By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Bush's campaign promise to curb carbon-dioxide emissions was abandoned, as was the U.S. commitment to the Kyoto Treaty on global warming. In Bush's EPA, fines collected from polluters dropped by one-half. The EPA's two most senior enforcement officers resigned, saying they were not allowed to do their jobs. Bush backed a bill limiting the public's ability to sue polluters. Superfund cleanups slowed by more than 50 percent. The Northwest Forest Plan was gutted, dropping protections for 304 sensitive species and opening forests to more logging. In 2003, the administration backed a rule that allowed more tailpipe emissions from vehicles, causing more smog. Republicans eliminated the tax credit for hybrid cars while creating one for big-ass SUVs. Automobile fuel efficiency hit its worst level in two decades.
In 2004, the administration moved to loosen restrictions on coal-mining operations damaging to streams and waterways. They removed the Department of the Interior's authority to veto mining permits for operations that would cause irreparable harm to the local environment. Reversing the 25-year policy, Bush allowed companies to sell properties contaminated with PCBs and other toxins.
Bush's Interior department became the first since the passage of the Endangered Species Act to not add a single species to the endangered list—except when forced to by courts—and instead used specious science to de-list species. Habitat protections were also gutted. Meanwhile, the April 2004 issue of the journal Nature reported that more than 300 species of animals were on the brink of extinction, with urgent action needed to prevent their disappearing within a decade.
Lest you think this was a do-nothing administration, know that the Justice Department did take exceptional legal steps when Greenpeace alerted them that protected mahogany was being illegally shipped into the U.S. Rather than enforce the law and go after those despoiling the rainforests, they prosecuted Greenpeace under an archaic 1872 statute.
In April 2002, Greenpeace members had boarded a ship carrying the banned mahogany nearing Miami harbor and hung a banner from it reading, "President Bush: Stop Illegal Logging." The members paid the usual fine for their civil disobedience, but the John Ashcroft Justice Department added the felony charge of "sailor mongering," using a law originally intended to keep prostitutes and saloonkeepers from luring sailors off ships. The law had lain unused since 1890, when a New York court had determined it was "inarticulate and obscure," and when the Greenpeace case came to trial in 2004, a judge tossed it out. Had the administration prevailed, Greenpeace would have lost its tax-exempt status.
Stifling people and ideas was a Bush White House specialty.
In February 2004, more than 60 top scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates and advisers from previous Republican administrations, signed a 49-page letter complaining that the Bush administration distorted and suppressed science that disputed its policies. Numerous examples of censorship, distortion and coercion were cited. A White House spokesman dismissed the claims.
By July 2004, more than 4,000 scientists had signed the letter, including 48 Nobel Prize winners and 127 members of the National Academy of Sciences. A White House spokesman dismissed the claims.
There are dozens of clippings detailing administration attempts to censor science, alter findings and vet scientific panels to contain only ideologues who would tell the White House what it wanted to hear. A 12-year study of the Arctic was dumped. Whistleblowers at nuclear facilities were fired. Environmental documents having nothing to do with national security were classified.
One afternoon, Rooney came in with a stack of newspapers, exclaiming, "Look at this!" as if he'd just discovered a mummy's hand wrapped in the sports page. He held up the Dec. 17, 2003, Times Food section bearing the headline "Dweezil Makes a Brisket."
"I think that is my new favorite sentence in the whole of human history," he said. "Would you mind leafing through the rest of this for me? We're looking for the best example of the synergy the government and industry shared in the Bush years. No rush."
Okay, follow the bouncing ball:
In 2001, as Bush assumed the presidency, California was enduring rolling blackouts in an energy crisis. Bush blamed the crisis on too much environmental regulation and set about dismantling or sidestepping those regulations. He didn't veer from this course one jot when the public learned the crisis had instead been manufactured by some of his largest contributors, including Enron, who'd manipulated the state's Republican-deregulated energy market to fleece consumers of hundreds of millions of dollars. Some of that money doubtless became part of the tens of millions the energy industry had given Republicans every election cycle.
While California's two senators couldn't get the White House to return phone calls during the crisis, the same players who had gamed the state met with Vice President Dick Cheney on an energy task force to formulate the nation's policy in secret. One of the few memos leaked detailed a stratagem to use California's energy crisis to justify unhindered oil drilling and rolled-back environmental standards.
The V.P.'s office literally asked energy lobbyists for a "wish list" of policies they desired. The resulting plan included opening more land and offshore areas to drilling—including the Alaskan wilderness—curtailing wilderness and wildlife protections, easing pollution controls and handing out $20 billion in corporate welfare to the energy industry, causing Republican Senator John McCain to dub it the "No Lobbyist Left Behind" bill.