How Bush Scuttled our Health

Read the story in the NY Times.

One key element of the strategy was putting the right people in under-the-radar positions. The Bush administration appointed officials who came directly from industry into these lower rungs of power – deputy secretaries and assistant administrators. These second-tier appointees knew exactly which rules and regulations to change because they had been trying to change them, on behalf of their industries, for years. One appointee was Jeffrey Holmstead, a lawyer and lobbyist for groups like the Alliance for Constructive Air Policy, an electric utility trade group that sought to weaken the Clean Air Act. Holmstead stepped into the role of assistant E.P.A. administrator for air and radiation, where he would oversee changes to new-source review.

Nine days after his swearing in, President Bush created the National Energy Policy Development Group, a task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney and charged with developing a national energy policy. The timing of Bush’s ascendance to the presidency could not have been better for the energy industry. When Bush came to office, the nation was riveted by a bizarre energy crisis unfolding in California. We now know that California’s energy shock was largely caused by market manipulation (by Enron, among other companies) and regulatory breakdown, not by a drought in supply. But we didn’t know it then. A few days after he created the energy task force, President Bush went on CNN and blamed environmentalists for the crisis. “If there’s any environmental regulation that’s preventing California from having 100 percent max output at their plants – as I understand there may be – then we need to relax those regulations,” he said. California utility officials denied that environmental rules had anything to do with the crisis. But their protests didn’t matter. The president had forged the link.

The report from the American Lung Association and various environmental groups estimated that compared with enforcement of the old N.S.R. rules, the new rules would result in emissions increases of 7 million tons of sulfur dioxide and 2.4 million tons of nitrogen oxides per year by 2020. Had the new rules been in effect before 1999, the lawsuits that the Justice Department filed against the power companies would have been impossible: nearly every illegal action the power companies were accused of back then would have been legal under the new rules.

The White House’s reversal of clean-air gains was especially disturbing to Biondi, who joined the agency in 1971, six months after its inception under President Nixon. The rule changes and the abandonment of the new-source review investigations “excuse decades of violations,” he said. “We worked 30 years to develop a clean-air program that is finally achieving our goals. It was frustrating to see some of our significant advances taken away. I left because I wanted to make a difference, and it became clear that that was going to be difficult at the E.P.A.”

Voters need to wise up. Bush does not have our interests at heart. He needs to go, now. Four more years of this beast will ruin our country for a long time. We in the South thought reconstruction was bad. We haven’t seen nothing yet.

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