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For the week of April 4 through April 10, 2001

Bush’s environmental issues stance spurs controversy

Express Staff Writer

While Idaho went to court Friday to fight the Clinton administration’s road-building ban on national forests, the state’s leading environmental group was spreading messages about President George W. Bush’s allegedly lax stance on environmental issues.

Idaho Conservation League (ICL) central Idaho director Linn Kincannon called Bush’s recent actions on environmental regulations "the biggest all-out assault we’ve seen in a long time on things people here [in the Wood River Valley] care about."

ICL board chairman Jerry Pavia added, "Bush sees the world through oil-smeared sunglasses. He’s out of touch."

The environmentalists said they’re disturbed by Bush’s efforts to repeal or cut back Clinton’s national monument designations, to explore all public lands for energy reserves and to delay implementation of Clinton’s roadless policy from March 13 to May 12.

"The debate is over," Kincannon said. "Americans want environmentally friendly laws."

But it’s not just Idaho environmentalists who are bashing Bush for his environmental policies.

Last week, the president came under fire from Washington Gov. Gary Locke, a Democrat, for rescinding a Clinton-era regulation limiting the amount of arsenic allowed in drinking water.

"It is the wealthy donors and the special interests that helped put him in the White House who want to loosen environmental controls," Locke said in the Democrats’ weekly radio address. "As a result, their problems are his problems, and the environmental regulations that are in their way, are in his way, too."

The current standard for arsenic, set in 1942, allows a maximum of 50 parts per billion. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency recommended reducing that to 5 parts per billion, but President Clinton directed that the standard be set at 10 parts per billion.

Locke said Bush’s action is just the latest in his "anti-environmental initiatives."

"On the campaign trail, then-Gov. Bush promised that he would place limits on the level of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere," Locke said. "Right after he got into the White House, though, that pledge went out the window.

"Two days later, the president announced that he thought our national parks, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, have great potential for oil drilling. We urge the president in the strongest terms to protect our environment."

Idaho took Clinton’s roadless plan, which puts 58 million acres of national forest land nationwide virtually off limits to logging, to U.S. District Court in Boise on Friday.

Idaho deputy attorney general Matt McKeown told U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge that the Clinton administration pushed the plan through without sufficient time for public comment. The state is seeking a preliminary injunction on implementation of the rule until the lawsuit is resolved.

Lodge said he would rule on the injunction as soon as possible.

ICL director John McCarthy declared in defense of the rule: "Life did not start with George W. Bush taking office. There were more than 600 meetings and more than 1.6 million comments about this rule—and an overwhelming percentage of those were in favor of the rule."

The Idaho Land Board in January also filed suit against the Forest Service, saying it kept them in the dark about which lands would remain roadless. Another suit Lodge is considering in tandem with the state’s claim was filed by a consortium including Boise Cascade Corp., two mountain counties in Idaho, snowmobile advocates, Emmett rancher Brad Little and the Kootenai Tribe.

Attorney General Al Lance is scheduled to testify before Congress today regarding the state’s lawsuit.

"This is a welcome opportunity to explain directly to the Congress that the Clinton administration used a legally flawed process to reach a pre-determined outcome in order to create a political legacy for the former president," Lance said.


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