Bush plans enviro. policy changes

by Ritika Nandkeolyar | 1/19/01 6:00am

(Editor's note: This is the last in a series of articles examining the prospects and promises of President-elect George W. Bush. Everyday this week, leading up to Saturday's inauguration, The Dartmouth will consider a major issue that Bush will have to address during his presidency.)

It has been speculated that President-elect George W. Bush may make significant changes to the current environmental policies in the U.S., especially following his appointments for two top environmental posts.

Bush's choice of former Colorado State Attorney General Gale Norton for Interior Secretary has been seen by many as characteristic of the more conservative environmental policies advocated by Bush that may be implemented over the next four years.

Briefs written by Norton challenging environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act and supporting property rights and public land uses such as mining and oil drilling, have been widely quoted as evidence that she may make changes to the current policies of the Clinton Administration. Bush has supported many of these changes in the past.

If confirmed, Norton, a former Colorado state attorney general, would oversee about a third of the nation's land and most federally owned mineral and petroleum resources, and, despite some criticism from environmental groups, it appears likely she will be confirmed for the post.

During her confirmation hearing yesterday, Norton referred to herself as a "passionate conservationist" who prefers collaborating with state and local governments to protect land and animals. This view is in-line with Bush's plan for devolving significant authority to local communities.

Bush also has said he plans to scale back some of the more aggressive legislation introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton.

Many political analysts and business leaders have criticized the EPA as going "too far too fast" with controversial laws such as the 1997 air pollution regulation which dramatically reduced the amount of ozone and particulate matter that polluters are permitted to release.

Oil refiners, as well, have protested the EPA's new regulations that call for a dramatically reduction of the sulfur content of diesel fuel by 2006.

Bush nominated New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman to head the EPA. Whitman has said that she plans to work with businesses to achieve voluntary compliance with EPA regulations and hopes to seriously consider the impact of new environmental regulations on the U.S. economy. This is Bush's underlying philosophy as well.

To this end, Bush plans to open up more national forests to logging and roads and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and natural gas drilling.

Whitman, who like Norton, is expected to be confirmed, has also come under fire for her record. Those opposed to her confirmation have accused her of cutting New Jersey's environmental budget, shrinking the number of chemicals on the state's right-to-know list of toxic chemicals and reducing fines against polluters.

Bush and several western Republicans have in the past expressed concern over Clinton's creation of new national monuments during his term that have put more than 5.6 million acres under federal protection during his administration.

While the reversal of these designations requires congressional action, Bush will have the authority to allow additional mining, logging or other development on these lands.

Environmentalists, however, fear that Bush's proposed changes may go too far in scaling back many laws and protections gained by environmentalists during the Clinton era.

As a result, authorities have greatly tightened security measures for Saturday's swearing-in ceremony and inaugural parade in expectation of the largest number of protestors, many championing environmental causes, since the rallies that surrounded President Nixon's inauguration.