How Much Has Changed? Obama Administration Deals Series of Anti-Environmental Blows
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With little more than 100 days in office, the Democrats, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, have unleashed a slew of anti-environmental policies that would have enraged any reasonable conservationist during the Bush years.
Take the delisting of the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes and parts of the northern Rockies, which was announced during the waning days of the Bush era and upheld by Obama earlier this spring.
About 200 packs of wolves live in the northern Rocky Mountains today. But only 95 of these packs are led by breeding pairs, which is significantly less than half of what most biologists consider to be a healthy number in order to fend off imminent decline and long-term genetic problems for the species.
In Idaho, free-roaming wolves have been radio-collared, allowing their human killers to track and gun them down by helicopter. Freed from the protections of the Endangered Species Act, the state plans to permit hundreds of these wolves to be slaughtered this coming winter. Only a few environmental groups have stepped up in the wolves' defense, with the Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, Ariz., leading the charge.
It's not just the wolf that's been hung out to dry. Shortly after Obama's inauguration, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced they were revoking an 11th-hour Bush directive that weakened the ESA listing process.
However, shortly thereafter the Department of the Interior refused to repeal a special rule that would have granted the polar bear protection from the impacts of global warming. Salazar said his agency does not believe the law was intended to address climate change, even though many policy analysts believe the ESA could be used to limit the issuing of permits for development projects that would potentially threaten the polar bear by emitting additional greenhouse gases.
"The Endangered Species Act is not the proper tool to deal with a global issue -- global warming," Salazar said. "We need to move forward with a comprehensive climate change and energy plan we can be proud of."
Apparently federal protection should not be granted if the industry's emissions happen outside the polar bear's natural habitat. The Obama administration, under Salazar's watch, is refusing to lead the way in protecting the bear's dwindling populations. Of course, the oil and gas cartels were unabashedly pleased with the decision. So much for thinking globally and acting locally.
"We welcome the administration's decision because we, like Secretary Ken Salazar, recognize that the Endangered Species Act is not the proper mechanism for controlling our nation's carbon emissions," said American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard. "Instead, we need a comprehensive, integrated energy-and-climate strategy to address this complex, global challenge."
That's not the only recent victory for Big Oil provided by Salazar's office. During one of the most ridiculous episodes of the 2008 presidential campaign, the strange tag-team of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin led their diminutive crowds in spastics of "Drill, baby, drill." Offshore oil drilling and a new generation of nuclear power plants represented the sum total of the McCain/Palin energy plan.
Although it seemed like political comedy at the time, this strategy has now been at least partially embraced by the Obama administration. As the clock approached midnight for the Bush administration, his Interior Department put forward a rule opening 300 million acres of coastal waters to oil drilling. According to the hastily prepared decree, the leasing was to begin by March 23.
Enter Salazar with a maneuver that is typical of the Obama approach to environmental politics: Instead of killing the drilling plan outright, Salazar merely extended the analysis period for six months. The environmental lobby was given a procedural crumb, while the oil hounds still had its long-sought prize on the table for the taking.