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Key Events

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General Topic Areas

National Parks
Public land use
Air pollution
Water pollution
Toxic waste
Superfund sites and clean-up
Shorelines and oceans
Outsourcing and privatization
Corruption
Corporate welfare
Politicization and deception
Appointments and resignations
Endangered species
Public health
Wetlands
Global warming
Environmental enforcement
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Corporate Interests

Automobile industry
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Snowmobile Industry
Energy industry
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Specific Pollutants

Mercury
Lead
Formaldehyde
Atrazine
Methyl Bromide
MTBE

Specific Issues and Cases

Klamath Basin Fish Kill
Round Up power plant
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
New Source Review
Snowmobile regulation
Clear Skies
Outsourcing CAT
Roadless Rule
Mining in the Cabinet Mountains
Formaldehyde Rule
Mountaintop Mining
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The Bush administration's environmental record

 
  

Project: The Bush administration's environmental record

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Showing 1-100 of 123 events (use filters to narrow search):    next 100

(Between 2001 and 2002)

       Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey's office orders employees of the Forest Service's Content Analysis Team (CAT) to downplay the public's feelings towards the Roadless Rule in a report the team is preparing for policy decision-makers. The office also instructs them not to mention how many people have sent in comments on the issue. A memo is later distributed to the team's employees setting the limits on what they are permitted to say in the report. It instructs them to “avoid any emphasis on conflict or opposition and also avoid any appearance of measuring the ‘ote’ highlighting areas of conflict [because it] serves no good purpose in dealing with the issues or interests, and may only exacerbate the problems.” The memo even provides explicit instructions on what words the CAT team can and cannot use. Among the list of banned terms are: many, most, oppose, support, impacts and clear cuts. Words that the memo suggests using instead include: some, state, comment, effects and even-aged management. [High Country News, 4/26/2004]
People and organizations involved: Mark E. Rey, US Forest Service (USFS), Bush administration, Content Analysis Team (CAT)
          

(Between 2001 and 2002)

       The Bush administration pressures the Forest Service's Content Analysis Team (CAT) to stop accepting form letters. CAT's job is to review comment letters from the public and produce summary reports on public opinion for policy decision-makers. [High Country News, 4/26/2004]
People and organizations involved: Content Analysis Team (CAT), Bush administration
          

March 27, 2001

       EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman tells reporters that the Bush administration has “no interest in implementing” the Kyoto Protocol. [BBC, 3/28/2001; Associated Press, 3/28/2001; Environmental News Network (EIN), 3/28/2001; CBS News, 3/28/2001; CNN, 3/29/2001] The treaty would require 39 industrialized nations to cut emissions of six greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride—to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. The US would be required to reduce its emissions by about 7 percent. The protocol will not go into effect until it has been ratified by countries that were responsible for at least 55 percent of the world's carbon emissions in 1990. [BBC, 3/29/2001; BBC, 9/29/2001] The United States is the world's largest polluter and therefore its refusal to support the treaty represents a significant setback. In 1990, the US was responsible for 36.1% of greenhouse emissions. [BBC, 6/4/2004] The Bush administration complains that the treaty would harm US economic interests and that it unfairly puts too much of the burden on industrialized nations while not seeking to limit pollution from developing nations. [BBC, 3/29/2001]
People and organizations involved: Christine Todd Whitman, Bush administration
          

June 2001

       The National Research Council issues a report on global climate change that was commissioned by the White House. The opening paragraph of the document reads: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by computer model simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid regions to drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on the magnitude of the warming and the rate with which it occurs.” [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003 Sources: Climate Change Science: An analysis of some key questions]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, National Research Council (NRC)
          

July 16, 2001

       A study conducted by the General Accounting Office (GAO) finds that the scientists and experts who sit on the Science Advisory Board panels which advise the EPA often have ties to the affected industries or other conflicts of interest. The study, requested by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), says that EPA officials regularly fail to identify potential conflicts of interest when panel members are chosen and do not adequately disclose the existence of such conflicts to the public. Though it is prohibited for a federal employee to participate in any “particular matter” that could affect their financial interests, there is an exemption that permits special government employees to serve on advisory panels when the topic being studied directly affects the financial interests of their employer—as long as the employer is not “singularly affected.” [The Washington Post, 7/16/01]
People and organizations involved: General Accounting Office (GAO), Henry A. Waxman
          

October 1, 2001

       The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report concluding that evidence indicates that human activity is the major force behind global warming. “The report analyzes the enormous body of observations of all parts of the climate system, concluding that this body of observations now gives a collective picture of a warming world.... A detailed study is made of human influence on climate and whether it can be identified with any more confidence than in 1996, concluding that there is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” The panel also notes in its report that “the globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the period 1990 to 2100.” Roughly 1,000 experts from around the world participated in the drafting, revising and finalizing of the report and approximately 2,500 helped review it. [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003 Sources: IPCC Third Assessment Report - Climate Change 2001, Climate Change 2001 Sythesis Report: summary of policymakers]
People and organizations involved: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
          

Early January 2002

       The court orders the EPA to come up with regulations governing formaldehyde emissions at wood products facilities by February 27, 2004 (see February 2004). [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

Early 2002

       Michele Merkel, a staff attorney in the EPA's enforcement division whose specialty is in the area of factory farming, resigns because of the administration's reluctance to enforce federal regulatory laws and because she believes the livestock industry has too much influence on EPA oversight of factory farms. [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/3/2002; Grist Magazine, 5/24/2004] “Once the Bush team came in, I was not allowed to pursue any further air lawsuits against CAFOs [concentrated animal feeding operations],” she tells Muckraker. “We got political cover to continue what was underway, but I was told that new efforts were off-limits. It wasn't just coming from my EPA superiors, it was coming from the White House.” [Grist Magazine, 5/24/2004] “Ultimately what drove me out of the agency was the anti-enforcement philosophy of the current administration,” Merkel tells the Los Angeles Times. [Los Angeles Times, 6/3/2002]
People and organizations involved: Michele Merkel, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

2002

       The Environmental Protection Agency inflates its enforcement record by including counterterrorism and narcotics cases led by other agencies. The padded numbers obscure an actual decline in the EPA's enforcement activity. For example, the agency lumps 190 counterterrorism-related investigations into its annual performance report to Congress, referring to them as EPA-initiated “criminal investigations.” Sometimes an “investigation” involves nothing more than a phone call to an FBI agent who has requested assistance in a case. “I called the FBI and said, ‘If you need us, give us a call.’ That warranted a (criminal) case number. There was no investigation,” one EPA agent will explain to the Sacramento Bee. In another incident, two agents “went out on an interview, and they closed it after the interview.” The EPA counted the visit as a completed investigation. “To me, those are false statistics,” another senior agent tells the newspaper. The resulting numbers, which are reported to Congress and the public, mask “a significant drop-off in the federal government's pursuit of criminal polluters during the past two years.” [Sacramento Bee, 7/16/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

January 14, 2002

       EPA staffers meet with the agency's top pollution regulator, Jeffrey Holmstead, in his fifth-floor conference room to discuss a February 2004 deadline for creating a rule governing formaldehyde emissions at wood products plants. Holmstead, a lawyer, formerly worked at Latham & Watkins representing one of the nation's largest plywood producers. Also present at the meeting is William Wehrum, the EPA air office's general counsel, who had also represented timber interests as a partner of the same law firm. They meet with Timothy Hunt, a lobbyist for the American Forest & Paper Association who is an old acquaintance of Holmstead, and with Claudia M. O'Brien, the association's lawyer. O'Brien had previously been a law partner of Holmstead's and Wehrum's at Latham & Watkins. During the meeting she proposes to exempt “low-risk” plywood, particleboard and other plants from strict emission controls, arguing that such facilities are often located in isolated areas where their emissions pose a relatively small risk to public health. She also contends that the expense of adding new controls to the plants, which the industry complains could cost as much as $1 billion, would make them vulnerable to foreign competition. Holmstead likes the idea and decides that the agency should push the proposal, despite opinions from EPA career attorneys that the exemption would violate the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments (see March 2003). [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Jeffrey Holmstead, Timothy Hunt, Environmental Protection Agency, Claudia M. O'Brien, William Wehrum, Bush administration
          

February 27, 2002

       Eric Schaeffer, 47, head of the EPA's Office of Regulatory Enforcement, sends his letter of resignation to EPA administrator Christine Whitman. In the letter he says that he and his colleagues have been “fighting a White House that seems determined to weaken the rules that [EPA employees] are trying to enforce.” He complains that the administration is crippling the EPA's enforcement divisions with budget cuts and that the White House is working with energy-industry lobbyists to weaken the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act which requires older coal power plants to install pollution controls when upgrading plant equipment (see August 27, 2003). [Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/1/2002; Washington Monthly, July/August 2002; New York Times, 1/5/2004; MSNBC, 4/20/2004 Sources: Eric Schaeffer's Letter of Resignation, February 27, 2002]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Eric Schaeffer
          

April 2002

       Michael Kelly, a federal biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, heads a team for the National Marine Fisheries Service which is charged with reviewing the Bureau of Reclamation's 10-year plan for allocating the Klamath River's water. The team completes a report concluding that the Bureau's plan would jeopardize the coho salmon, which are protected by the Endangered Species Act. The report makes its way to lawyers at the Justice Department who reject Kelly's findings and order him to rewrite his biological opinion. Two weeks later, Kelly submits a new report reaffirming the team's earlier findings, but supported by more scientific and detailed legal analysis. The recommendations are again rejected. Against the team's advice, the Bureau of Land management will approve lower water levels for the Klamath River, based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, which Kelly refuses to endorse. “Obviously someone at a higher level order the service to accept this new plan,” Kelly will observe. The decision will lead to the death of 33,000 salmon and steelhead trout (see September 2002). [Associated Press, 5/20/2004]
People and organizations involved: Michael Kelly, Bureau of Land Management, National Academy of Sciences
          

September 2002

       More than 33,000 spawning salmon and steelhead trout die in the lower Klamath River due to the rivers abnormally low water level (see November 18, 2003). The fish succumb to “gill rot” which spreads rampantly among the fish as a result of warm water temperatures caused by the river's shallow waters. The lower water-level is a result of the Bureau of Reclamation's decision to cut the river's flow to 750 cubic-feet per second and divert the remaining water to farmers for irrigation. The decision was made against the recommendations of two reports by a team of government biologists (see April 2002). [Associated Press, 5/20/2004; High Country News, 6/23/2003]
          

October 2002

       Newfields International, an environmental consulting firm, completes a study comparing several different content-analysis techniques used by government agencies and private contractors. The study, commissioned by Yosemite National Park, finds that the Forest Service's Content Analysis Team (CAT) is using the most cost-effective, high-quality system available, explaining that the team has a “track record (that) is not equaled by any other organized process.” CAT is in charge of reviewing comment letters from the public and producing summary reports for policy decision-makers. Two months later the Bush administration will announce that the program will be reviewed for possible outsourcing to private contractors (see December 2002). [High Country News, 4/26/2004]
People and organizations involved: Newfields International, Yosemite National Park, Bush administration, Content Analysis Team (CAT), US Forest Service (USFS)
          

November 12, 2002

       The National Park Service (NPS) announces a plan to reverse a Clinton-era ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The NPS proposal would limit the number of snowmobiles permitted in the parks per day to 1,100 by December 2003. However, beginning with the 2004-2005 winter season, there would be no restrictions on the number of snowmobiles permitted in the parks. [Contra Costa Times, 11/10/2002; The Washington Post, 11/12/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The proposal is made despite the National Park Service having received some 360,000 emails and letters on the issue, eighty percent of which were in support of the ban. [Contra Costa Times, 11/10/2002] Lifting the ban on snowmobiles would have a considerable impact given that according to the EPA's own figures, the emissions from a single snowmobile can equal that of 100 automobiles. [National Park Service, 5/2000; Environmental Protection Agency, 2001; Blue Water Network, 1999] The EPA had recommended in 1999 that snowmobiles be barred from the two parks in order to provide the “best available protection” for air quality, wildlife and the health of people visiting and working in the park. After coming to office, the Bush administration ordered a review of the policy as part of a settlement with snowmobile manufacturers who had challenged the ban. [The Washington Post, 11/12/2002]
People and organizations involved: National Park Service (NPS), Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

November 16, 2002

       William Myers, the Interior Department's solicitor general—and a former lobbyist for ranchers—announces to members of the Nevada Cattlemen's Association (NCA) that the Bush administration intends to limit environmental reviews and make it easier for ranchers to graze livestock on public lands. He also says that the Department of Interior is seeking ways to prevent federal laws like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act from restricting grazing on public lands (see December 5, 2003). [Associated Press, 11/16/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] “We should not be using the Endangered Species Act ... as a land management tool. It is not there as a tool for zoning on federal lands,” Myers says. His comments are well received by the NCA. John Falen, a former president of the organization, tells the Associated Press, “Bill's our friend. It's been a long time since we had a friend in the solicitor's office.” [Associated Press, 11/16/2002]
People and organizations involved: William G. Myers III, Nevada Cattlemen's Association (NCA), Bush administration, John Falen
          

November 22, 2002

       The Environmental Protection Agency finalizes a rule that makes four important changes to the New Source Review (NSR) section of the Clean Air Act. Critics say the changes will help polluting industries maintain the status quo.
Plantwide Applicability Limits (PALs) - This change will allow a facility to set a Plantwide Applicability Limit (PAL) based on its average emissions over the previous ten years. A facility will be exempted from the New Source Review process when it upgrades or expands its operations if those changes do not cause the plant's emissions to exceed its PAL. Critics complain that the change does not require plants to reduce their overall emissions when a facility expands or modifies operations.

Pollution Control and Prevention Projects - Facilities will be permitted to undertake certain environmentally beneficial activities without having to apply for NSR permits.

Clean Unit Provision - Plants that voluntarily install “best available pollution controls” will be afforded “clean unit” status and exempted from NSR provisions for a period of 15 years. The change is retroactive to 1990.

Emissions Calculation Test Methodology - Facilities will be permitted to use a more lenient method when determining if a plant upgrade has increased its emissions. With the exception of power plants, facilities will be permitted to select any 24-month period during the previous decade to serve as its baseline for determining pre-modification emission levels.
The EPA also announces that it intends to revise the “Routine Maintenance, Repair and Replacement” exemption so that any modifications whose costs do not exceed a certain level would be exempt from the NSR provisions requiring plants to install pollution controls and conduct impact assessments on the ambient air quality when upgrading or replacing equipment. [Environmental Protection Agency, 11/22/2002; EarthVision Environmental News, 11/25/2002; Clean the Air, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; ENSR International, 12/24/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

November 27, 2002

       On the day before Thanksgiving, the Bush administration releases proposed rule changes that would lead to increased logging of federal forests for commercial or recreational activities by giving local forest managers the authority to open up the forests to development without requiring environmental impact assessments and without specific standards to maintain local fish and wildlife populations. Administration officials claim the changes are needed because existing rules—approved by the Clinton administration two months before Bush took office—are unclear, in addition to being costly and difficult to implement. Critics charge the changes are aimed at pleasing the timber industry at the expense of forest ecosystems. The proposed changes would affect roughly 192 million acres of US forests and grasslands. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/27/2002; CBS News, 11/27/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The proposal closely follows the timber industry's wish list—a “coincidence” according to the Forest Service. [Native Forest, 11/27/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, US Forest Service (USFS)  Additional Info 
          

December 2002

       Forest Service officials inform employees working for the agency's Content Analysis Team (CAT) that their jobs are being reviewed for possible outsourcing to the private sector. The employees are assured that the review would make them “a shining example for the rest of the agency of how successful federal employees can be.” Months later, CAT will undergo “direct conversion” instead, and all but the team's top managers will lose their jobs to private sector outsourcing (see March 2003). [High Country News, 4/26/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Content Analysis Team (CAT)
          

December 11, 2002

       Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chairman James L. Connaughton meet with President Bush to discuss the implementation of the administration's “Healthy Forest Initiative.” After the meeting, they announce proposed changes that would expedite the approval of “fuels treatment” projects (forest thinning) by weakening the review process and restricting public input. [US Department of Interior, 12/11/2002; US Department of Agriculture, 12/11/2002; Associated Press, 12/11/2002] Critics say the changes would make it easier for the timber industry to cut the larger, more fire resistant trees, making the forests more vulnerable to wildfires. They also charge that the proposed rules would allow logging interests to override local concerns. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 12/11/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] Mike Francis, a forest specialist with the Wilderness Society, commenting on the proposed rule changes, tells the Associated Press, “Those are nothing more than administration's typical desires to cut the public out of forest decisions. This administration doesn't like what the public wants to do with their forests.” [Associated Press, 12/11/2002]
People and organizations involved: Gale A. Norton, George W. Bush, Bush administration, Ann M. Veneman, James L. Connaughton  Additional Info 
          

December 15, 2002

       The Environmental Protection Agency announces the final rule on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). [Sources: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) final rule] One of its provisions allows factory farms to dump unlimited amounts of raw animal waste on the land. The resulting runoff will pollute waterways, killing fish and spreading disease. The rule also limits corporate liability for environmental damage and allows factory farms to devise their own permit conditions. [League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Natural Resources Defense Council, 12/16/2002]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency  Additional Info 
          

December 18, 2002

       The Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) tells the EPA to use the discounted value of 63 percent for health impacts on senior citizens in calculating cost-benefit analyses when conducting assessments for new air pollution restrictions on polluting industries. [Knight Ridder, 12/19/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget
          

December 19, 2002

       The Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget sends a report to Congress announcing that it will conduct a review of more than 300 regulations—including ones pertaining to the environment and public health—which it has slated for overhaul, reform, or elimination. The review will draw on more than 1700 recommendations from private industry and think tanks. Many of the recommendations would weaken food safety standards, energy conservation standards, and natural resources. Sixty-five of the regulations targeted for overhaul are under the jurisdiction of the EPA. [League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Natural Resources Defense Council, 12/19/2002; Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, 12/20/2002 Sources: Rewriting the rules, Senate Office of Governmental Affairs, 10/24/2002]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget, Bush administration
          

December 21, 2002

       The Environmental Protection Agency withdraws a Clinton era rule that imposes total pollution limits for all water bodies and requires federal oversight on the clean-up of nearly 300,000 miles of rivers and 5 million acres of lakes. The move will make it easier for states to remove waterways from the clean-up list and more difficult for other waterways to be added. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/2003, pgs 17-18; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Environmental Defense, 1/13/2003]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

December 23, 2002

       The Bush administration quietly announces plans to create a federal rule giving state governors increased control over the national forests in their states by allowing them to apply to the federal government for exemptions from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule on a case-by-case basis. The Roadless Rule, introduced by Clinton in January 2001, banned the construction of roads in 58. 5 million acres, or nearly one-third, of the nation's forests. The federal rule proposal will not be formally announced until July 13, 2004 (see July 12, 2004) [League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Wilderness Society, n.d.; Sierra Club, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

December 27, 2002

       The Bush administration outlines a seven-point plan “clarifying” federal guidelines on preventing wetlands loss. This reinterpretation of existing rules weakens protections for wetlands by focusing on the ecological quality of new wetlands that replace destroyed wetlands in developed areas instead of requiring acre-for-acre replacement. [Associated Press, 12/27/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

(2003-July 2003)

       EPA staffers are instructed by higher-ups not to analyze any mercury or carbon dioxide reduction proposals that conflict with the President's “Clear Skies” bill or, if they do, to keep the results under wraps. For example, an alternative proposal sponsored by Senators Thomas R. Carper and Lincoln Chaffee is analyzed by the EPA but its conclusions—showing that the Carper-Chaffee plan has some advantages over Clear Skies—are not released. According to one EPA staffer later interviewed by the New York Times, Jeffrey Holmstead, the assistant administrator for air programs, wondered out loud during a May 2 meeting, “How can we justify Clear Skies if this gets out?” And in June, EPA administrator Christie Whitman sends a letter to Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman, informing them that the EPA will not do economic analysis on their alternative plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as they requested. Senator McCain later tells the New York Times that he did “not feel it was normal procedure to refuse to analyze a bill that is under the agency's jurisdiction.” [New York Times, 7/14/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Thomas R. Carper, Joseph Lieberman, John McCain, Lincoln Chaffee, Jeffrey Holmstead
          

2003

       The number of beach closings and health safety advisories increases 51 percent over the year 2002 at US oceans and Great Lakes, according to an annual survey conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). In fact, 2003 is the worst year ever recorded by the organization since it began monitoring US shorelines fourteen years ago. Eighty-eight percent of the closings are due to high levels of bacteria indicative of human and animal waste. “We know that the high bacteria levels that cause most closings and advisories come from two sources—inadequately treated sewage and contaminated stormwater,” says Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC's Clean Water Project. “We have a major water system breakdown across the country, and local, state and federal authorities need to wake up and fix it.” [Environmental News Service (ENN) Sources: NRDC Annual Report - Testing the Waters 2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
          

(Early 2003)

       Randy Waite of the EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning says in an email to representatives of the meat industry, “We need to start getting across the idea that farms are going to continue to be vulnerable to citizen suits and this data will go a long way in helping us, in partnership, to find solutions to some of those issues, making them less vulnerable in the long run.” The Chicago Tribune, which obtained a copy of the email along with several other documents through the Freedom of Information Act, notes that Waite sounds almost as though he considers himself a partner with the industry his agency is supposed to be regulating, “arrayed against, for example, citizens who want to file lawsuits.” [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004]
People and organizations involved: Randy Waite, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

January 3, 2003

       The Forest Service proposes a new rule that would create three new categories of timber sales exempt from National Environmental Policy Act requirements for environmental review and public input. The three new “categorical exclusions” —exemptions meant for activities that do not effect the environment—would apply to (1) “Low-impact silvicultural treatments involving harvest of live trees”; (2) “Harvest of dead/dying trees”; and (3) “Harvest of live, dead, or dying trees necessary to control insect and disease.” Though the Forest Service states that these activities do not have a significant effect on the environment, the rule would allow the constructions of roads through federally protected forests up to half a mile long. It would apply to more than 150 pending logging projects. [US Forest Service, 1/3/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 4/2004, pgs 17-18; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Wilderness Society, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: US Forest Service (USFS)  Additional Info 
          

January 10, 2003

       Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson writes to the State of Montana and withdraws a December 2002 environmental impact assessment conducted by National Park Service scientists which had concluded that the emissions from a proposed 780-megawatt coal-fired Roundup Power Plant would negatively affect visibility and air quality at Yellowstone National Park, located 112 miles away from the plant's proposed site. Manson, a former Sacramento judge, claims that “weather events” had skewed the results of the study. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 10/31/2003; PEER, 3/16/2003; National Parks Conservation Association, 3/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 4/2004, pg 28; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Craig Manson  Additional Info 
          

January 10, 2003

       The Bush administration announces a policy directive and proposed rulemaking that would significantly restrict the scope of the Clean Water Act, removing as much as 20 percent, or 20 million acres, of the country's wetlands from federal jurisdiction. Officials claim the measures are necessary in order to comply with a 2001 Supreme Court decision that the US Army Corps of Engineers does not have the authority to regulate intrastate, isolated, non-navigable ponds solely on the basis that they are used by migratory birds. But the proposed rule and policy directive ignores a decision by the Department of Justice that the court's ruling does not necessitate modifying the scope of the Clean Water Act. The administration's directive and proposed rule interpret the 2001 decision to mean that all “isolated” intrastate, non-navigable waters are outside the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. [Environmental Protection Agency, 1/10/2003; New York Times, 1/10/2003; New York Times, 1/11/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/10/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; Earthjustice, et al., 8/2004 Sources: Federal Register, Vol 68., No. 4] Whereas the proposed rule must go through a lengthy federal process before going into effect, the policy directive is enacted immediately. The directive instructs regional offices of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to halt protection of wetlands unless (1) the waterway lies adjacent to navigable rivers, streams and their tributaries or (2) the EPA's headquarters in Washington has granted explicit approval to exercise regulatory authority. No approval however is required for the commencement of activities that could potentially pollute these waters. As a result of this directive, thousands of acres of wetlands, small streams, and other waters instantly lose federal protection. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003; New York Times, 1/10/2003; Earthjustice, et al., 8/2004] The proposed rule will generate an immense public outcry. Ninety-nine percent of the 135,000 comments submitted to the EPA and Army Corps on this proposal will be opposed to it. Comments supporting the proposed rule will come from the National Mining Association, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Association of Home Builders, and other industry groups. Additionally, environmental and natural resource government agencies from 39 states, including 17 with Republican governors, will oppose the plan, while agencies from only three states will support it. Numerous local government entities, scientific groups, as well as a bi-partisan group of 219 representatives and twenty-six senators, will also come out against the proposal. [Earthjustice, et al., 8/2004; Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003]
People and organizations involved: US Army Corps of Engineers, Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency  Additional Info 
          

January 28, 2003

       The President delivers his State of the Union address and describes his rollbacks as environmental protections. He talks about his “Healthy Forest Initiative” (see May 21, 2003) and the issues of energy independence and air pollution, stressing his administration's disfavor with “command-and-control regulations.” The President does not mention the issue of clean water. [League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Natural Resources Defense Council, 1/28/2003 Sources: 2003 State of the Union Address]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush  Additional Info 
          

February 2003

       A 50-page internal EPA report, written by the agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance, finds that the agency has done a poor job enforcing federal water pollution regulations. The study, which looks at about 6,600 industrial installations and wastewater treatment plants between 1999 and 2001, concludes that at any one time a quarter of all large industrial plants and water-treatment facilities are violating federal law. But only a fraction of these are ever held accountable. Furthermore, the office reports, 50 percent of the serious offenders exceed hazardous substance limits by over 100 percent and 13 percent exceed the limits by 1,000 percent. In 2001, the EPA took action against no more than 15 percent of the facilities judged to be out of compliance with water pollution rules. Less than half of these resulted in fines averaging about $6,000. [Washington Post, 6/6/2003; Reuters, 6/10/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

February 4, 2003

       The President presents his fiscal 2004 budget proposal. In it are billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to energy companies and several anti-environment provisions including cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, natural resources spending, renewable energy programs, and clean water programs including a $492 million, or 37 percent, cut from a revolving fund used by states to upgrade sewage and septic systems and storm-water run-off projects. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 2/5/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Environmental Spending Under the Bush FY 2003 Budget [Table]]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration, George W. Bush
          

February 7, 2003

       The Bush administration seeks exemptions from the Montreal Protocol on behalf of 54 US companies and trade groups. The international agreement seeks to phase-out the pesticide methyl bromide—a clear, odorless fumigant that is a major ozone depletor and known carcinogen—by 2005. [New York Times, 2/7/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Natural Resources Defense Council, 2/7/2003; Panna, 2/7/2003] The administration's request cites a loophole in the protocol which allows countries to seek exemptions for “critical uses,” as long as they do not represent more than 30 percent of their baseline production level. But the Bush administration's request amounts to 39 percent. [New York Times, 2/7/2004; Natural Resources Defense Council, 2/7/2003; Panna, 2/7/2003] The businesses applying for the exemptions, primarily farmers and food producers, would be permitted to use up to 21.9 million pounds of methyl bromide for the year 2005 (see (February 28, 2004)). [New York Times, 3/4/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

February 20, 2003

       The National Park Service (NPS) releases its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which favors an option to reverse the November 2000 decision to ban all snowmobiles from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks by the 2003-2004 winter season (see November 12, 2002). The new EIS—done at a cost of $2.4 million to taxpayers—results from the settlement of a lawsuit that had been filed by the state of Wyoming and the snowmobile industry to reverse the November 2000 ban. The study concludes that the “preferred option” would be to phase in a requirement that all snowmobiles used in the park be four-stroke sleds and that all operators be required to either hire a guide, pass a guide's course or accompany someone who has passed it. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 2/21/2003; Yellowstone National Park, 2/20/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] Former NPS leaders condemn the report's recommendation, insisting that the 2000 plan—backed by earlier scientific studies which had determined a strict ban would be the best policy to protect air quality, sound emissions, wildlife and human health, and safety—remains the most popular with the public. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 2/21/2003; Caspar Star Tribune, 2/21/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] Critics have warned that reversing the ban would generate significantly more air pollution in the park—twice the carbon monoxide and six times the nitrogen oxide as the November 2000 ban. [Caspar Star Tribune, 2/21/2003 Sources: Testimony Of Hope Sieck Representing The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, March 13, 2002] The decision to halt the phase-out is well-received by industry leaders. “We are grateful that the Bush administration has given this issue a closer look,” Clark Collins, executive director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition, tells the Boseman's Daily Chronicle. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 2/21/2003]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, National Park Service (NPS)
          

March 2003

       A lawyer in the EPA's general counsel's office writes a confidential memo warning about the legal vulnerability of the proposed exemption (see January 14, 2002) for wood product plants from formaldehyde emission standards. The lawyer writes that the proposed exemption would result “in a regulatory approach equivalent to the one Congress specifically rejected” in 1990. “EPA would have a difficult time articulating any rational basis to defend such a ... scheme.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
          

March 2003

       Forest Service officials inform employees of the agency's Content Analysis Team (CAT) that the work they are doing will be outsourced to the private sector. The management team will remain, but the content analysis work will be farmed out to contract consultants. This decision is made despite the department's reputation for remarkable efficiency. In October 2002, a study commissioned by Yosemite National Park had praised CAT saying it had a “track record ... [un]equaled by any other organized process.” (see October 2002). A study three months later will conclude that outsourcing will actually cost the agency more (see June 2004). [Missoulian, 11/15/2003; Associated Press, 11/14/2003; High Country News, 4/26/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Content Analysis Team (CAT), US Forest Service (USFS)
          

March 10, 2003

       The Environmental Protection Agency grants the oil and gas industry a two-year reprieve from regulations aimed at reducing contaminated water run-off from construction sites. The Clinton-era EPA phase II stormwater pollution rule “A” —scheduled to go into effect on this day—requires that companies obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for construction sites between 1 and 5 acres. But the EPA has decided that the Clinton administration had underestimated the rule's impact on the oil and gas industry. In addition to granting the two-year reprieve, the agency says it will also consider giving the industry a permanent exemption. [Associated Press, 3/10/2003; Business and Legal Reports, 3/14/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Yellowstone National Park, Environmental Protection Agency, Grand Teton National Park  Additional Info 
          

March 13, 2003

       The Environmental Protection Agency withdraws a June 2000 rule intended to clean up waters polluted by nonpoint source pollution such as agricultural runoff. The Total Maximum Daily Load was set to take effect under the Clean Water Act. [Florida Department of Environmental Protection; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The rule was opposed by the construction industry which claimed it would increase building costs by requiring contractors to comply with “costly and burdensome water quality requirements.” [Associated Builders and Contractors, 3/21/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

March 25, 2003

       The National Park Service decides to reverse the Clinton administration's decision to prohibit snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The decision ignores earlier scientific analysis concluding that a snowmobile ban is the preferred policy to protect air quality, sound emissions, wildlife, human health and safety (see February 20, 2003). [USA Today, 4/24/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: National Park Service (NPS), Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Bush administration
          

April 1, 2003

       The US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) raises the fuel economy standard to a 22.2-mpg fleet average—an increase of only 1.5 miles per gallon—to take effect over the next three years. [US Department of Transportation, 4/1/2003] But loopholes in the regulations will result in a mere overall net increase of .3 miles per gallon. Though the administration cites the new standard as evidence of its commitment to improving air quality, critics note the negligible effect the increase will have and say that it represents only what the automobile industry was intending to do anyway. The auto industry has long complained that increasing fuel economy standards is too expensive and would negatively affect vehicle safety—assertions disputed by the National Academies of Science. [Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d.; San Francisco Chronicle, 4/1/2003; Alliance to Save Energy, 4/1/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
          

April 11, 2003

       The Department of Interior informs Congress that it has decided to settle a lawsuit filed years ago by the state of Utah over the Bureau of Land Management's policy of rejecting drilling and mining projects in areas under review for wilderness protection. The decision withdraws protected status for 3 million acres of land in Utah. Without designation as a Wilderness Area, portions of the Red Rock Canyons in southern Utah could be open to logging, oil and gas drilling, mineral extraction, road-building and other development. A federal appeals court had previously ruled against the state on all but one count and consequently the lawsuit's status had been moribund since 1998. [USA Today, 4/11/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] But in March, Utah made an amendment to its complaint, thus reopening the case and providing the Bush administration with an opportunity to make a “settlement.” Environmental groups say the settlement is the outcome of a deal made between Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Utah Governor Mike Leavitt behind closed-doors. [USA Today, 4/11/2003; Salt Lake City Tribune, 4/20/2003; The Wilderness Society, 4/28/2004; Salt Lake City Tribune, 5/6/2003; Salt Lake City Tribune, 6/18/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] In addition to the settlement, the Bush administration stops congressional reviews of Western lands for wilderness protection, capping wilderness designation at 22.8 million acres nationwide. [USA Today, 4/11/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: US Department of Interior, Mike Leavitt, Bush administration, Gale A. Norton
          

April 14, 2003

       The Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM ) streamlines its permitting requirements for oil and gas drilling on public lands undermining the integrity of the environmental impact review and public input process. The changes were initiated by BLM Director Kathleen Clarke who instructed the agency's staff to use new methods for reviewing applications, such as grouping applications together in bundles and performing environmental impact assessments for entire oil or gas fields instead of for individual wells. [Bureau of Land Management, 4/14/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bureau of Land Management, Kathleen Clarke, Bush administration
          

April 15, 2003

       The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announces that it plans to ease environmental protections for wildlife habitat in the Alaskan Western Arctic Reserve. The Bush administration is looking into opening the Western Arctic Reserve for oil and gas drilling, specifically a 600,000 acre area around and including the state's largest arctic lake, Teshekpuk Lake. [Bureau of Land Management-Alaska, 4/15/2004; Petroleum News, Vol. 8, No. 16, 4/20/2003; Reuters, 4/15/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] Peter Ditton, BLM's associate state director for Alaska, stresses that the area is important for oil resources and also as a development base. A ConocoPhillips (Alaska)-Anadarko Petroleum partnership has its sights on the area which includes the “Barrow Arch East Plays,” estimated to have some 2 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil. [Petroleum News, Vol. 8, No. 16, 4/20/2003] Oil and gas drilling would threaten the habitat of musk oxen, spotted seals, arctic peregrine falcons and beluga whales, among other species. [Natural Resources Defense Council, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Kathleen Clarke, Bureau of Land Management, Peter Ditton, Bush administration
          

May 5, 2003

       The Environmental Protection Agency privately meets with factory farmers to negotiate a “safe harbor” agreement. According to one draft of the deal—which bears a remarkable resemblance to a proposal made by industry lawyers (see June 11, 2003) —livestock farms would enroll in a two-year monitoring program during which time they would be exempt from federal air pollution laws and receive amnesty for their past violations as well. In exchange, the farms would pay up to $3,500 to help pay for the program. During the amnesty period, farms below a certain size would be automatically exempted from the laws. After two years, the EPA would use the collected data to establish permanent air emissions standards (see June 11, 2003). [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004; New York Times, 5/6/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] But the proposal does not require that farms submit to enforcement or adopt any technologies after the program is finished. Critics of the proposed deal note also that the number of farms participating in the monitoring program would represent less than 1 percent of the total number of US factory farms. [New York Times, 5/6/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

May 13, 2003

       The US Fish and Wildlife Service revises a Clinton-era judgment which had concluded that the proposed construction and operation of two mines in the Cabinet Mountains of Montana would likely have an adverse impact on the local population of grizzly bears. In January 2002, twelve months after the Bush administration came into office, the mining companies filed a lawsuit protesting this judgment. The US Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reconsider the case reasoning that it needed to “make sure that it [had been] based on the best available science.” Some time after the decision was made to reconsider the case, one of the mining companies abandoned its permit. The Fish and Wildlife Service, in its new judgment, concludes that the operation of one mine would not threaten the area's grizzly bears. [Fish and Wild Service, 5/13/2003; Earth Justice, 1/29/2002; Missoulian, 5/14/2003] The proposed Rock Creek Mine, a copper and silver mine, would be the first large-scale mining operation to take place in a wilderness area. It would remove up to 10,000 tons of materials each day for up to 35 years. Critics argue that traffic brought by the mine and its accompanying roads would harm the local populations of grizzlies and bull trout and contaminate the surrounding watershed. [Fish and Wild Service, 5/13/2003; The Washington Post, 5/18/2003; Missoulian, 5/14/2003; Clark Fork Coalition website] The company that would operate the mine, Sterling Corporation, and its executives have a poor business and environmental record. [Mattera and Khan, 1/2003; Clark Fork Coalition website]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Sterling Corporation
          

May 14, 2003

       The Bush administration sends Congress a $247-billion, six-year spending proposal which would undermine environmental protections, discourage the development of mass transit systems and threaten historical sites, recreation areas, and wildlife refuges by shifting regulatory authority to the state and local level and undermining public oversight. The proposal, called the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003,” would cut the federal/local funding ratio for new rail projects from 80/20 to 50/50, thus requiring local governments to pay for a larger portion of such transit systems. The bill allocates four times as much funds for roads than for mass transit. [Associated Builders and Contractors, 5/16/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

May 21, 2003

       The House of Representatives passes the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 by a vote of 256 to 170 as part of the Bush administration's “Healthy Forests Initiative.” (see November 27, 2002) (see December 11, 2002). [Department of Interior, 5/30/2003] The legislation, introduced by Rep. Scott McInnis, relaxes requirements for the removal of small underbrush and trees on 20 million acres of forestland vulnerable to wildfires. The bill, dubbed the “ ‘Healthy Stealthy’ Act” by critics, removes important environmental safeguards and reduces public participation and judicial review, [Reuters, 5/22/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] facilitating the timber industry's access to 192 million acres. The measure also increases the industry's subsidies by $125 million. [Alternet, 5/19/2003]
People and organizations involved: Scott McInnis, Bush administration
          

June 5, 2003

       A White House aide tells Congress that the administration overestimated the expected reduction in mercury emissions that would result from the implementation of its “Clear Skies” plan. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/6/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The EPA is under court orders to finalize a mercury reduction plan, which would update the Clean Air Act, by December 15, 2003. The current version of the Clean Air Act has no provisions covering mercury, a byproduct of coal-burning power plants. [New York Times, 7/14/2003] The administration's “Clear Skies” plan had predicted that if sulfur and nitrogen compound emissions were reduced by 70 percent in 2010 as the plan proposes, there would be a concomitant reduction in mercury pollution from coal power plants to about 26 tons a year nationally. But a revised estimate put the expected reduction between 2 and 14 tons. Since Congress' current draft of the Clean Air Act had set a reduction target of 22 tons by 2010 based on the plan's previous figures, energy industry lobbyists and some pro-industry senators are now arguing that the mercury reduction goal should likewise be set to a smaller amount. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/6/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

June 9, 2003

       Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Mark Rey, who heads the US Forest Service, announces that the administration still intends to propose a rule giving state governors increased control over the national forests in their states by allowing them to apply to the federal government for exemptions from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule on a case-by-case basis (see December 23, 2002). Though the Roadless Rule would technically remain on the books, the changes would make it easier for commercial interests to obtain exemptions since industry often has considerable influence in state governments. Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist, reasons: “We have an obligation to protect them. At the same time, we have always welcomed the cooperative participation of state governments that have the broadest possible support.” The announcement comes as a surprise because only a few days earlier Rey said that a temporary rule allowing some exceptions to the Roadless Rule would not be renewed. The proposed rule will be formally announced more than a year later on July 13, 2004 (see July 12, 2004). [Associated Press, 6/9/2003; Mail Tribune, 6/11/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Native Forest Network, n.d.; US Department of Agricultural, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Mark E. Rey, US Forest Service (USFS)
          

June 11, 2003

       John Thorne of Capitolink and Richard E. Schwartz, an environmental law attorney, write a memo on behalf of the industrial livestock farm industry to David A. Nielsen and Sally Shaver of the EPA with an “outline for a possible livestock and poultry monitoring and safe harbor agreement.” Under the proposed agreement, the EPA would provide industrial livestock farms with amnesty from federal air quality and toxic waste clean-up laws in exchange for the industry helping to fund an EPA program to monitor air pollution at the farms [Chicago Tribune, 5/16/2004; Crowell and Moring, 5/22/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Memo: outline for a possible livestock and poultry monitoring and safe harbor agreement ] EPA officials and industry leaders will meet and discuss the proposed agreement on May 5 (see May 5, 2003).
People and organizations involved: Richard E. Schwartz, John Thorne, Sally Shaver, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

June 12, 2003

       President Bush sends Congress the Biennial Report on the Administration of the Coastal Zone Management Act, [White House, 6/12/2003] which proposes new rules that would undermine coastal states' control over their coastlines by reducing public and state government participation in decisions affecting the coast and its resources. The changes would pave the way for new offshore oil and gas development. [Environmental Defense Center, 8/21/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Bush administration
          

June 18, 2003

       The EPA inspector-general launches an inquiry seeking to determine “whether the agency is deliberately misleading the public by overstating the purity of the nation's drinking water.” The inspector general is concerned that data collected by states from their utilities—which serves as the basis for EPA assessments on national water quality—is flawed due to significant underreporting of violations. According to EPA officials and internal agency documents, states may be underreporting violations by as much as 50 percent. Notwithstanding these concerns, the EPA will release its unprecedented “Draft Report on the Environment” five days later (see June 23, 2003). The heavily criticized document will claim that in 2002, “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But internal documents dating back to March suggest the figure is closer to the 75 percent to 84 percent range. [The Washington Post, 8/6/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          

June 23, 2003

       The Bush administration releases its “Draft Report on the Environment,” which concludes that by many measures US air is cleaner, drinking water purer and public lands better protected than they had been thirty years ago. The document, commissioned in 2001 by the agency's administrator, Christie Whitman, is comprised of five sections: “Cleaner Air,” “Purer Water,” “Better Protected Land,” “Human Health,” and “Ecological conditions.” But it is later learned that many of its conclusions rest on questionable data. Moreover, the report leaves out essential information on global climate change and pollution sources. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: 2003 Draft Report on the Environment] In its “Purer Water” section, the report claims that “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But on August 6, The Washington Post will reveal that on June 18 (see June 18, 2003), an internal inquiry had been launched over concerns that the source data was flawed. “Internal agency documents ... show that EPA audits for at least five years have suggested that the percentage of the population with safe drinking water is much lower—79 percent to 84 percent in 2002—putting an additional 30 million Americans at potential risk,” the newspaper will report. [The Washington Post, 8/6/2003] Another troubling feature of the report is that a section on global climate change was removed from the report prior to publication because EPA officials were unhappy with changes that had been demanded by the White House. Some time during the spring, administration officials had asked the agency to delete references to a 2001 report (see June 2001) concluding that human activities contribute to global warming and information from a 1999 study indicating that global temperatures had risen significantly over the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. “In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion,” the New York Times reports. Irritated with the White House's influence on the report, EPA staffers wrote in an April 29 confidential memo that it “no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change.” Unable to reach a compromise with the White House, the EPA elected to drop the entire section. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003] In place of a thorough discussion of the issue, the report only says: “The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. Because of these complexities and the potentially profound consequences of climate change and variability, climate change has become a capstone scientific and societal issue for this generation and the next, and perhaps even beyond.” [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; The Guardian, 6/20/2003] The EPA's report also left out information on the potentially adverse effects that pesticides and industrial chemicals have on humans and wildlife. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

July 2, 2003

       Interior Secretary Gale Norton presents President George Bush with a report detailing the achievements of the National Park Service. The report calls attention to the $2.9 billion that the Bush administration says it has set aside for the park's maintenance backlog. [National Park Service, 7/2/2003] But the figure is misleading because it actually refers the park's entire maintenance budget. Only $370 million of that amount represents funds allocated to the maintenance backlog. Moreover, as the National Parks Conservation Association notes, “the president's budget is [actually] contributing to the backlog by ignoring the annual needs of the national parks, which continue to operate with only two-thirds of the needed funding.” [CNN, 8/15/2003; Salt Lake City Tribune, 7/09/2003; Salt Lake City Tribune, 8/16/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] According to the General Accounting Office, the Park Service needs upwards of $6.8 billion to complete the deferred maintenance and repairs. Critics of the administration's record also note that the administration's lax enforcement of clean air policies and its plan to replace some parks' staff with private contractors are serious threats to the national park system. [Salt Lake City Tribune, 8/16/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: National Park Service (NPS), Gale A. Norton, Bush administration, George W. Bush
          

July 17, 2003

       The EPA announces that its budget of $277 million will allow it to begin clean-up work at only 10 of the 20 newly proposed Superfund sites. The agency selected the 10 sites based on their potential for economic redevelopment and their risk to human health. The reason for the funding shortfall is related to the lapsing of a polluter fee in 1995, which shifted the burden of clean-ups away from corporate polluters to taxpayers. The Bush administration has made no effort to push Congress to reinstate the “polluter pays” fee. [EPA, 7/17/2003; Associated Press, 7/17/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

(August 2003)

       The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, under the White House's Office of Management and Budget, drafts a proposal that would shift the authority for releasing emergency declarations concerning public health, safety and the environment from federal regulatory agencies to the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB). [St Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/12/2004; Baltimore Sun, 12/19/2004; The Washington Post, 1/15/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] “Under this proposal, the White House would decide what and when the public would be told about an outbreak of mad cow disease, an anthrax release, a nuclear plant accident or any other crisis,” an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains. [St Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/12/2004] Additionally, the White House office wants the OMB to reside over a centralized peer review process charged with vetting “any scientific or technical study relevant to regulatory policy” produced by the regulatory agencies. The OMB would have the power to reject or accept the outcome of such peer reviews. [St Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/12/2004; Baltimore Sun, 12/19/2004; The Washington Post, 1/15/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] Commercial permit applications, however, would not be subject to review. Alan Morrison, a lawyer for Public Citizen, commenting on the exception, notes, “If you want to build a dam, or dump a chemical ... you evidently don't need to have peer-reviewed science.” Academic experts who are recipients of grants from an agency whose work is being reviewed would be barred from serving on the review board. But there would be no restrictions against using experts from private industry. [Baltimore Sun, 12/19/2004] Though the administration claims that the proposed change reflects President Bush's commitment to “sound science,” critics say the measure would allow political interests to impede the creation of new regulations by subjecting them to a never-ending process of review and analysis. They also warn that the review process could easily become balanced in favor of industry. Backers of the administration's proposal include the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, Ford Motor Co., the American Chemistry Council, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (whose members include regulated mining concerns), and Syngenta, a pesticide company. Opponents of the plan include a number of former regulators from the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton including former labor secretary Robert B. Reich, former EPA administrators Russell Train and Carol M. Browner, heads of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under Carter and the elder Bush; and Neal Lane, who was director of the National Science Foundation under Clinton and head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. [Baltimore Sun, 12/19/2004; The Washington Post, 1/15/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Office of Management and Budget, Syngenta  Additional Info 
          

(Between August 2003 and Early 2004)

       The Forest Service outsources the work of 47 agency employees of the Content Analysis Team (CAT) to private consulting companies, despite an August 2002 independent study praising the team for its efficiency (see October 2002) and a June 2003 internal analysis concluding that outsourcing would increase the Forest Service's costs (see June 2004). [Missoulian, 11/15/2003; Associated Press, 11/14/2003; High Country News, 4/26/2004]
People and organizations involved: Content Analysis Team (CAT), Bush administration
          

August 11, 2003

       President George Bush names Utah Governor Mike Leavitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, replacing Christie Todd Whitman who resigned in June. [White House, 8/11/2003] Leavitt was at the center of a controversy a couple of months ago for a back-room deal he made with Interior Secretary Gale Norton to suspend wilderness studies on millions of acres of Utah lands (see April 11, 2003). He supports replacing mandatory pollution controls with voluntary compliance programs for polluting industries and is a strong backer of the administration's policy of shifting environmental regulation to the states. [League of Conservation Voters, n.d.; Washington Times, 8/12/2003] During his term as governor, US Magnesium, a magnesium-processing company on the western side of the Great Salt Lake, earned the place as the nation's worst polluter. Leavitt says that he and Bush “have a like mind and a like heart” on environmental policy. [Salt Lake City Tribune, 8/12/2003] Environmentalists condemn the nomination noting that aside from Leavitt's strong opposition to a plan to store nuclear waste on a Utah Indian reservation, the governor has a very poor environmental record. “Mike Leavitt has no credentials, no understanding and no political willpower to protect America's clean air, clean water and clean land,” Marc Clemens, chapter coordinator for the Utah Sierra Club, tells the Salt Lake Tribune. [Salt Lake City Tribune, 8/12/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, George W. Bush, Mike Leavitt
          

August 14, 2003

       The Environmental Protection Agency quietly lifts a 25-year-old restriction on the sale of PCB contaminated land. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are linked to cancer and neurological problems. The rollback, based on an EPA reinterpretation of an existing law, is announced in an internal memo written by EPA general counsel Robert Fabricant. Fabricant claims in the memo that the old interpretation represented “an unnecessary barrier to economic redevelopment.” Because the change is considered a “new interpretation” of existing law, the administration has no legal obligation to make a public announcement. Critics, including some EPA staffers, note that the longstanding ban served as an incentive for landowners to notify the EPA of the contamination and clean up their property. As a result, about 100 sites a year were submitted to the agency for review. They also warn that the new policy will make it hard to track sales of polluted sites and to ensure that buyers properly assess the land prior to development. [USA Today, 9/1/2003; New York Times, 9/3/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: EPA memo, Interpretive Statement on Change in Ownership of Real Property Contaminated with PCBs, August 14, 2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration, Robert E. Fabricant
          

August 18, 2003

       The US Fish and Wildlife Service proposes a “new interpretation” of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) which would facilitate the importation of endangered species to the United States and permit hunters, circuses and the pet industry to kill, capture and import them. [The Washington Post, 10/11/2003; Defenders of Wildlife, n.d.] The current interpretation of Section 10 of the ESA sanctions the importing of an endangered animal only under the condition that its relocation to the US would improve its chances for survival, such as captive breeding programs and similar projects aimed at preserving the species. But the Bush administration's proposed change would allow the pet industry, circuses, and even hunters to capture and import endangered species. [Defenders of Wildlife, 10/17/2003; Defenders of Wildlife, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The Bush administration claims that its proposed policy—which would help satisfy the huge US demand for live animals, skins, parts and trophies—would be “sustainable” because it would require developing countries that export the endangered animals to use the resulting revenue to fund conservation efforts. [The Washington Post, 10/11/2003] The proposed reinterpretation is condemned by environmental and wildlife advocacy groups, newspaper editorial boards, and members of Congress from both parties. Supporters of the change include the zoo, circus, and trophy hunting industries. [The Washington Post, 10/11/2003; Defenders of Wildlife, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, US Fish and Wildlife Service
          

August 27, 2003

       The EPA revises the “New Source Review” (NSR) provision of the Clean Air Act. Previously, the NSR required industrial facilities to install modern pollution controls when they made upgrades to their facilities. However, the provision's revised definition of “routine maintenance” will exempt some 17,000 older power plants, oil refineries and factories from being required to install pollution controls when they replace equipment, provided that the cost does not exceed 20 percent of the replacement cost of what the EPA broadly defines as the entire “process unit.” This restriction basically allows industries to replace entire plants one-fifth at a time with no concomitant responsibility to controlling its emissions. This applies even to circumstances where the upgrades increase pollution. It is estimated that the revised rule could save billions of dollars for utilities, oil companies and others. Industry has spent the last two years heavily lobbying the White House for this rollback. [Reuters, 8/28/2003; Associated Press, 8/28/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer promises to sue the administration, telling reporters, “This flagrantly illegal rule will ensure that ... Americans will breathe dirtier air, contract more respiratory disease, and suffer more environmental degradation caused by air pollution.” [Reuters, 8/28/2003]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Eliot Spitzer, Bush administration
          

October 8, 2003

       Interior Secretary Gale Norton signs a legal opinion by Deputy Solicitor Roderick Walston reversing the interpretation of the agency's previous solicitor-general, John Leshy, who had ruled in 1996 that the 1872 Mining Law limits each 20-acre mining claim on federal land to a single five-acre waste site. As a result of Norton's decision, mining companies will be permitted to dump unlimited amounts of toxic waste on public lands, threatening surrounding waterways, wildlife, and the health of local human populations. The Bush administration and the mining industry have argued that the Clinton-era opinion caused a significant reduction in US minerals exploration, mine development and mining jobs since 1997. “It created an atmosphere of uncertainty and when you are making investments of hundreds of millions of dollars, uncertainty is not something you want to face,” explains Assistant Interior Secretary Rebecca Watson. “We anticipate we will now see more development and exploration for mining.” The decision was praised by the mining industry. “This is good news,” Russ Fields, executive director of the Nevada Mining Association. “The old opinion did create a lot of uncertainty for our industry.” [Associated Press, 10/10/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Roderick Walston, John Leshy, Gale A. Norton, Bush administration
          

October 17, 2003

       The Environmental Protection Agency announces that it will not regulate dioxins in land-applied sewage sludge, which is considered to be the second largest source for dioxin exposure. [The Washington Post, 10/18/2003; Associated Press, 10/18/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 10/17/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The decision goes against a December 1999 proposed rule calling on the EPA to regulate the application of sludge, which is used for fertilizer on farms, forests, parks, and golf courses. [The Washington Post, 10/18/2003; Associated Press, 10/18/2003] The EPA says that regulation is not necessary because dioxins from sewage sludge do not pose significant health or environmental risks. But according to a National Research Council report completed the year before, the agency had been using outdated methods to assess the risks of sewer sludge. [Associated Press, 10/18/2003] According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, dioxins are “among the most toxic substances on Earth” and are responsible for causing cancer and diabetes, as well as nervous system and hormonal problems. The NRDC says that the decision violates the Clean Water Act, which charges the agency with restricting the level of toxic pollutants that harm human health or the environment. [Natural Resources Defense Council, 10/17/2003]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Ivan L. Frederick II
          

October 31, 2003

       The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture announce a decision to approve the unrestricted sale of the pesticide atrazine. Manufacturers of the chemical will be responsible for monitoring atrazine residue levels in only a small percentage of the watersheds vulnerable to atrazine contamination and ensuring that they do not exceed the Clean Water Act's total maximum daily load (TMDL). Other vulnerable waterways will not be monitored by the manufacturers or the EPA. For example, Syngenta—the major manufacturer of the chemical—agreed in private meetings with the EPA that it would monitor atrazine pollution in 20 of 1,172 watersheds labeled as high risk beginning in 2004. The number would double the following year. Atrazine has been linked to cancer and is potentially harmful to endangered fish, reptiles, amphibians, mussels, and aquatic plant life. [Environmental Protection Agency, 10/31/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 10/31/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Syngenta, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, George W. Bush
          

November 2003

       A study of about 14,000 workers in England who have been exposed to formaldehyde fails to demonstrate a link between formaldehyde and leukemia. [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
          

November 2003

       The National Cancer Institute publishes a study demonstrating that 25,000 workers exposed to formaldehyde had an increased risk of leukemia. The EPA will ignore the results of this study when it creates a new federal rule regulating formaldehyde emissions in February 2004 (see September 2002). [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, National Cancer Institute
          

November 4, 2003

       Environmental Protection Agency officials announce during an internal meeting of EPA enforcement officials in Seattle and during a conference call the following day that current cases involving violations of the Clean Air Act will be judged according to the agency's new interpretation of the New Source Review (see August 27, 2003) —to go into effect in December (see December 2003) —instead of the old, more stringent rules that were in use at the time the violations occurred. [Los Angeles Times, 11/6/2003; New York Times, 11/6/2003; Democratic Policy Committee, 2/6/2004] The backroom decision contradicts what EPA air official Jeff Holmstead told a Senate committee in 2002. “It is certainly our intent to make these (rules) prospective only,” he claimed at the time. [USA Today, 11/6/2003] According to lawyers at the EPA, the agency's decision will likely result in the EPA dismissing investigations into 50 coal-burning power plants for past violations of the Clean Air Act. According to the lawyers, the changes—based on recommendations from Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force—could save the industry up to $20 billion. However in its official statement on November 5, the EPA says that no formal decision has been made to dismiss all the investigations, claiming that it would review each “on a case-by-case basis to determine whether it will be pursued or set aside.” [New York Times, 11/6/2003]
People and organizations involved: Dick Cheney, Jeffrey Holmstead, Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

November 14, 2003

       After 71 days of negotiations, Congressional Republicans announce that they have agreed on an energy bill that would provide some $20 billion in tax breaks for power companies. [New York Times, 11/15/2003; Christian Science Monitor, 11/19/2003] President Bush voices his support for the bill—drafted mostly by Republicans—which he says will make the US “safer and stronger” by helping to “keep the lights on, the furnaces lit, and the factories running.” He also states, “By making America less reliant on foreign sources of energy, we also will make our nation more secure.” [White House, 11/14/2003; New York Times, 11/15/2003] To facilitate the bill's passage through Congress, “negotiators sprinkled in dozens of sweeteners sought by states and congressional districts,” including nearly $1 billion in shoreline restoration projects, tax credits for a company that manufactures fuel from compressed turkey carcasses, and a provision doubling the use of corn-based ethanol as a gasoline additive. The Republican lawmakers also dropped a section that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, as Democrats had made clear that they would vote against any bill containing such a provision. But the Republicans decided against including a Democrat-favored plan to require large utility companies to steadily increase their use of energy from clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar power. [New York Times, 11/15/2003; The Washington Post, 11/16/2003 [b]; Christian Science Monitor, 11/19/2003; Associated Press, 11/16/2003] The bill includes:
A provision introduced by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay that would provide energy companies and universities with $2 billion in subsidies over the next 10 years for research and development of ultra deep-water oil exploration techniques and “unconventional” natural gas extraction. [The Washington Post, 11/16/2003; Christian Science Monitor, 11/19/2003; Associated Press, 11/16/2003]

A controversial provision granting Gulf Coast refiners of the fuel additive MTBE $2 billion in subsidies to assist them in the phasing out of MTBE production. The phase-out, originally proposed to take 4 years, is extended to 10 by the bill. MTBE, or methyl tertiary-butyl ether, which helps decrease smog, is known to contaminate groundwater. The new energy bill would also prevent communities from bringing product liability lawsuits against the manufacturers of MTBE. Tom Delay was a strong supporter of this provision, as were other legislators from Louisiana and Texas, where MTBE is produced. [The Washington Post, 11/16/2003; New York Times, 11/15/2003; Christian Science Monitor, 11/19/2003; Associated Press, 11/16/2003]

A section dealing with the electric grid that would require large power companies to meet new mandatory reliability standards. [New York Times, 11/15/2003; New York Times, 11/16/2003]

Royalty relief to the owners of marginal oil and gas wells. The program would apply to approximately 80 percent of all wells on federal lands. [Christian Science Monitor, 11/19/2003]

A provision that would allow taxpayer money to fund the clean-up of leaking underground gasoline storage tanks (LUST). [Sources: Letter from head of evironmental groups to Congress about the energy bill HR 6]

A provision authorizing Alaska's “Denali Commission” to use over $1 billion on hydroelectric and other energy projects on Alaska Federal Lands. [Sources: Letter from head of evironmental groups to Congress about the energy bill HR 6]

A provision permitting urban areas like Dallas-Ft. Worth, Washington, DC and southwestern Michigan to further delay efforts to reduce air pollution, “an action that will place a significant burden on states and municipalities down-wind of these urban centers.” [Sources: Letter from head of evironmental groups to Congress about the energy bill HR 6]

$100 million/year in production tax credits for the construction of up to four light-water nuclear reactors. [Christian Science Monitor, 11/19/2003; The Washington Post, 11/16/2003 [b]]

Loan guarantees for building a $20 billion trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline. But officials of ConocoPhillips, a major backer of the project, complain that the bill's incentives are insufficient to get the project moving. [Associated Press, 11/16/2003; The Washington Post, 11/16/2003 [b]]

Tax incentives to encourage wind power generators, energy-efficient homes and hybrid passenger cars running on gasoline and batteries. Additionally, it sets aside funds for equipping government buildings with photovoltaic cells and developing energy-efficient traffic lights. The package also allocates $6.2 million to encourage bicycle use. But according to a preliminary estimate by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, these progressive reforms would eliminate only about three months worth of energy use between now and 2020. [The Washington Post, 11/16/2003 [b]]

A repeal of the 1935 Public Utility Holding Company Act, which limits utility industry mergers. This provision was a top priority for the electric power industry and the White House. [The Washington Post, 11/16/2003 [b]]
Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico and chairman of the conference committee charged with resolving differences between the House and Senate bills, acknowledge to the New York Times that the bill will likely be criticized. [New York Times, 11/15/2003]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Pete V. Domenici, Tom DeLay  Additional Info 
          

November 18, 2003

       The US Fish and Wildlife Service accepts the blame for a government policy that resulted in the largest fish kill in history. The US Fish and Wildlife Service admits that its decision (see April 2002) to authorize a water diversion in the Upper Klamath Basin for the benefit of commercial agriculture, trapped migrating Chinook, Coho salmon, and other species in stagnant water, killing some 33,000 fish (see September 2002). [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19/2003 Sources: Klamath River Fish Die-off, September 2002: Causative Factors of Mortality]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, US Fish and Wildlife Service
          

November 21, 2003

       The Bureau of Land Management grants Questar Exploration and Development Corporation a special exemption to drill four gas wells on Wyoming's Pinedale Mesa throughout the winter season for the second year in a row. The company will drill the wells from a single pad using directional drilling technology instead of from multiple pads which would require the use of more space and the construction of more roads. Normally companies are barred from drilling between November 15 and April 30 in order to protect the region's wildlife population. [Associated Press, 11/24/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/1/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] For at least 6,000 years, the area has served as a crucial winter range and migration corridor between the Wind River and Wyoming mountain ranges for more than 100,000 mule deer, pronghorn antelope, moose, elk, and bighorn sheep. Biologists fear that winter drilling in the region could disrupt this annual migration, causing significant losses to the wildlife population. For example, the corridor is critical to the survival of a herd of pronghorn antelope because it receives a lesser amount of snow than the surrounding areas. Pronghorn antelope cannot survive in the deep snow because it makes it impossible for them to evade their predators. [National Geographic, 3/28/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/1/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Questar Exploration and Development, Bureau of Land Management
          

November 24, 2003

       President Bush signs into law the defense authorization bill, which contains a controversial rider allowing the Pentagon to circumvent the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA). The MMPA prohibits government and commercial interests from engaging in activities harmful to the declining populations of whales, dolphins and seals. The act, passed in 1972, has been credited with halting the decline of some of those populations. The bill also exempts the military from certain provisions of the ESA. [Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003; The Washington Post, 11/16/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] For example, the bill:
Permits the Secretary of Defense to exempt any military activity from the MMPA, without regard to its impact on whales, seals and dolphins. The Navy claims the MMPA puts American lives at risk because it makes it more difficult for the Navy to detect enemy submarines. [Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003; The Washington Post, 11/16/2003; Earth Island Institute, 11/6/2004]

Loosens the MMPA definition of “harassment” of marine mammals, making it almost impossible to enforce the MMPA. [Earth Island Institute, 11/6/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003]

Extends the Pentagon's exemptions to scientists who conduct research sponsored by the Navy or other federal agencies. [Earth Island Institute, 11/6/2004]

Eliminates language in the MMPA that prohibits the Navy from doing sonars, invasive research, bomb testing and other activities that threaten the habitat of whales, seals and dolphins. [Earth Island Institute, 11/6/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003]

Exempts US military bases and lands from ESA habitat-protection provisions. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says that the new exemption will “improve ... military readiness” even though a General Accounting Office study found that “very few units reported being unable to achieve combat-ready status due to inadequate training areas.” [Earth Island Institute, 11/6/2004; Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003 Sources: Military Training: DoD Lacks a Comprehensive Plan to Manage Encroachment on Training Ranges, GAO, June 2002]
Encouraged by their success at weakening the MMPA and ESA, defense officials say that next year they will attempt to modify a court agreement the Pentagon accepted the month before requiring the Navy to limit where it can use its new low-frequency sonar system that has the ability to track quiet diesel submarines. Critics argue the sonar's frequency is so loud that it could kill noise-sensitive whales and dolphins. [The Washington Post, 11/16/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The military is also planning to seek exemptions to the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Superfund Act (see April 6, 2004). [Christian Science Monitor, 11/24/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

November 26, 2003

       EPA officials complete a draft proposal outlining plans to revise the conclusion of a court-ordered December 2000 EPA study which had determined that mercury emissions “pose significant hazards to public health and must be reduced.” As a result of the 2000 study, the agency had been ordered to propose a “maximum achievable control technology” (MACT) standard for all coal-burning power plants by December 15, 2003. [EPA, 12/14/2000; The Washington Post, 12/3/2003; Associated Press, 12/2/2003 Sources: Mercury White Paper] But instead of complying with this mandate, the EPA's current draft proposal on the regulation of mercury emissions attempts to modify the December 2000 conclusion claiming that it had been based on a misreading of the Clean Air Act. Citing a different provision in the Clean Air Act, the draft proposal recommends a flexible regulatory approach that is more acceptable to industry. It suggests a market-based mandatory “cap and trade” program permitting utility companies to purchase emissions “credits” from cleaner-operating utilities to meet an industry-wide standard. It is estimated that their plan would reduce mercury emissions to 34 tons a year by 2010, or about 30 percent below current levels. But this is a much higher cap than the 26-ton limit initially specified in the White House's “Clear Skies” initiative (see June 5, 2003). The White House claims that by 2018 their “cap and trade” plan would result in a mercury emissions reduction of 70 percent, which is significantly less than the 90 percent reduction that would otherwise be achieved within 3 or 4 years, if the EPA were to keep to the original December 2000 ruling. [The Washington Post, 12/3/2003; Associated Press, 12/2/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

December 2003

       The Bush administration announces that it will abandon its January proposed rule (see January 10, 2003) to limit the scope of the Clean Water Act. However, the administration does not retract the policy directive that was announced the same day instructing regional EPA offices and the Army Corps of Engineers to halt protection of certain wetlands. [Earthjustice, et al., 8/2004]
People and organizations involved: US Army Corps of Engineers, Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency
          

December 2003

       Bruce Buckheit, the director of the EPA's air enforcement office, is ordered to shut down ongoing New Source Review investigations—which he later says were strong cases—at several dozen coal burning power plants. In an April 2004 interview with MSNBC, he will recall: “I had to tell the regional engineers and lawyers, stop. Put your documents in the box, so that hopefully we can get back to it someday.” [MSNBC, 4/20/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Bruce Buckheit
          

(Late 2003)

       US Forest Service officials remove Michael Gertsch, a Forest Service wildlife biologist since 1976, from a team of scientists working on an amendment to the 2001 Nevada Forest Plan after he repeatedly complains that the agency is misrepresenting the impact of forest fires on owl populations, which are dependent on old stands of trees. “I fought and fought and fought and fought and finally they used some excuse and removed me from the team,” he later tells the Associated Press. [Associated Press, 8/6/2004]
People and organizations involved: US Forest Service (USFS), Michael Gertsch
          

December 2003

       The American Geophysical Union (AGU), representing over 41,000 scientists from 130 countries involved in the study of atmospheric and ocean sciences, solid-Earth sciences, hydrologic sciences, and space sciences, issue a statement titled, “Human Impacts on Climate.” The opening paragraph states: “Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth's climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth's history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century....” [World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Sources: Human Impacts on Climate]
People and organizations involved: American Geophysical Union (AGU)
          

December 3, 2003

       President Bush signs into law the “Healthy Forest Restoration Act,” (see May 21, 2003) aimed at reducing environmental and judicial review of forest-thinning fire-prevention programs in national forests. The law—modeled on President Bush's “Healthy Forest Initiative” —almost doubles the federal budget for forest-thinning projects to $760 million. [White House, 12/3/2003; CNN, 12/4/2003; Los Angeles Times, 12/4/2003] The bill axes a requirement that any proposed US Forest Service (USFS) program that may adversely affect endangered plants or animals be reviewed by the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under the new law, reviews will instead be performed by USFS biologists or other land-management agencies. Marty Hayden, legislative director for Earthjustice, says the measure removes important checks and balances. “The conflict of interest is that the agency whose top job is to do the logging will make this decision, rather than the agency whose top job is to protect threatened or endangered species,” he explains. [Los Angeles Times, 12/4/2003] Critics of the bill argue that it will make it easier for timber companies to log large fire-resistant trees in remote parts of the forest and ignore the needs of at-risk communities who need help clearing flammable brush from the immediate areas surrounding their homes and property. Sean Cosgrove, a forest expert with the Sierra Club, tells CNN: “The timber industry fought real hard for this bill for a reason and it's not because they want to remove brush and chaparral. Through and through this thing is about increasing commercial logging with less environmental oversight.” Overall, critics say, the law reduces environmental review, limits citizen appeals, pressures judges to quickly handle legal challenges to logging plans, and facilitates access for logging companies to America's 20 million acres of federal forests. [CNN, 12/4/2003; Associated Press, 12/3/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 12/3/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, US Forest Service (USFS), George W. Bush
          

December 5, 2003

       Interior Secretary Gale Norton announces in a speech to a convention of livestock owners in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing new rules that would reverse rangeland management reforms implemented in 1995 aimed at deterring practices that cause overgrazing of public lands. According to Norton, the new proposal—which supporters say will act as a bulwark against suburban sprawl— “recognizes that ranching is crucial not only to the economies of Western rural communities, but also to the history, social fabric and cultural identity of these communities.” [Bureau of Land Management, 12/5/2004; Denver Post, 12/10/2004; Associated Press, 12/4/2004] The proposal recommends giving the BLM two years, instead of one, to recommend changes after identifying occurrences of damaging grazing practices and another five years to implement those recommendations. But the agency would retain emergency authority to immediately suspend grazing privileges “if imminent likelihood of significant resource damage exists.” The proposal would also require the BLM to base all decisions on multiple years of monitoring data, even if the grazing damage is obvious and even though this would put a considerable strain on the agency, which oversees more than 18,000 grazing permits covering over 160 million acres nationwide. Other provisions in the proposal would make it more difficult to revoke the grazing permits of ranchers who violate the law; reduce public involvement in reviewing and commenting on decisions about grazing on public lands; and give ranchers partial ownership of any fences, water tanks, new water rights or other improvements to public rangelands. [Denver Post, 12/10/2004; Associated Press, 12/4/2004; Associated Press 1/3/2004; Natural Resources Defense Council, n.d.] The livestock industry applauds the new proposal but environmentalists warn that the recommendations would threaten wildlife, degrade water quality and quantity and damage archeological, historic and Native American sites. [Natural Resources Defense Council, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The Natural Resources Defense Council, commenting on the recommended changes, says that it believes the proposal will result in increased overgrazing and other unsustainable grazing practices. [Associated Press, 12/4/2004] The BLM will later draft an environmental impact study predicting short-term damage to grazing lands and wildlife (see January 2, 2004).
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Bureau of Land Management, Gale A. Norton
          

December 11, 2003

       The National Park Service issues a final rule announcing that the number of snowmobiles permitted in Yellowstone Park will be restricted to 950 per day when parks open for the winter season on December 17. Eighty percent of the sleds must be commercially guided and meet “best available technology” (BAT) requirements. The remaining twenty percent will not have to be BAT. For the 2004-2005 winter, regulations on the maximum daily number of snowmobiles will remain the same, except that all snowmobiles will be required to meet BAT standards. Similar rules will be imposed on the use of snowmobiles in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway. [National Park Service, 12/11/2003] The decision is made in spite of the fact that independent federal studies had previously determined that reversing the Clinton-era phase-out would result in a significant increase of carbon monoxide pollution and nitrogen oxide emissions. [Caspar Star Tribune, 2/21/2003; Greater Yellowstone Coalition, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, National Park Service (NPS), Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park
          

December 23, 2003

       The US Forest Service quietly announces its decision to allow the construction of roads on 3 percent of the 9.3 million acres in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, opening up the once protected forest to possible logging and mining. [Associated Press, 12/23/2003; Seattle Post Intelligencer, 12/24/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] “It allows us to maintain a stable supply of raw materials, in the form of logs, for our small, community-centered mills scattered throughout the 32 communities of southeast Alaska,” explains Dennis Neill, public affairs officer for the National Forest Service. “It's a viable forest with vast stretches of functional ecosystem that's going to stay that way. We're very dedicated to keeping this forest as a functional ecosystem.” [Seattle Post Intelligencer, 12/24/2003] The decision was made by the Forest Service in consultation with Agriculture Department officials and the White House Office of Management and Budget after Alaska's governor sought an exemption from the Clinton-era Roadless Rule claiming that it violates the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the Wilderness Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act. [Associated Press, 12/23/2003] The decision ignores some 2 million public comments in favor of upholding the Roadless Rule in Tongass. Critics warn that building roads will harm salmon runs by silting up streams and blocking access to spawning grounds. Additionally it will give hunters increased access to wolves, bears and other animals in remote parts of the forest. And though the Forest Service says that logging will be confined to no more than 3 percent of the Tongass, environmental groups say that since the parcels to be logged are so spread out, the access roads could ultimately disturb four times that figure. [Seattle Post Intelligencer, 12/24/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Office of Management and Budget, Department of Agriculture, US Forest Service (USFS), Bush administration
          

December 27, 2003

       Rich Biondi, 57, associate director of the EPA's air enforcement division, announces his retirement citing frustration with the Bush administration's changes to the Clean Air Act (see August 27, 2003) (see December 2003). “The rug was pulled out from under us,” he later says to the New York Times. [New York Times, 1/5/2004; MSNBC, 4/20/2004] And in an interview with Government Executive Magazine, he explains: “I felt I was still on the young side. There were things I wanted to accomplish. I was on the fence. If we could have continued to do some of the work we did, we would have stayed, but we couldn't make the contribution we thought we could make.... We weren't given the latitude we had been, and the Bush administration was interfering more and more with the ability to get the job done. There were indications things were going to be reviewed a lot more carefully, and we needed a lot more justification to bring lawsuits.” [Government Executive, 5/15/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bruce Buckheit, Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

December 27, 2003

       Bruce Buckheit, 56, the director of the EPA's air enforcement office, resigns from his post out of frustration with the Bush administration's changes to the Clean Air Act (see August 27, 2003) (see December 2003). [New York Times, 1/5/2004; Government Executive, 5/15/2004; MSNBC, 4/20/2004] “I had to defend something I didn't believe in,” he explains. [Government Executive, 5/15/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bruce Buckheit, Bush administration
          

Early 2004

       The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health completes a study of 10,000 workers who have been exposed to formaldehyde and find that they have an increased risk of leukemia. Though not published until March, it is posted on the institute's website in early 2004. The EPA does not consider the results of this study when it creates a new federal rule for regulating formaldehyde emissions in February 2004 (see September 2002). [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
          

January 2, 2004

       The Bureau of Land Management issues a draft environmental impact study on its plan for managing livestock grazing on 160 million acres of public lands (see December 5, 2003). The study reports that wildlife and grazing lands could suffer short-term damage as a result of the plan's provision that would extend the time allowed for the BLM to recommend and implement changes when the agency identifies an occurrence of harmful grazing practices. The impact assessment also predicts that the new rules would do little to repair damaged streamside vegetation or protect endangered plants and animals. [Denver Post, 12/10/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bureau of Land Management, Bush administration
          

January 7, 2004

       The US Office of Surface Mining (OSM) announces that it intends to “clarify” the buffer zone rule of the Surface Mining Act of 1977, which governs permits for coal strip mines that are located within 100 feet of a stream. The Bush administration disagrees with the current interpretation of the rule which prohibits mining near streams unless it can be shown that the activities will not “adversely affect the water quantity and quality or other environmental resources of the stream.” The White House claims that the buffer zone rule is confusing and its current application too restrictive on the coal mining industry. Instead, the administration proposes a policy that would call on coal operators to minimize the impact on streams “to the extent possible, using the best technology currently available.” Critics warn that the proposed “clarification” would encourage a method of surface mining known as “mountaintop mining,” which involves the removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams. The method is extremely destructive to the environment because the resulting debris is bulldozed into nearby valleys, often completely burying streams in a practice known as “valley fill.” [Charleston Gazette, 1/8/2004; Associated Press, 1/7/2004; Los Angeles Times, 1/18/2004; Environmental News Service, 1/8/2004; The New York Times, 1/13/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Federal Register, Vol 69., No. 4]
People and organizations involved: US Office of Surface Mining (OSM), Bush administration  Additional Info 
          

January 7, 2004

       The Environmental Protection Agency says in a report to Congress that for the second year in a row, “limited funding prevented EPA from beginning construction at all sites or providing additional funds needed to address sites in a manner believed necessary by regional officials, and caused projects to be segmented into phases and/or scaled back to accommodate available funding.” The report explains that for 2003 (see July 17, 2003), the funding shortfall amounted to $174.9 million. As a result, clean-up work at 11 superfund sites was put off and work at 29 other locations was slowed down. [Government Executive, 1/8/2004; Associated Press, 1/9/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: Congressional Request on Funding Needs for Non-Federal Superfund Sites, EPA, January 7, 2004] The 11 sites where work was postponed include Jennison-Wright Corp. in Granite City, Ill.; Continental Steel Corp. in Kokomo, Ind.; Marion Pressure Treating in Marion, La.; Atlas Tack Corp. in Fairhaven, Mass.; and Mohawk Tannery in Nashua, N.H. In 2003, the EPA completed 40 clean-ups, compared to 42 in FY 2002, and 47 in 2001. Under the Clinton administration, an average of 76 clean-ups had been completed each year. [Associated Press, 1/9/2004] The report was requested in July by US Senator Barbara Boxer, House Energy and Commerce ranking member John Dingell, Rep. Hilda Solis, and Senate Environment and Public Works ranking member James Jeffords. [Associated Press, 1/9/2004; Government Executive, 1/8/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Barbara Boxer, James Jeffords, John Dingell, Hilda Solis
          

January 14, 2004

       According to a memo authored by Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, an “Intermountain Region Director's Round Table Discussion” takes place on this date to consider plans to eliminate outside agency reviews of US Forest Service activities that are unrelated to what Bosworth has described as the “four threats” —fire risk, invasive species, un-managed recreation and loss of open space. The measure would end the practices of (1) consulting the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA-Fisheries on the effects of land management activities on inland aquatic species; (2) conducting environmental analyses of herbicide applications that are ostensibly done to control invasive plants; and (3) allowing state agencies to review US Forest Service activities that may affect historical and cultural artifacts as required by the Historic Preservation Act. [PEER, 3/18/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: US Forest Service Internal Memo, Balancing Our Approach, January 14, 2004]
People and organizations involved: Dale Bosworth, Bush administration, US Forest Service (USFS)
          

January 21, 2004

       Interior Secretary Gale Norton says her department intends to increase the number of permits granted each year for gas drilling on public lands in Wyoming's Powder River Basin from 1,000 to 3,000 and “streamline” the permit review process. The decision is a response to complaints by energy companies that the review process for drilling permits on federal property is three times as long as that for drilling on private and state-owned lands. Critics warn that the quicker permit approval process will come at the expense of thorough environmental impact assessments. Drilling for gas wells in the northeastern Wyoming basin requires pumping groundwater to release the natural gas trapped in coal seams. This often causes the wells of local residents to run dry. [Salt Lake Tribune, 1/22/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: US Department of Interior, Bush administration, Gale A. Norton
          

January 22, 2004

       Jack Blackwell, the US Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Regional Forester, announces an amendment to the 2001 Nevada Forest Plan which manages 11 national forests in California. According to the Forest Service, the amendment will “reduce the acres burned by severe wildfires by more than 30 percent” and “double the acres of large old growth trees [and ] ... spotted owl nesting habitat” over the next fifty years. The plan is portrayed as a response to an emergency situation. “Large, old trees, wildlife habitat, homes and local communities will be increasingly destroyed unless the plan is improved,” Blackwell says. According to the agency, an average of 4.5 owl sites a year have been destroyed by wildfires in the area over the last four years. [US Forest Service, 1/22/2004; Environment News Service, 2/26/2004; Chico News and Review, 1/29/2004 Sources: Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment]
The amendment will triple the amount of timber that can be harvested generating about 330 million board-feet of green timber annually during the first ten years.

The amendment will reduce the percentage of funds designated for timber thinning near communities from 75 to 25 percent. The majority of timber removal will be done in remote, uninhabited forests.

The revised plan will cost $50 million per year. However, the Forest Service only has $30 million allocated for the plan. The agency intends to raise the additional $20 million through commercial timber sales. Companies that remove more than a certain amount of brush and saplings will also be permitted to remove a number of larger trees.

The amendment will increase the maximum trunk width of trees that may be removed from 20 inches to 30 inches.
It is later discovered that justification for the amendment was based on politicized data and exaggerated claims. For example, an important statement that put the risk of forest fires in perspective written by veteran wildlife biologist Michael Gertsch was left out of the final version. According to Gertsch, his section was excluded because “the conclusion ... was that fire appears to be more of a maintenance mechanism than a destructive force for owl habitat.” When Gertsch refused to back down from his analysis, he was removed from the project (see January 22, 2004). Describing the final version of the amendment, he says, “Snippets were taken from science, but they didn't listen to the science community.” [Associated Press, 8/6/2004] The Associated Press will later investigate some of the amendment's claims and in August publish a report revealing that “at least seven of 18 sites listed by the agency as owl habitat destroyed by wildfires are green, flourishing and occupied by the rare birds of prey” (see August 6, 2004).
People and organizations involved: US Forest Service (USFS), Michael Gertsch, Bush administration
          

January 23, 2004

       Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announces that the Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) will provide an estimated $1 billion in subsidies to promote deep drilling for natural gas in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Companies that drill wells deeper than 15,000 feet will be exempt from having to pay royalties on the first 15 billion cubic feet of gas produced. For wells deeper than 18,000 feet, royalties will be waived on the first 25 billion cubic feet. The royalty waiver will be discontinued if natural gas prices exceed $9.34 per thousand cubic feet. Without the subsidy, it would be too costly for companies to drill such wells. Norton claims that the program will save consumers money and create an estimated 26,000 new jobs. [Associated Press, 1/23/2003; Petroleum News, 2/1/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Gale A. Norton, Bush administration, US Department of Interior
          

Late January 2004

       The US Forest Service distributes a pamphlet promoting the agency's amendment (see August 6, 2004) to the 2001 Nevada Forest Plan, which calls for more logging. In one section of the pamphlet, put together by a public relations firm, there is a series of six black-and-white photos taken at different times over a span of 80 years. The first picture, taken in 1909, shows a forested area with large trees spaced far apart. Each of the following pictures, taken at the same spot, show how the forest became denser over time. The photo-chronology suggests that the first picture represents how forests should appear in their natural state. But in Spring 2004, it is learned that the first picture had been taken after the area had been logged. Furthermore, the pictures were actually taken in Montana, not the Sierra Nevadas. It also turns out that the photos had similarly been used before by the agency to promote other forest-thinning initiatives. [Associated Press, 4/12/2004 Sources: USFS, Forests with a Future, 1/2004]
People and organizations involved: US Forest Service (USFS), Matt Mathes
          

February 2004

       The Environmental Protection Agency meets its February 27, 2004 deadline to come up with a new federal rule regulating formaldehyde emissions. Ignoring the opinion of experts, the EPA did not take into account the findings of two recent studies (see December 8, 2004) (see February 3, 2003) that had found that workers who were exposed to formaldehyde were at an elevated risk of leukemia. The EPA said it did not have time to incorporate the two findings before the deadline. Though extensions for such deadlines are often given, the agency did not request one. Instead, the EPA relied on a cancer risk assessment by the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, a private, nonprofit research organization, funded primarily by chemical companies. That assessment was about 10,000 times weaker than the level previously used by the EPA in setting standards for formaldehyde exposure. The new federal rule is modeled on a proposal that had been designed by a lobbyist for the wood products industry (see January 14, 2002). It creates a new category of “low-risk” plants, which gives the agency the authority to decide on a plant-by-plant basis which facilities pose a risk to public health. It initially exempts eight wood products plants from having to install pollution controls for formaldehyde and other emissions, but could eventually extend the exemptions to 147 or more of the 223 facilities nationwide. The exemption allows qualifying plants to legally skirt pollution-control requirements that had been mandated by a 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act requiring all large industrial plants to use “best available” technology in order to reduce emissions of 189 substances. Though backers of the new rule claim that it does not violate the amendment, the lawmakers who wrote the legislation disagree. “I don't have any doubt but that is a way to get around the policy which we worked hard to achieve,” former Sen. David F. Durenberger (R-Minn.) will tell the Los Angeles Times in May. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) similarly says the exemption is “directly contrary to our intent.” The new rule will save the industry as much as $66 million annually for about 10 years in potential emission control costs. [Los Angeles Times, 5/21/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Henry A. Waxman, Environmental Protection Agency, David F. Durenberger
          

February 2004

       The Department of Energy (DOE) says it will not request $350 million that the agency is supposed to use for the disposal of more than 85 million gallons of “high-level” radioactive waste unless Congress and state governments agree to downgrade the classification for some of the waste to “low-level” so that it can be disposed of using a less costly method that it estimates will save $29 billion. The DOE claims that some of the waste has a low enough level of radioactivity that the waste can simply be covered with concrete and left in place. But in July 2003, a federal judge in Idaho ruled that the Energy Department's plan was illegal and that the agency was bound to the nuclear waste law, which states that liquid nuclear fuel reprocessing waste is “high-level” and needs to be buried in a permanent geological storage facility. The waste, left over from Cold War armament projects, includes 53 million gallons at the DOE's Hanford site near Richland, Washington; 34 million gallons at its Savannah River site near Aiken, South Carolina; and 900,000 gallons at its INEEL facility in Idaho. Additionally, there are 600,000 gallons of waste from a short-lived civilian reprocessing program near West Valley, New York. [New York Times, 5/30/2004; Associated Press, 2/26/2004; Associated Press, 4/8/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] A lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Geoffrey Fettus, warns that the Energy Department's plan would in effect create “nuclear cesspools” at the weapons plants and the Savannah River plant would become the most polluted nuclear site on the planet. [New York Times, 5/30/2004]
People and organizations involved: Department of Energy (DOE), Bush administration
          

February 2, 2004

       The Bush administration's proposed 2005 budget would cut $35 million from the budget of the national lead prevention program, which pays for expert home evaluations and repairs in an effort to eliminate the presence of lead-tainted particles, dust, and soil in American homes. The 20 percent budget cut—from $174 to $139 million—could prevent as many as 40,000 homes from being decontaminated in 2005. Children are the most vulnerable to lead poisoning which can cause permanent intellectual, behavioral and psychiatric problems. It is estimated that in Washington D.C. alone, there are 3,700 children younger than 6 who have elevated levels of lead in their blood. [The Washington Post, 4/11/2004; Natural Resources Defense Council, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: 2005 Fiscal Year Budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

February 2, 2004

       The Bush administration announces its proposed 2005 budget for the EPA, which cuts the agency's funds by more than 7 percent. While the budget does increase the Superfund by ten percent so the program can complete cleanup at 40 sites—well below Clinton's average of 87 sites/year—the budget substantially reduces funds for clean water programs. For example, the budget cuts $492 million, or 37 percent, from a revolving fund used by states to upgrade sewage and septic systems and storm-water run-off projects. [Reuters, 2/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

February 12, 2004

       The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auctions off oil and gas leases for 14 parcels of federal land located near Dinosaur Monument in Colorado and Utah. The leases—totaling some 5,000 acres—include areas that were previously identified by the agency as having wilderness quality but which lost their protected status as part of a settlement between the state of Utah and the BLM (see April 11, 2003). A number of the leases—some selling for as little as $5 per acre—are purchased by contributors to President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. [The Washington Post, 3/1/2004; Salt Lake Tribune, 2/14/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] According to the Environmental Working Group, the area includes seven Mexican spotted owl habitats, 12 golden eagle habitats and four peregrine falcon habitats. [The Washington Post, 3/1/2004; Environmental Working Group, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Kathleen Clarke, Bush administration
          

February 13, 2004

       The Environmental Protection Agency announces that it will allow North Dakota to adopt a new method for estimating air pollution. [Los Angeles Times, 2/14/2004; The Washington Post, 5/19/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The decision was made during a meeting between EPA administrator Michael Leavitt and North Dakota Governor John Hoeven the previous weekend. [The Washington Post, 5/19/2004] According to the agency's own specialists in air quality monitoring, the new method will grossly underestimate pollution levels, potentially allowing North Dakota to relieve itself of the stigma of being the only state whose federal preserves—Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge—are in violation of the Clean Air Act. [The Washington Post, 5/19/2004; USA Today, 9/15/2002; Environmental Protection Agency, 2/13/2004] The lower pollution levels could in turn result in the lifting of local development restrictions, allowing power companies to proceed with plans to build new coal-fired power plants in the area. “That sets the stage for new investments in our energy industry and real progress in our rural communities,” Hoeven explains. [Los Angeles Times, 2/14/2004; The Washington Post, 5/19/2004; Platts, 2/19/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Mike Leavitt, John Hoeven, Environmental Protection Agency
          
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