Friday, January 30, 2009

Western states rescued from Interior, EPA abuses?


Second only to the appalling human rights abuses involved in kidnapping and torture of Muslim detainees, the Bush-Cheney administration's violence to the land and environment remains as its most abominable act of betrayal of the public interest.

Western states, which have endured so many of these harsh policies, can rejoice that the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency are in the hands of more responsible executives appointed by a more caring President Obama.

Though some environmentalists are wary of some decisions in his home state of Colorado and as a U.S. senator, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to attack and reverse many of the Bush policies and decisions that trampled on decades of environmental progress. As Colorado's Natural Resources director and state attorney general, he created an environmental crimes unit and a sweeping land conservation program. The League of Conservation Voters scores him as a 100 percent supporter.

On Tuesday, Salazar expressed doubts and concerns about midnight White House orders affecting the environment. He cited the decision opening oil- and gas-drilling leases near national parks and 11th hour decisions involving the Endangered Species Act.

In particular, Salazar wants to end the Bush-instigated antipathy toward environmental scientists and restore their leading roles in policymaking. One example that has wildlife groups ecstatic is his announcement that the effect of climate change on wildlife needs to be considered, a factor rejected by President Bush and Vice President Cheney. To recognize climate change as a scientific influence would've inferentially meant Bush and Cheney recognized global warming, which they would not accept.

In the twilight hours of the Bush presidency, appeals to consider the plight of polar bears trying to survive on vanishing ice floes werre rejected.

Extraction industries that found easy going with the Bush Interior Secretaries Gale Norton and Dirk Kempothorne will find no such rubberstamp mentality in Obama or Salazar.

Salazar's other major mission is to enforce integrity, honesty and ethics at the scandalized department. Though only a small part of Interior's 67,000-employee force was involved, some 20 workers managing oil royalties were found to have been involved in drug, sex and bribes with firms they supposedly oversaw.

One of the great American legacies handed down through the years is a respect and affection for great expanses of land, air and water set aside by the government for protection and preservation. Disregard for that history presumably has been stopped in its tracks by a president and his agents who understand the public trust far better.




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