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Week of 2.22.08

The Bush Environmental Legacy
9 Landmark Decisions

Review actions the Bush Administration took over the last eight years that will have a lasting impact on our environment.

  1. Denies California the Clean Air Act waiver: In January 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency rejected California's request to set stricter vehicle emission standards than the federal law, which in turn prevented more than a dozen other states from setting their own tough emission standards for cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles. To learn more, see NOW's Emission Impossible.

  2. Interferes with climate change science: In February 2006, The Bush White House revised NASA and other agency documents to remove language regarding climate change, and engaged in a systematic effort to mislead policy makers and the public about the dangers of global warming, according to an investigative report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

  3. Advocates for more nuclear power plants: During President Bush's second term, he pursued a number of measures to advance the nation's use of nuclear energy. This included a plan to make it easier for nuclear power plants to obtain licenses for new reactors, even if those reactors have not been properly tested. The White House's 2008 budget also sought funding for building a long-delayed and controversial nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

  4. Establishes the world's largest marine conservation area: In 2006, the Bush administration announced plans to designate a string of islands near Hawaii as a national monument, creating the largest protected marine reserve in the world. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands cover 84 million acres and are considered biologically rich. Environmentalists have praised the decision.

  5. Dismantles the Roadless Rule: In 2005, the Bush administration formally repealed the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which was issued by the U.S. Forest Service in January 2001 to protect the last remaining "wild lands" in our national forests. The rule placed nearly 60 million acres of wilderness in 39 states-nearly one-third of the nation's forests-off limits from logging and road-building. A federal court rebuked the Bush administration in 2006 ordered reinstatement of the Clinton-era Roadless Rule. The Bush administration immediately appealed that decision and then went back to the states and asked them to resubmit their petitions and re-start the entire rulemaking process. Under Bush's plan, state governors decide whether areas in their own states should be opened to resource development. Idaho and several other Western states could open their most national forest lands to commercial activities like logging and oil and gas drilling.

  6. Opens public land to oil and gas drilling: The Bush administration and Congress have opened up millions of acres of public land in the Rocky Mountain West and Alaska's North Slope to oil and gas drilling.

  7. Declares carbon dioxide not a pollutant: In 2002, the Bush administration redefined carbon dioxide, the primary cause of global warming, so that it is no longer considered to be a pollutant and therefore not subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. (In a defeat for the Bush administration on April 2, 2007, in Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA can regulate heat-trapping pollution.)

  8. Weakens regulations governing air pollution: In 2002 and 2003, the EPA eliminated new-source review regulations, exempting thousands of older power plants, oil refineries and factories from being required to install pollution controls when they replace equipment and make significant changes to their plants. In 2006, the EPA ignored the advice of its own scientists and chose not to implement stricter health standards to limit chronic public exposure to particle soot, a dangerous air pollutant.

  9. Rejects the Kyoto Protocol: On March 28, 2001, the Bush administration withdrew the United States from the global warming treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol, arguing that the treaty would hurt the U.S. economy. This treaty, negotiated by more than 100 countries over a decade, calls for the 38 largest industrial nations to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by 2012 to 5.2 percent below the levels in 1990. The Bush administration continues to be adamant in its rejection of mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

Clean Air Watch
Natural Resources Defense Council: The Bush Record
Rolling Stone: Crimes Against Nature
The New York Times: Changing All the Rules