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Great Lakes Article:

Bush's clean-air decisions show he's no friend to anglers
By Ted Williams
Duluth News Tribune
03/01/04

Like his father, George W. Bush is a fisherman. But unlike his father
or any past president, he is emasculating America's oldest and most
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 success.

So it is perplexing and disturbing to see Bush rendering it
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 as water
pollution. Mercury is responsible for about 60 percent of the
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 "will replace
a confusing, ineffective maze of regulations for power plants" and at
the same time cut their emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide and
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 there's nothing
wrong with the idea of selling credits for relatively benign pollutants
such as carbon that get widely distributed in Earth's atmosphere, it's a
bit heartless to hawk credits for deadly, bioaccumulating nerve poisons
such as mercury. Basically, the Bush administration is telling the
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 just enforcing
the existing Clean Air Act. Instead of requiring 70 percent cuts in
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 by the
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 alive is
Ray Scott, founder of the 600,000-member Bass Anglers Sportsman
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 with his
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 friend."

"Absolutely," he told me.

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