Environmental Rules Changes Decried
- While the nation's attention has been focused on the
war against terrorism, the Bush administration has continued
its effort to redirect the environmental policies of the
the new Bush regulations are a number of decisions that
could increase recreational and industrial activity on
federally protected lands, allow more road building in
national forests, and make it harder to block mining permits.
Bush's supporters say the policies are in keeping with
the conservative philosophy that was at the center of
his 2000 campaign.
there are changes," said Mark Wilson, a research fellow
with the conservative Heritage Foundation. "We had an
election; the administration changed."
say that such moves are, at best, bad policy slipping
by unnoticed. At worst, the critics say, the administration
is using the current atmosphere to push policies that
would otherwise not be accepted.
is a secret war against the environment, which has been
waged over the last four months," said Representative
Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Medford and a member of
the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. "It has allowed
the fulfillment of the wildest dreams of many anti-environmentalist
industries that would have caused political storms in
any other period."
Bush administration's recent policies follow a pattern
set when he took office. The final days of the Clinton
administration saw a flurry of regulations, in many cases
completing work on rules that had been under consideration
for years. One of Bush's first acts froze the new rules
while the administration reviewed them; later, some were
overturned and some were allowed.
one highly publicized case, the administration reviewed
Clinton regulations sharply reducing the amount of arsenic
allowable in drinking water. Ultimately, the Clinton rules
reviews are not uncommon when an administration from an
opposing party takes office, but Bush's moves were striking
because of the large number of rules Clinton approved
in his final days.
the months following Sept. 11, several significant regulations
have been enacted:
October, the Interior Department revised land protections
for areas designated as national monuments, permitting
power-line construction and more access by recreation
and industrial vehicles.
in October, the department revised another Clinton-era
rule that would have given Interior Department managers
the discretion to veto mining permits that had been approved
by the Bureau of Land Management if they would cause "substantial
irreparable harm" to environmental, cultural, or scientific
resources. The administration noted that permit-seekers
already had to go through a lengthy application process,
while environmentalists saw a protection being stripped.
November, the Army Corps of Engineers reversed a policy
that prohibited a net loss of wetlands in its projects
and required that new wetlands be protected to balance
those lost in a project. Now, the agency can instead protect
neighboring lands that serve as a buffer for wetlands.
in November, the Forest Service gave the go-ahead for
a logging plan for 46,000 acres in Montana's Bitterroot
Valley that burned last year.
month, the Interior Department pushed back a planned phase-out
of snowmobiles in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone national
parks that had been planned for next winter.
decisions on snowmobiles and mining resulted from negotiated
settlements of lawsuits filed by industry groups contesting
the regulations, reflecting the administration's belief
that it is better to have negotiated, amicable settlements
than protracted, acrimonious lawsuits.
addition, the administration made small changes to Forest
Service rules that could affect the Clinton-imposed ban
on road-building in federal forests. The first gave Forest
Service Chief Dale Bosworth discretion over whether roads
could be built into forests.
rule change exempted national forests that had recently
approved long-range management plans. Critics say that
by excluding these forests, which did not include the
roadless rules, 11 million acres of forest land would
not get protection.
month, the Forest Service added rules eliminating the
provision that requires that a compelling need be shown
before roads can be built in national forests, and allowing
the Forest Service to decide whether an environmental
impact statement is necessary before road building.
regulations for many of the issues are still being formulated
and were included on a list of "high priority regulatory
review issues" in a report the White House Office of Management
and Budget sent to Congress last month.
most of these decisions had been developing for some time,
many environmental activists suggest that the timing is
is no question in my mind that the lack of focus and lack
of presence in Washington of Congress is probably accelerating
some of these efforts," said Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat
of the Heritage Foundation, scoffs at the notion.
don't think the administration is trying to use Sept.
11 as a cover for any of their regulatory actions," he
said. "That's really just a fund-raising tactic of a variety
of groups that are having a difficulty raising funds in
the wake of Sept. 11."
the biggest issue on the horizon is the "new source review,"
an Environmental Protection Agency review of Clinton-era
clean air rules.
Clean Air Act requires that any new sources of pollution
have the best-available pollution-control equipment. The
Clinton administration interpreted this rule to include
current sources of pollution, such as power plants that
are expanded or upgraded.
energy industry opposes the rule, and the administration
is expected to reverse the interpretation. The issue would
ordinarily bring a huge fight, but many Democrats fear
that the issue will not get much attention.
national treasures are also victims of the war on terrorism,"
said Representative Nick J. Rahall II, Democrat of West
Virginia and ranking minority member of the House Resources
Committee. "Issues that normally would have attracted
attention remain under the public's radar."
administration supporters say that the environmentalists'
complaint is familiar.
always comes out, 'Oh, they're trying to do these bad
things, and no one's paying attention,"' Wilson said.
He said the administration is simply keeping with patterns
it laid out from the start.
argue that the administration has been too timid.
taking small steps to repair some of the damage done by
the Clinton administration," said Myron Ebell of the Competitive
Schlesinger can be reached by email at email@example.com.
story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 1/5/2002.
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