Notes From Under The Bus
Since the GOP won a majority in the House in 2010, the Obama administration has gone into "go-slow" mode - or even has taken a U-turn on presidential initiatives on air pollution and climate change. The Los Angeles Times took aim at this in a tough May 20 editorial headlined: "In the 2012 campaign, environmentalists don't matter." It opens:
Shortly after his party's "shellacking" in the midterm election, President Obama ordered government agencies to ensure that new regulations took economic growth into consideration and that old ones be revoked if they "stifle job creation or make our economy less competitive." Five months later, it's becoming pretty clear what he meant: The environment and public health will be thrown under a bus for the sake of his reelection in 2012.
And this hurts all the more because Earthjustice is feeling the tire marks. Many of the issues on which the administration is attempting to appease polluters and House radicals are those we've worked on for years, including:
- Cleaning up the air from pollution from big boilers (like those in coal plants)
- Stopping the destruction of Appalachian streams and communities through the coal mining practice of mountain top removal
- Protecting the public from huge piles of toxic coal ash left over from power plants
In the few weeks since the LA Times editorial, add another turn-around, this from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Under pressure from Congress, he abandoned a policy - announced just last December -to inventory and consider protecting millions of acres of potential wilderness across the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) public lands.
Never mind that the congressional funding limitation couldn't - and didn't - eliminate Salazar's duty under law to review and consider protecting these places.
As New York Times reporter Felicity Barringer noted in a perceptive blog post, Salazar seemed to signal that he was going further than he had to to snuggle up to those in Congress who oppose the entire idea of wilderness.
In a perhaps unintentionally symbolic move, the day after backtracking on wilderness for public lands, BLM announced it planned to hand over 60 acres of federal public land to a Colorado town ... for a dump.
So for public lands, it's no to wilderness, but yes to landfills.
Despite the setbacks, we'll crawl out from under this bus. Our campaigns to protect clean air, mountain streams, public health and wilderness will keep the pressure on in the courts, in Congress, and with the Administration. We just a have little more work to do, now.