A federal judge says the Bush Administration broke the law when it opened up protected forestland to logging. A rule under the Clinton Administration kept nearly one third of all national forestland off limits to logging and new road building. But last year the Bush Administration repealed that rule. Mark Brush has more:
A federal judge says the Bush Administration broke the law when it opened up protected
forestland to logging. A rule under the Clinton Administration kept nearly one third of all
national forestland off limits to logging and new road building. But last year the Bush
Administration repealed that rule. Mark Brush has more:
The federal judge said the Bush Administration did not comply with environmental laws
when it repealed the so-called Roadless Area Conservation Rule.
The Administration opened the door to more road-building and logging. And it
required states to petition the federal government if they wanted their roadless areas
Just last month in Oregon, the first protected roadless area was opened up to logging. The
trees were killed four years ago in a fire. Patty Burel is a spokesperson for the U.S.
Forest Service. She says the federal court’s ruling won’t affect the current timber sale:
“It’s our understanding, from what we’re hearing from our legal counsel, that nothing
prohibits us from continuing, so we’re continuing to proceed with the plan of operation
with these two fire salvage sales.”
It’s expected that the timber industry and some states like Idaho will appeal the judge’s ruling.
Lynn Scarlett is the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior's Office of Policy, Management and Budget.
Carl Pope is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club. (Photo courtesy of the Sierra Club)
As the campaigns for President advance, President George W. Bush’s environmental policies are being examined. The Bush administration has been criticized by many of the large environmental groups. But Bush supporters say the White House approach to environmental protection is working well. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham talked with one of the architects of the Bush environmental policy, Lynn Scarlett. She is Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior’s Office of Policy Management and Budget. Scarlett says the Bush approach to the environment goes beyond just punishing polluters, but encourages everyone to do more:
As the campaigns for President advance, President George W.
Bush’s environmental policies are being examined. The Bush
administration has been criticized by many of the large environmental
groups. But Bush supporters say the White House approach to
environmental protection is working well. In the second of two
interviews, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham
talks with the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior’s
Office of Policy, Management and Budget, Lynn Scarlett. She’s one
of the architects of the Bush environmental policy. Scarlett says the
Administration’s approach to the environment goes beyond just
punishing polluters, but encourages everyone to do more:
SCARLETT: “You know, our vision is one of cooperative conservation. Some years ago the
great conservationist Aldo Leopold talked about a nation of citizen-stewards, that we can’t get the
conservation job done and the environmental job done unless each person in their own backyards
and working together engage in conservation and environmental entrepreneurship, if you will.
So, for us, we’re trying to seek those partnerships, partnered problem-solving, we’re trying to
emphasize innovation and what I like to call environmental entrepreneurship, the imagination of
many minds creatively figuring out how to reduce our environmental footprint and then working
in cooperation across a mosaic of landscapes, public lands, with private landowners and across
LG: “It would seem that an approach like that would require a lot of volunteerism in the private
sector and many times that volunteer effort has been lacking. It seems that we need some kind of
regulation from the federal government or from the state governments to make sure that the
environment is protected.”
SCARLETT: “You know, the vision is a multi-faceted one. Of course, we have, since Earth Day
1970, a whole suite of environmental laws that were unfurled, our banner environmental statutes,
and we are very committed to ensuring compliance with those statutes. So, the question is really
a matter of emphasis. As we go forward in the 21st century, I think the question we all have to
ask is: ‘How do we get to that next step of environmental progress?’ We build upon the
regulatory achievements, but we have to begin to ask ourselves ‘How can we work together to get
that next increment of progress. And when you look at what’s actually going on in the nation,
you see tremendous cause, I think, for optimism.”
LG: “There are no doubt some innovative ideas popping up out of the private sector to deal with
environmental concerns, but the Big Greens, the environmental organizations, are issuing scathing
reports about the record of the Bush administration. And they would disagree with your
characterization that we’re making progress. They would indicate that we’ve lost ground in
SCARLETT: “You know, I think that we have to look at the actual results on the ground.
There’s always politics at play, of course, in conversations about environment, but the real test of
success is on the ground and also the kinds of commitments that we’re tangibly making. I like to
say environmental progress is a journey not a destination. There’s always more to be done. But,
this administration has the highest dollars ever expended by any administration going towards
environmental protection whether it’s on the pollution side and pollution clean-up or on the land-
management and conservation side. We have a number of new programs. The President initiated
a landowner incentive program. It’s one patterned after what he had done in Texas to try to
stimulate and engage people to participate in species protection, particularly ‘at risk’ and
‘threatened’ and ‘endangered’ species. He inaugurated a private stewardship grant program with a
similar focus. So there’s an awful lot that is occurring that is getting results on the ground.”
LG: “Well, let’s try to get to the nut of the philosophical difference between the Bush
administration and many of these environmental groups who find great fault with the Bush
administration’s approach to environmental protection. What do you think the key differences are
between the White House perspective on the environment and these environmentalists?”
SCARLETT: “I think the fundamental difference, the major reorientation of philosophy is to say
‘You know what? Real success doesn’t reside necessarily in numbers of enforcement actions
taken, but rather results on the ground.’ And that there are a whole array of tools to achieve that,
many of which are outside Washington. All Americans want clean air. They want clean water.
And real success resides in inspiring them and working with them and partnering with them. And
I think the record will tell a very good tale.”
HOST TAG: Lynn Scarlett is Assistant Secretary of the Department
of Interior’s Office of Policy, Management and Budget.
The Environmental Protection Agency under President Bush is punishing fewer polluters than under previous administrations. That’s according to analysis done by the Knight Ridder news service. More from the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush:
The Environmental Protection Agency under President Bush is punishing fewer
polluters than under previous administrations. That’s according to analysis
done by the Knight Ridder news service. More from the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Mark Brush:
Investigators looked at environmental enforcement records dating back to
1989. They found that under the current Bush administration – enforcement
has dropped significantly when compared to the Clinton and the first Bush
administration. The EPA averaged close to 200 citations a month under Bush
Senior. And now, that average has dropped to 77 citations a month under
George W. Bush.
Joel Mintz is the author of a book on the history of EPA enforcement. He
says enforcement is crucial to the agency.
“I think it’s critical really. It’s at the heart of what any regulatory
agency does. Without enforcement, environmental laws would have no teeth.
They just would not be taken seriously.”
EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt says the numbers are lower because they’re
practicing what he calls “smart enforcement.” He says they’re working with
businesses – developing incentives for companies not to pollute – instead of
focusing on punishment.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.
The U.S. military is mapping out a strategy to avoid compliance with environmental laws. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The U.S. military is mapping out a strategy to avoid compliance with environmental laws. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The U.S. military cannot be fined for violating environmental laws, but right now all branches of
the service are required to obey them. Some in the Pentagon want to change that. Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is asking top brass to find examples of how environmental
laws hurt military preparedness. It would give President Bush ammunition to invoke exemptions
to many environmental laws. Jeff Ruch (rook) is with the environmental group Public Employees
for Environmental Responsibility.
“This Wolfowitz memo is part of a broader campaign by the Pentagon to free itself from most
Last year, a report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found
that complying with environmental laws did not hurt military preparedness.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The Inspector General of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the EPA didn’t fund clean up for seven toxic waste sites this fiscal year. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Annie Macdowell reports, two of the seven sites are here in the Midwest:
The Inspector General of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the EPA didn’t fund clean-up for seven toxic waste sites this fiscal year. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Annie MacDowell reports, two of the seven sites are here in the Midwest:
A tax on chemical and oil companies expired in 1995.
The tax was used to fund clean ups at some of the country’s most polluted sites.
Now most of the funding comes from tax payers.
Clean-up on two Midwest sites was pushed back – the Jennison Wright Corporation in Illinois and Continental Steel in Indiana.
Hazardous chemicals are seeping into the ground water at these two sites.
Bill Muno, the Regional Superfund Director at the EPA, says to clean up more sites each year, Congress would have to increase Superfund appropriations.
“There isn’t enough money in that annual appropriation to cover all the work that needs to be done each year.”
Muno says the EPA Inspector General’s report shows there were more sites in line for funding that were delayed under the Bush Administration.
But he adds that tests show the sites are not an immediate threat to public health.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Annie MacDowell.
A combine harvests soybeans in Minnesota.
Photo by Don Breneman.
Although it has been delayed by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Congressional debate is still scheduled to begin this fall on legislation that will shape the nation’s farm policy for the next 5 to 10 years. Right now, the vast majority of subsidies go to farmers who grow commodity crops like corn and soybeans. That leaves out many small dairy and vegetable farmers throughout the Midwest. Environmentalists say a shift in farm program priorities would help those farmers and be a boon to the environment. In the first of a two-part series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Losure visits a place that’s considered to be a success story in the nation’s conservation reserve program:
Although it has been delayed by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Congressional debate is still scheduled to begin this fall on legislation that will shape the nation’s farm policy for the next 5 to 10 years. Right now, the vast majority of subsidies go to farmers who grow commodity crops like corn and soybeans. That leaves out many small dairy and vegetable farmers throughout the Midwest. Environmentalists say a shift in farm program priorities would help those farmers and be a boon to the environment. In the first of a two-part
series, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Losure visits a place that’s considered to be a success story in the nation’s conservation reserve program:
When cattle buyer Del Wehrspann was growing up on an Iowa farm in the 1950’s and 60’s, he saw the floodplain of the Des Moines River plowed up and planted in crops. Wehrspann is a lifelong conservationist and avid fisherman. He watched, dismayed, as the rivers fish and wildlife languished. So in 1968 he moved north to the Minnesota River valley, where the bottomland was still unplowed.
“But then we lived here not very long and I seen the exact same things taking place that had taken place in Iowa for me when I was a boy. That was draining every last wetland, tearing out every last fence, plowing everything that could be plowed for agricultural production.”
But these days as Wehrspann drives along the Minnesota River, he sees something he never expected in his lifetime – the river’s bottomland is being restored. It’s happening because Wehrspann and other citizens in the valley helped convince the state and federal government to begin what’s known as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. The program pays farmers an annual fee to take environmentally sensitive land out of cultivation. Now cattails, willows, and young cottonwoods grow on bottomland that just a few years ago was rows of corn and soybeans.
(sound of pontoon boat)
Already, Wehrspann has noticed changes on the river, where he often fishes from his pontoon boat. This spring when he floated past a field his neighbor has restored to a cattail marsh, the water running into the river was clear, not muddy with soil washing off a plowed field.
“This spring, the walleyes, they spawned. There was quite a few of them, the fish were here, nice fish. And for years, the Department of Natural Resources told us that we couldn’t have production, natural walleye production in this area because the water was too dirty.”
(Wahlspann putters downstream, past wood ducks, great blue herons,
Kingfishers, a black crowned night heron, and a soaring bald eagle.)
At a bend in the river, he beaches the boat and walks through land that was once diked and drained and is now a wetland. The mud is littered with freshwater mussel shells and crisscrossed with animal tracks.
“Like I say, this land is in production. It may not be in agricultural production, but as far as the deer, the other wildlife, the water quality, the aesthetics, it’s producing something. (Killdeer cry) that’s a killdeer.”
Under conservation programs similar to the one in the Minnesota River Valley, farmers nationwide have retired more than 33 million acres of environmentally sensitive land since 1985.
A farm bill amendment sponsored by Representatives Ron Kind of Wisconsin, Sherry Boehlert of New York and others would substantially increase spending for such programs to more than one quarter of the farm bill’s budget.
It’s not clear how well such proposals will fare…. but Tim Searchinger, senior attorney for the Washington DC based Environmental Defense, believes the time is right for a shift.
“It’s become increasingly obvious to people that these traditional farm programs leave out a large number of farmers. Nationwide, two-thirds of all the farmers don’t get any farm payments, and of the payments that are provided, two-thirds goes to the top largest ten percent.”
Searchinger says members of Congress from states like Wisconsin and New York where farmers receive relatively little in farm subsidies are starting to wake up to the inequities – especially as farm bill spending balloons.
He says congressmen from those states are increasingly supporting conservation programs. And in a recent boost for conservationists, a new report by the Bush administration proposes a similar shift from transitional subsidies to conservation programs.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mary Losure.
The Bush Administration wants to shift more of the job of enforcing environmental laws to the states. The Environmental Protection Agency proposes to give states twenty-five million dollars to do the job. However, environmentalists, the General Accounting Office and even the EPA’s own Office of Inspector General find problems with the plan. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has more:
The Bush administration wants to shift more of the job of enforcing environmental laws to the states. The Environmental Protection Agency proposes to give states 25-million dollars to do the job. However, Environmentalists, the General Accounting Office and EVEN the EPA’s own Office of Inspector General find problems with the plan. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Although the EPA is responsible for enforcement of national environmental laws, in most cases it assigns much of that authority to the states. Already 44 state environmental agencies act as the enforcement agency for the EPA. Now in its fiscal year 2002 budget, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Administrator, Christie Todd Whitman, proposes cutting the agency’s staff and giving more money to the states to enforce environmental laws. This move would only shift a little more of that burden to the states.
Some members of Congress have been pushing for shifting many of the federal government’s enforcement duties to the state level, arguing that the people at the state level are more attuned to the effects that strictly enforcing regulatory laws can have on the local economy.
The EPA has found that’s sometimes true. But in considering the economic impact, the state regulators don’t always enforce the law the way the EPA wants it to be done and that can be bad for the environment. Eileen McMahon is with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General.
“We have –going back to 1996– been doing reviews and evaluations of different areas of enforcement, air enforcement, water enforcement, other enforcement and have found, certainly, cases where the states could be doing a better job.”
In a report released just last month the EPA’s Inspector General found that while some states have great records at enforcing environmental laws. But in many other cases some states have simply looked the other way.
“We found that states’ concerns with regulating small and economically vital businesses and industries had an impact on whether or not they were effectively deterring non-compliance.”
Some environmental groups are not surprised by those findings. Elliot Negin is with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He says he wouldn’t expect much good to come from letting states take more responsibility for enforcing environmental laws.
“Well, it’s gonna open a whole can of worms. The states, many states have pretty bad track records when it comes to upholding environmental laws. And, the state politicians are, unfortunately, sometimes too close to the polluters through campaign contributions and what not.”
Despite those concerns, some members of Congress feel the US EPA has been too aggressive in its application of environmental laws, and that shifting more of the enforcement authority to the states would bring a certain measure of common sense to the process.
As, the two sides argue about the merits of enforcing environmental laws at the federal level or the state level. One government office says no decision should be made at all just yet. The General Accounting office says the states and the EPA should take stock of how things are working now.
The GAO just released a report that finds cutting staff at the federal level and shifting resources to the state level — in other words, just what EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whittman is proposing— is premature. John Stephenson is the Director of Natural Resources and Environment for the GAO. He says the EPA has no idea how many people it takes to properly enforce the law because its workforce plan is more than a decade old.
“And, so, that’s basic information you would need to determine, number one, how many enforcement personnel that the states might need and number two how many personnel EPA headquarters might need to oversee the states.”
The GAO’s Stephenson says until some kind of workforce assessment is done. There’s little point in debating whether the EPA or the states are better suited to enforce environmental laws.
“This shift in authority, as you know, is an ongoing debate in the Congress and we feel like that there needs to be this basic workforce analysis done before either side is in a position to support their relative positions.”
The EPA agreed with the General Accounting Office’s findings. But it’s unclear whether there’s enough time to assess the agencies and states’ workforce needs before Congress approves the budget that could shift some of the enforcement authority to the states.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The Bush Administration is proposing the Environmental Protection Agency turn over more of its enforcement authority to the states. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham explains:
The Bush administration is proposing the Environmental Protection Agency turn over more of its enforcement authority to the states. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
In the fiscal year 2002 budget, EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whittman proposes cutting agency staff who enforce environmental laws and in their place giving states additional money to do that job. Some environmental groups say that’s a bad idea because some states have a terrible track record on enforcing environmental laws. Eileen McMahon is with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General. That office reports states sometimes look the other way.
“We found that the state enforcement programs could be much more effective in the deterrence and non-compliance of permits.”
The Inspector General says sometimes the states don’t enforce the law when the business is vital to the local economy. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
After a decade of research, the Environmental Protection Agency
will release a report on pollution and other problems on the Great Lakes
later this week (4/27). What started as a report on toxic pollutants,
been expanded to include other major environmental problems. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports: