WASHINGTON - January 20 - Time and again we see the Bush Administration shutting the public out of plans that will weaken environmental laws and then sugar-coating those plans once they're out in the open. Unfortunately, we expect to see the same pattern tonight.
Since taking office, the Bush Administration has weakened or stopped enforcing key sections of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. They have allowed corporations to escape their responsibility for cleaning up the damage they cause and shifted those costs to taxpayers. And the Bush Administration has opened millions of acres of wilderness, including some of America's most environmentally sensitive lands to logging, mining, oil and gas drilling.
Thirty years of progress has taught us: there is a better way. The Bush Administration should enforce clean air and clean water laws; hold polluters responsible for the damage they do; and create jobs and clean up our environment by investing in modern technology, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power to create a clean and affordable energy future.
It is regrettable that President Bush is expected to tout the failed energy bill during tonight's State of the Union Address. Instead, the President should focus on the common sense solutions that will protect communities, save consumers money, and provide America with the energy it needs. Despite what the President may claim about this energy bill, this bill would benefit the worst polluting industries in America without cutting our oil dependence, adequately decreasing the risk of blackouts, or creating jobs. Instead of taking responsible steps forward, this bill would take us backward and put our communities at risk. This bill elevates the profits of the polluting corporations funding the Bush administration over the public good. The majority of Americans don't want to breathe dirtier air, they don't want to drink polluted water, and they don't want their precious natural heritage sold out to the oil and gas industry.
Developed three years ago in the backroom meetings of the Cheney Energy Task Force, the energy bill was an act of secrecy from start to finish. The Sierra Club is currently suing to find out exactly what happened between Bush Administration officials and energy industry executives in the Task Force. The suit, currently before the Supreme Court, received attention this weekend due to media reports that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia joined Vice President Cheney on a hunting trip on the property of an energy industry executive after the Court had agreed to hear the case. Serious questions remain as to the appropriateness of this trip, including who paid for Justice Scalia's private jet to the outing.
The pattern of secrecy continued when the Republican-controlled conference committee for the energy bill kept Democrats and the public in the dark about the bill they were drafting. The American people were given almost no time to examine the myriad disastrous provisions of the bill before Congress had to vote on the bill last fall. Fortunately, the Senate blocked the destructive bill.
It is possible President Bush may also highlight the so-called "Healthy Forest Initiative" which passed the Congress last fall. The President is unlikely to mention that the measure ignores real solutions for Western communities and does next to nothing to protect homes and communities from wildfires. The result will be wildfire policy that effectively removes citizen participation, interferes with the judicial system, increases commercial logging, leaves old-growth and roadless forests vulnerable, all while leaving communities at risk.
The President also may push his administration's plan to weaken the Clean Air Act, allowing power plants and factories to dump more pollution--like Mercury, Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide, and Carbon Dioxide--that causes smog, asthma, acid rain, global warming and birth defects into the air. Recently the Bush Administration promoted weakening protections from mercury only days after warning Americans not to eat fish containing the toxin. Strict enforcement of the existing Clean Air Act will do much more to protect our clean air.