Bush's clean-air decisions show
he's no friend to anglers
By Ted Williams
Duluth News Tribune
Like his father, George W. Bush is a fisherman. But unlike
or any past president, he is emasculating America's oldest
successful environmental laws -- laws that protect and
restore fish and the ecosystems in which they function.
Reflect on the Clean Air Act. Since passage in 1970,
it has reduced
airborne lead by 98 percent. Emissions of sulfur dioxide,
the main cause of acid rain, are down almost a third from
1993. A sharp decline in carbon monoxide emissions has
produced a measurable decline in human deaths. There is
no question that the Clean Air Act has been a stunning
So it is perplexing and disturbing to see Bush rendering
ineffective. In so doing, he ensures that fish will continue
to be dangerous to eat throughout much of North America.
This, of course, isn't just about our food. Fish are indicator
species; the fact that they're so full of airborne bioaccumulating
toxins that they are killing piscivorous creatures, humans
included, means that our planet's life systems are desperately,
systemically sick. Currently, 43 states have health advisories
against eating fish. In 19, the advisories are statewide.
Anglers need to pay just as much attention to air pollution
pollution. Mercury is responsible for about 60 percent
fish-consumption advisories. And coal-fired power plants
are the largest source of mercury pollution.
The president has submitted to Congress a plan he claims
a confusing, ineffective maze of regulations for power
plants" and at
the same time cut their emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide
nitrogen oxides by 70 percent by 2018. Instead of cleaning
up, under the new plan old, dirty plants would be allowed
to buy pollution credits from modern, cleaner plants.
"The Clear Skies Initiative," Bush calls it.
There are a number of problems here: First, although
wrong with the idea of selling credits for relatively
such as carbon that get widely distributed in Earth's
atmosphere, it's a
bit heartless to hawk credits for deadly, bioaccumulating
such as mercury. Basically, the Bush administration is
American people this: If you live downwind of a modern
power plant, lucky you; if you live downwind of a pre-Clean
Air Act relic, suck it up.
Another problem is that Clear Skies is a lot worse than
the existing Clean Air Act. Instead of requiring 70 percent
sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by 2018 as allowed
under Clear Skies, the current regulations require cuts
of almost 90 percent by 2007. By 2025 Clear Skies would
allow nearly five times as much additional mercury releases
as the Clean Air Act.
Clear Skies would replace the EPA's court-ordered 2007
implementation of mercury regulations with credit trading
until 2018. And Bush's own Department of Energy has released
a report showing that the Clear Skies initiative won't
even remove the modest amount of mercury the administration
says it will. Clear Skies also fails to address carbon
pollution, the main cause of global warming.
Publishing information on air and water quality suppressed
administration should be one of the main responsibilities
of the outdoor
press; but, with few exceptions, it hasn't risen to the
occasion. As a
result, the environmental record of President Bush astonishes
sportsmen who aren't still in denial about it.
Perhaps the most influential outdoor writer/publisher/promoter
Ray Scott, founder of the 600,000-member Bass Anglers
Society. Scott has done all sorts of wonderful things
for conservation, not the least of which is almost single-handedly
establishing bass-fishing's catch-and-release ethic. And
yet in September 2000 he was able to write the following
about candidate Bush: "Fishing clears the mind and
connects you to the creator. It's not complicated nor
too sophisticated, but personally I welcome the leadership
of a president who understands that... George W. Bush
understands the real meaning of fishing... He knows what
it is to be in Nature... Having a fisherman's friend --
an outdoorsman -- in the White House is vital to the understanding
of the outdoors and conservation concerns."
I've known Scott for 24 years and have always been impressed
savvy, so I dared hope that the reality of a Bush White
House had helped him see through all the campaign rhetoric
and public relations smog of four years ago. After all,
if he could educate himself, maybe other outdoor media
people could do the same. Then, perhaps, we all could
educate sportsmen. So on Oct. 29, 2003, I phoned Ray Scott
to ask if he still considered George W. Bush "a fisherman's
"Absolutely," he told me.