A visitor to the White House website for information about eco-policies will not find an “agenda” for the environment. Instead, the category is “Energy & Environment” and that ordering appears intentional.
Other than curbing greenhouse gases, there is no mention of environmental priorities such as safeguarding clean water, reducing pollution threats to public health, conserving wildlife and protecting vital habitat, averting collapse of marine fisheries, or ending abuse of public lands through practices ranging from mountaintop removal to overgrazing.
Look at a growing record that is cause for concern:
- Obama's plan to boost the economy by "eliminating red tape" bears a troubling similarity to the Bush era's zeal for deregulation
- The Obama Administration has sided with the agricultural industry and backpedaled on proposed regulations that would have protected minors working in agriculture. After unveiling in the fall of 2011 a proposed regulation that would have banned minors under 16 from operating heavy machinery, and youths under 18 from working in grain silos and elevators, the Obama Labor Department announced that the child labor rules were dead and would not be resurrected.
- The Obama administration sided with major polluters in filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme court seeking to block environmental lawsuits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps the most stunning claim is that EPA's announced intent to curb carbon emissions "displaces" citizen suits seeking direct reductions.
- At the Copenhagen Climate Conference, President Obama put forth greenhouse gas reduction targets that are far less stringent than scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change;
- Obama embraced a watered-down climate change bill that Dr. Jim Hansen and other experts warn will do too little too late;
- Central to the Obama effort is embrace of a cap-and-trade approach that is unworkable and unenforceable.
- President Obama shelved his own EPA’s ozone rules citing concerns about “regulatory burden and uncertainty”—thus fueling Republican calls for even more health and safety rollbacks. These life-saving would have saved thousands of lives and prevented many more childhood asthma cases.
- Obama’s regulatory “streamlining" sidelined a key mine safety rule needed to prevent miner deaths and injuries each year. Now the safeguards to address what the Mine Health & Safety Administration calls “grave dangers” posed by continuous mining machines churning next to coal miners will wait for many more months or years.
- Central to the Obama energy program is an embrace of more coal and developing “Clean Coal Technology” – a process that does not yet exist. In the interim, the administration is funding schemes to pump sequestered carbon into the ocean floor;
- The Obama team has backed away from promises to restrain the environmental damage wreaked by mountaintop removal coal mining;
- In a huge and dangerous hidden subsidy to the coal industry, the Obama administration delays taking action to address toxic coal combustion wastes.
Oil & Gas
The Obama plan seeks to reduce reliance on foreign oil by increasing production of domestic oil – with no limits:
- Adopted much of the offshore drilling plan formulated by Bush. Brushing aside NOAA's concerns, the Interior Department has placed energy exploration above protection of sensitive marine resources. Significantly, the Obama administration green-lighted offshore drilling in the Arctic, Atlantic and eastern Gulf before it developed a promised coherent oceans policy.
- Drill, Baby, Drill – No part of the Outer Continental Shelf or the domestic U.S. has been put off-limits to petroleum production. Some lease sales have been slowed for further review – but they will be back;
- The Obama administration has approved a pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands, one of the most environmentally destructive petroleum extraction sources, to U.S. refineries (so much for ending dependence on foreign oil);
- Obama’s Interior department has defended a Bush plan to lease western Colorado’s beautiful Roan Plateau for oil and gas drilling; and
- A key priority is to back the construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline championed by Alaskan ex-Gov. Sarah Palin;
- Washington Post, Oct. 20: The Interior Department has approved permits for Shell to drill exploratory oil wells on two leaseholds in the Beaufort Sea off the north coast of Alaska.
- Exceptions were granted by the Obama administration for 14 mining projects to build temporary roads in roadless areas in Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Washington, including Oxbow Mining's Elk Creek Mine in Colorado, which had sought the exemption to allow it to drill holes to vent methane gas.
- The Obama administration decided to embrace a Bush policy allowing unlimited space on public lands for disposal of mining waste --discarding the 5-acre pre-Bush limit. Not only does this risk mass degradation of your lands but is another big subsidy to mining interests that are still operating under the Ulysses Grant-era 1872 Mining Act.
- The administration did not object to a Corps permit allowing a gold mine to dump its wastes into Alaska’s Lower Slate Lake, killing all its aquatic life;
- The Obama administration has embraced the failed Bush salmon recovery plans for the Pacific Northwest that put power production ahead of species survival;
- Under two proposed rules, the National Marine Fisheries Service would allow the Navy to kill, injure or disrupt the behavior of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals 9.6 million times in the Hawaii and Southern California training ranges and 21.8 million times in the Atlantic training range over a five-year period beginning in January 2014. That's roughly triple what the Navy was granted in the previous five-year period;
- The administration is leading an effort by some countries in the International Whaling Commission to lift a 24-year international ban on commercial whaling for Japan, Norway and Iceland, the only three countries in the commission that still hunt whales.
- The administration has allowed Bush permits for destructive fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico to go into effect;
- The administration approved the first timber sale in a roadless area of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest;
- The Obama administration is headed for a biological train-wreck on the Columbia and Snake River systems by embracing the same flawed Bush Administration policies that pitted hydroelectric power production against survival of endangered fish populations. A federal court has struck down the latest Obama Administration NOAA position, which includes measures such as trucking salmon past dams, but, like the Bush plans, does not consider dam removal, as “arbitrary and capricious.”
- The rate of listing species as Endangered and Threatened has not improved since the Bush Administration. Since President Obama's inauguration, the Fish and Wildlife Service has conferred the protections offered by the Endangered Species Act on only two species--a stark contrast to the average 65 species listed per year under the Clinton Administration.
- In one of its earliest actions, the administration took the wolf off the endangered species list, clearing the way for hunting to begin through much of the West;
- Backing a move by the Bush administration, the Obama administration issued rules forbidding use of the Endangered Species Act to address habitat loss, like the shrinking ice shelves on which polar bears depend, caused by greenhouse gas emissions and climate change
- The National Marine Fisheries Service under Obama has reduced protections for endangered sea turtles from incidental capture by longline fisheries near Hawaii, despite its own admission that this capture constitutes the major threat to the sea turtle's survival.
- Despite BLM identifying nearly 50 locations where residents are in danger from open range shooting on BLM lands, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in an apparent move to appease the NRA, has ordered the BLM to adopt no restrictions on open-range shooting – no matter how prudent or how great the danger is hikers or residents.
- Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit has blasted the Obama Administration for failing to stand up to the current Congress's assault on public lands. In a speech at the National Press Club, Babbit cited the President's failure to block Congressional riders that restricted roadless area protections, removed endangered species protections from wolves, and curtailed ocean overfishing. The former secretary urged Obama to use his authority to designate new wilderness and National Monuments.
- The Interior Department has announced in a memo that it will not seek to designate BLM lands as "wild lands," a designation that would compel the agency to manage those lands as wilderness. The move comes in response to intense political pressure and a Congressional rider to a defense appropriations bill that blocked the Administration's wilderness policy.
- The Obama administration has rejected a petition filed by a number of environmental groups to raise grazing fees on public lands, citing "other priorities" that prevent the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service from initiating a rulemaking to raise the fees. The decision means that public lands grazing will continue to take place at significant cost to taxpayers; the $1.35 fee for grazing one cow and calf on public lands is less than one-seventh what the agencies would have to charge to recover expenditures.
- Obama signed legislation allowing the open carrying of loaded firearms in parks and refuges – the first time a president has signed a law weakening wildlife protections in the National Park System;
- Obama’s Interior Department is defending the planting of genetically-modified crops on National Wildlife Refuges.
- Kept Bush loophole allowing refineries to burn huge amounts of toxic sludge without emission limits. The Obama EPA decided to define this hazardous waste as not a waste, thus exempting it from regulation.
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission increased its limits of acceptable daily intake of cadmium in children's toys, and declined to set a mandatory limit on the element. A private-sector group will be allowed to draft voluntary limits on the metal, a known carcinogen that can harm kidneys and bones.
- EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson dropped an appeal to the Supreme Court in a case that struck down Bush-era limits on mercury pollution from coal power plants, which unnecessarily permit more of the toxic chemical into the atmosphere;
- The Obama administration has ducked the problem of growing water pollution from oil “fracking” chemicals and coal-bed methane gas operations; and
- EPA continues to endorse using shredded tires in playgrounds despite red flags raised by its own scientists.
- The Obama Administration has nominated a former pesticide lobbyist to be the chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative (October 26, 2009).
- Obama’s Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, proclaims that “energy independence” is his number one priority. Not only is energy independence an unrealistic goal but any attempt to realize it from the public lands managed by Interior would involve turning America’s great heritage of wild lands into a giant energy farm;
- Obama’s EPA pick, Lisa Jackson, compiled an abysmal record in New Jersey including a dysfunctional toxics program, suppression of science, and retaliation against whistleblowers;
- Obama's head of the Office of Surface Mining, Joseph Pizarchik, has drawn the opposition of citizens and conservationists alike for his horrid record on acid mine drainage, subsidence from longwall mining, valley fill with mine slag and using toxic coal combustion waste as mine fill. Astoundingly, he ducked all questions on mountaintop removal mining at his confirmation hearing.
- As a candidate, Barack Obama frequently promised to “strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority.” Since he has been president, the only time he mentioned the need to protect whistleblowers was when he addressed the Parliament of Ghana.
- None of the prominent Bush-era whistleblower cases has been settled. In fact, the Obama administration is continuing the persecution of these whistleblowers in court;
- New whistleblowers are being fired or targeted while Obama appointees do nothing. Cases out of the Labor Department, Homeland Security, NASA, Wildlife Services and other agencies originated after Inauguration day and are heading to hearing;
- A package of strong whistleblower protections for federal employees was dropkicked out of the stimulus bill with not a peep of protest from – or with tacit support of – the Obama administration;
- The Obama administration has not committed to support whistleblower reform legislation that has passed the House for the past three years in a row; and
- After denouncing Bush’s signing statements, President Obama promptly issued one while signing the FY09 Omnibus Appropriations bill that he reserves the inherent authority to prevent civil servants from disclosing inconvenient truths to Congress.