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Geoffrey Lean, "Bush Sets Out Plan to Dismantle 30 Years of Environmental Laws"

Bush Sets Out Plan to Dismantle 30 Years of Environmental Laws

Geoffrey Lean, Independent (UK)

George Bush's new administration, and its supporters controlling
Congress, are setting out to dismantle three decades of US
environmental protection.

We will now see an assault on the law which will set the US in the
direction of becoming a Third World country in terms of environmental
protection.Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust
In little over a month since his re-election, they have announced that
they will comprehensively rewrite three of the country's most
important environmental laws, open up vast new areas for oil and gas
drilling, and reshape the official Environmental Protection Agency

They say that the election gave them a mandate for the measures —
which, ironically, will overturn a legislative system originally
established by the Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford
— even though Mr Bush went out of his way to avoid emphasizing his
environmental plans during his campaign.

"The election was a validation of the philosophy and the agenda," said
Mike Leavitt, the Bush-appointed head of the EPA. He points out that
over a third of the agency's staff will become eligible for retirement
over the President's four-year term, enabling him to fill it with
people lenient to polluters.

The administration's first priority is the controversial plan to open
up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. Two years ago the
Senate defeated plans to exploit the refuge — home to caribou, polar
bears, musk oxen and millions of migratory birds — by 52 votes to 48.

But with the election of four Republican senators in favor of the
drilling, and the disappearance of one who opposed it, the
administration now has the votes for victory.

It plans to follow with an energy bill — also defeated in the last
Congress — which would investigate vast new tracts for exploitation
for oil and gas. It will also encourage the building of nuclear power
stations, halted since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.

Far more radical measures are also under way. Joe Barton, the Texas
Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who is
to help push through the energy bill, has also announced a
comprehensive review of the Clean Air Act, one of the world's most
successful environmental laws.

Environmentalists predict the emasculation of the Act, which has cut
air pollution across the country by more than half over the last 30
years. Not to be outdone, the Republican chairman of the House
Resources Committee, Richard Pombo, has announced a review of the
Endangered Species Act, for the protection of wildlife. The law has
been the main obstacle to the felling of much of the US's remaining
endangered rain forest. And in a third assault, Congressional leaders
have also announced an attack on the National Environmental Policy
Act, which requires details of the environmental effects of major
developments before they proceed.

Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, said last
week that the previous Bush administration had largely contented
itself with weakening environmental legislation, but the new one
intended to go much further. He added: "We will now see an assault on
the law which will set the US in the direction of becoming a Third
World country in terms of environmental protection."

The environmentalists point out that almost every local referendum on
environmental issues carried out on election day achieved a green

They recall the fate of the assault on environmental law - headed by
the former Congressional Speaker, Newt Gingrich, in the mid 1990s —
which caused such opposition that Congress enacted tough new green