The Environment

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  Bush'S Destructive Path On EnvironmentNovember 28, 2008 09:41 So many environmental regulations to gut, so little time.

In a surprising show of industriousness, the Bush administration has unleashed a last-minute attack on national environmental regulations. "Midnight regulations," as these activities are called, are nothing new - the first president to ram through unfinished business before leaving office was Jimmy Carter in 1980. Every president since Carter has done the same thing, and the amount of paper used is staggering: Bill Clinton, for example, published more than 26,000 pages' worth of rules in the Federal Register during his midnight moment. Every outgoing president does it, and every incoming president complains about it bitterly - the rules, once in place, have proved difficult to change.

We urge President-elect Barack Obama to do his best. Bush's last-minute rules are particularly egregious because they are focused, like a laser, on destroying the nation's environmental standards.

How, really, can the Bush administration claim with a straight face that the country as a whole will benefit from a new rule allowing power plants to operate near national parks? Or one that will open public land to commercial oil producers, who will have to use an extraction method that's notoriously energy and pollution-intensive? Who really benefits from provisions that allow power plants to operate at longer hours and emit more pollution? Why is now the right time to remove Northern Rockies wolves from the Endangered Species list?

Very few Americans, presumably, will reap rewards from any of these policies, which may be why the administration is restricting public comment on many of these regulations to 30 days and claiming that it can read the hundreds of thousands of public comments that it receives on each ruling in laughable time periods, like four days in the case of the endangered-species rule revisions. There's a process being followed here for sure, but it's a mockery.
  Bush Acting Qickly to Kill the EnvironmentNovember 07, 2008 10:21 In the next few weeks, the Bush administration is expected to relax environmental-protection rules on power plants near national parks, uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and more mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia.

The administration is widely expected to try to get some of the rules into final form by the week before Thanksgiving because, in some cases, there's a 60-day delay before new regulations take effect. And once the rules are in place, undoing them generally would be a more time-consuming job for the next Congress and administration.

The regulations already have had periods of public comment, and no further comments are being taken. The administration has proposed the rules and final approval is considered likely.
  Sale of Pristine Wilderness Slated to Happen Six Days Before ChristmasNovember 03, 2008 13:59 On election day, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to announce that it will sell oil and gas leases on areas in eastern Utah, including sections of Desolation Canyon, White River, Diamond Mountain, Bourdette Draw, and other lands in the Nine Mile Canyon region. These public lands had largely been off-limits to new oil and gas leasing because of a series of federal court and administrative decisions overturning earlier illegal BLM leasing decisions.

The BLM had previously declared these pristine lands to be wilderness-caliber landscapes. Photographs of these special places can be viewed at www.suwa.org/ElectionDayTurkey.

"Previous administrations proved that there can be a balance between wilderness protection and oil and gas development," said former BLM Director Jim Baca. "Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has worked tirelessly to appease the oil and gas industry no matter the cost to our national heritage of wild and untamed places. Extraordinary places like Desolation Canyon deserve to be protected."

The December 19 sale threatens large swaths of several magnificent public landscapes, including Upper Desolation Canyon, where the Green River meanders through hundreds of thousands of acres of unprotected wilderness in the northern Book Cliffs. Desolation Canyon was named and apparently first described by John Wesley Powell during his historic expedition in 1869 down the Green and Colorado rivers to the Grand Canyon. Upon entering the canyon, Powell described the area in his diary as the "wildest" and a "wilderness." In its 1999 re-inventory of the area, the BLM wrote of Desolation Canyon, "This is a place where a visitor can experience true solitude -- where the forces of nature continue to shape the colorful, rugged landscape." The BLM also cited the area's "...cultural, scenic, geologic, botanical, and wildlife values."
  Bush Hurries to Burn the EnvironmentNovember 03, 2008 09:53

As the U.S. presidential candidates sprint toward the finish line, the Bush administration is also sprinting to enact environmental policy changes before leaving power.
Whether it's getting wolves off the Endangered Species List, allowing power plants to operate near national parks, loosening regulations for factory farm waste or making it easier for mountaintop coal-mining operations, these proposed changes have found little favor with environmental groups.
The one change most environmentalists want, a mandatory program to cut climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions, is not among these so-called "midnight regulations."
Bureaucratic calendars make it virtually impossible that any U.S. across-the-board action will be taken to curb global warming in this administration, though both Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama have promised to address it if they win Tuesday's U.S. presidential election.
Even some free-market organizations have joined conservation groups to urge a moratorium on last-minute rules proposed by the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
"The Bush administration has had eight years in office and has issued more regulations than any administration in history," said Eli Lehrer of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "At this point, in the current economic climate, it would be especially harmful to push through ill-considered regulations in the final days of the administration."

  Action Needed To Save OrcasNovember 01, 2008 14:20

It was a grisly time in Vancouver Island waters, as boats fitted with blades on their bows searched out basking sharks, gentle giants who lazed near the surface, and sliced them into pieces.
Basking sharks are extraordinary creatures, the second largest fish on the planet at up to 12 metres. But they were a nuisance for fishing boats, so the federal government set out to eliminate them. The sharks are now considered endangered.
The slaughter is not some dark chapter from the distant past. The extermination program was launched in 1945 and continued to 1970. A population of thousands of the plankton-eating sharks in B.C. waters was effectively wiped out. There have been six confirmed sightings since 1996.
The attempt -- just 38 years ago -- to wipe out these creatures appears incomprehensible to most of us today.
But we wonder if, three decades from now, another generation will be just as baffled by our failure to do everything possible to save the threatened resident orca population.
Researchers have just completed their latest count of the three resident pods of orcas that spend time around southern Vancouver Island and Puget Sound. Seven appear to have died in the last 12 months, reducing the population to 83. The losses include breeding age females that should be in the prime of life.
It's not just the deaths. The whales that survive are showing signs of starvation and behaving in ways that suggest an increasingly desperate search for food.

  Green Activists Rue Easing Of Species ActNovember 01, 2008 08:55

Lost amid the discussions of socialism, tax cuts and Joe the Plumber is what will happen to the Arizona bald eagle - and hundreds of other endangered species - when a new president takes office Jan. 20.
In the waning days of the Bush administration, one of its final acts may be a new set of rules that would drastically change the Endangered Species Act, the 1973 law that has been credited with saving the grizzly bear, the bald eagle and the California condor.
The rules, which are being pushed through administratively without congressional input, would limit the oversight the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has over endangered species.
Critics say the changes being proposed by Interior Secretary Dirk Kemp- thorne would weaken protections for endangered species by exempting numerous federal activities, including those that cause greenhouse gases, from review. Federal projects that could affect endangered species are reviewed independently by Fish and Wildlife biologists before they can go forward.