Strategic Ignorance

If you want the environmental movement’s take on the Bush administration, go no further than Strategic Ignorance (Sierra Club Books, $24.95), written by Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope and Sierra magazine senior editor Paul Rauber. The book tracks Bush from the first hours that he was in office, and also offers 10 practical initiatives that can be taken.

Also available is Bush Versus the Environment (Anchor Books, $12). Written by veteran reporter Robert S. Devine, it provides an in-depth look into how and why the Bush Administration routinely acts to weaken existing environmental protections (while simultaneously taking credit for their undeniable past successes).

The Sierra Club Planet newsletter offers a condensed report with the Top Ten Bush Administration Environmental Misdeeds. Here"s a summary of the Sierra report:

1. Three Times More Mercury. Ten More Years. George Bush"s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a plan that would allow three times more mercury in our air and water than simply enforcing the Clean Air Act as currently written. And it would give utilities 10 years more to reach these standards. Read more.

2. Polluter Pays? Not Anymore. The Bush Administration has broken with two decades of policy and rejected the principle of "polluter pays" as practiced in the popular Superfund law. In 1995, taxpayers paid 18 percent of the cost of cleaning up toxic waste sites. In 2004, taxpayers will foot the entire bill. Under Bush, Superfund site cleanups have fallen to fewer than 50 sites a year, compared with more than 80 sites a year during the 1990s. Read more.

3. More Dirty Air. The Bush Administration has all but eliminated the provision of the Clean Air Act that required older and dirtier power plants to install modern anti-pollution equipment when they expand. Under "New Source Review," these polluting plants will be allowed to emit even more soot, lead, mercury and other contaminants. Read more.

4. Fire up the Chainsaws. The Bush "Healthy Forests" initiative promised to protect communities from forest fires when it was enacted in 2003; instead, it"s a gift to the logging industry, allowing the harvesting of old-growth trees deep in forests, farm from affected communities. Read more.

5. The Energy Plan: Dig, Drill and Destroy. The secret Cheney energy task force plan calls for subsidies and tax credits to the coal, oil and nuclear industries totaling billions of dollars, but does little to reduce our dependence on oil. It opens coastal areas to offshore drilling, encourages methane drilling on land owned by farmers and ranchers, and protects the makers of the cancer-causing gasoline additive MTBE from being prosecuted. It does nothing to address fuel-economy standards, or the electricity supply problems that led to blackouts in 2003. The bill has been rejected twice by the Senate. Read more.

6. Hogwash! The Bush Clean Air Act revisions let huge factory farms like Tyson Chicken off the hook in taking responsibility for the massive amounts of animal waste they generate. Under the new rules, factory farms will be able to discharge 2.7 trillion pounds of animal waste into our rivers, streams, lakes and air each year. The typical fine for violations: a $500 fine. Read more.

7. Drilling Wilderness. Bush has opened an additional five million acres of public lands to oil and gas companies. This happened despite the fact that 63 percent of public lands in the west are already available for leasing without restriction. Many extremely sensitive and beautiful places are involved, including coastal Alaska, the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, and the Rocky Mountain Front. Read more.

8. Global Warming on the Back Burner. During the campaign, candidate Bush repeatedly promised to do something about runaway carbon dioxide emissions. Once in office, he refused to set limits on the pollutant and dismissed the Kyoto Accord, which had already been signed by 155 other nations. Read more.

9. Failing to Protect Workers at Ground Zero. Bush"s White House instructed the EPA to hide potential health risks in lower Manhattan from the World Trade Center collapse. An EPA press release emphasizing that dangerous asbestos levels had shown up in tests was altered under political pressure to read, "Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work." Read more.

10. The Big Bite. Since Teddy Roosevelt, every administration has left office with more land protected than when it entered, but Bush is breaking the precedent. He has weakened protection on an incredible 234 million acres of our public land (an area equivalent to the states of Oklahoma and Texas). He also exempted the vast Tongass and Chugach forets in Alaska from the Clinton-era roadless rule, again weakening protection. Read more.