The political campaigns have been preoccupied with war, jobs, and health care. There’s been little mention of another issue that some Americans also find very important: the environment. As part of a series of profiles on the presidential and vice presidential candidates’ records on the environment, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham looks at Vice President Dick Cheney:
The political campaigns have been preoccupied with war, jobs, and health care. There’s been
little mention of another issue that some Americans also find very important: the environment.
As part of a series of profiles on the presidential and vice presidential candidates’ records
on the environment, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham looks at Vice President
This fall, during a campaign stop, Vice President Cheney was asked about his concerns and
philosophy on the preservation, conservation, and sustainability of water and natural resources.
The Vice President told his audience that he shared their concerns about the environment.
“Anybody who spends any time on waters, fishing, as I do – steelhead in northern British Columbia
when I get a chance and for trout in Wyoming and various places – it’s a fantastic resource. And
we really have an obligation to try to improve it and pass it on to the next generation in better
shape than we found it. I think we’re doing, as a general proposition, we’re doing pretty well.
Better than we used to.”
But most environmental groups are concerned Vice President Cheney is leading the effort to roll
back many environmental protections. Group after group is critical of the Vice President’s
“Cheney’s role has really been to be the front guy to fight for the industry’s agenda.”
Greg Wetstone directs the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Action Fund. Wetstone says Cheney
has become an easy target for criticism by the environmental movement. Wetstone says it’s clear
that Dick Cheney has wielded more power than most vice presidents have in the past.
“Well, the Vice President has clearly played a huge role in shaping this administration’s
policies on the environment and especially energy policy. It was Vice President Cheney who
led the Energy Task Force that met secretly with top industry lobbyists and shaped the policies
that were proposed by this administration while shutting out the advocates for a cleaner
environment. The polluters basically all but held the pen in crafting this administration’s
The Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Bush White House, calling for the release of
documents related to the secret meetings. The courts ordered some documents to be released.
And the environmentalists say those papers confirmed the role of gas and oil industry lobbyists
in drafting the Bush energy policy.
Chris Horner says he took part in some of those meetings. Horner is a Senior Fellow at the
free-market think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He says the Vice President
worked hard to include environmentally friendly approaches when drafting the policy for energy.
“He pushed heavily in his energy plan for windmills, solar panel, transition to gas even more.
He didn’t just consult with free-market groups like ours. The reportage notwithstanding, I went
in several times to meet with these people and I passed very hard left-leaning groups on the way,
in the waiting room on the way out. The administration met with greens. They met with
free-marketers. They met with everyone.”
But the environmental groups argue the gas and oil industry had too much influence on the plan
that is supposed to regulate them.
The League of Conservation Voters has given the Bush administration failing marks for its
handling of environmental issues. Betsey Loyless is the group’s vice president of policy. She
says the energy task force is a good example of how Vice President Cheney contributed to what
her group sees as failure.
“We have an energy bill that wants to open sensitive public lands to drilling. That’s part of
the Cheney philosophy. We have a secret energy task force that wants to subsidize, at the
taxpayers’ expense, the coal, oil, and gas industry. That’s at Cheney’s behest. I mean,
Cheney has been the real leader.”
Vice President Cheney’s defenders say he’s only being realistic and practical. They say the
nation’s energy security should not be put at risk because of a few environmental extremists.
While Cheney is villified by the environmentalists, it doesn’t appear that all voters view him
in quite the same terms.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.