up 20 million acres of national forests to logging and waive environmental laws.
"Even President Reagan, no friend to the environment and the man who appointed James Watt as his first Secretary of the Interior, did not attempt to undermine environmental protections at such a vast scale," the report concludes.
The League of Conservation Voters further criticizes the President for his international environmental actions, including his withdrawal of U.S. support for the Kyoto Protocol, his failure to attend last year's United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development, and his lack of leadership on international efforts to protect endangered species and to address population growth.
"The Bush administration has essentially abandoned its leadership role on the paramount issues facing the global community," the organization writes.
The criticisms of the administration in the League of Conservation Voters report card are hardly new - they mirror a slew of similar reports that have been released within the past year by several national environmental organizations.
Bush administration officials and supporters say this criticism is inaccurate, misleading and the product of organizations with political agendas.
"This is a blatant partisan fundraising campaign," Interior Department Press Secretary Mark Pfeifle told ENS.
Pfeifle says the League of Conservation Voters is aligned with the Democratic party and has a political axe to grind.
He challenged the substance of the report, and said that the Bush administration's environmental stewardship is resonating with the American public because it is working cooperatively with local officials and private land owners to safeguard the nation's air, water and land.
The report mischaracterizes the Healthy Forests initiative, Pfeifle added, which was developed with local and state officials and passed the House with bipartisan support.
"Instead of having mandates and rhetoric from Washington, we are partnering with local people to develop local solutions on the ground," Pfeifle said.
Administration supporters also point to yesterday's report on the nation's environment, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The report indicates that air pollution has declined some 25 percent over the past 40 years, that 94 percent of Americans have access to clean drinking water, and that releases of toxic chemicals have declined some 48 percent since 1988.
Critics, however, say these statistics show that past environmental protections have been successful and offer little evidence of the impacts of the Bush administration's policies.
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