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George W. Bush and the Environmental Protection Agency: A Midterm Appraisal



During the first 2 years of his presidential term, George W. Bush matured as a political leader and neutralized many of his harshest critics. A glaring exception to this characterization is the area of environmental policy. The Bush administration adamantly refused to advance a meaningful strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to commit the United States to the Kyoto Protocol. At the same time, a number of highly public disputes compromised the legitimacy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This appraisal reviews the Bush administration's performance midway through its first term across three pivotal environmental concerns: air pollution, climate change, and toxics remediation. Though environmental proponents denounced the U.S. EPA's provocative policy positions, there are no indications that this criticism has had much political impact. The assessment concludes with an examination of the politics behind the Bush administration's growing anti-environmentalism and some speculation regarding its future electoral implications.
George W. Bush and the Environmental Protection
Agency: A Midterm Appraisal
Graduate Program in Environmental Policy Studies
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Newark, New Jersey, USA
During the first 2 years of his presidential term, George W. Bush matured as a
political leader and neutralized many of his harshest critics. A glaring exception to
this characterization is the area of environmental policy. The Bush administration
adamantly refused to advance a meaningful strategy to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions and to commit the United States to the Kyoto Protocol. At the same time,
a number of highly public disputes compromised the legitimacy of the U.S. Envi-
ronmental Protection Agency (EPA). This appraisal reviews the Bush adminis-
tration’s performance midway through its first term across three pivotal
environmental concerns: air pollution, climate change, and toxics remediation.
Though environmental proponents denounced the U.S. EPA’s provocative policy
positions, there are no indications that this criticism has had much political impact.
The assessment concludes with an examination of the politics behind the Bush
administration’s growing anti-environmentalism and some speculation regarding its
future electoral implications.
Keywords American environmental politics, Bush administration, Clear Skies,
climate change, environmental policy, global warming, Kyoto Protocol, Super-
Although Al Gore had been a proponent of sound environmental policy during most
of his political life, he downplayed this facet of his career during the 2000 presidential
campaign. It is therefore the height of irony that the environment became the
decisive factor in the election’s final, disputed result. During the contest’s closing
days, especially in West Virginia where it was too close to call, Gore desperately tried
to repudiate his green credentials. The coal industry’s economic and political influ-
ence, however, looms large in the state and few residents are prepared to acknowl-
edge the environmental costs of mining activities. Despite his persistence, Gore did
not sway a sufficient number of West Virginians and voters in this historically
Democratic state threw their support to George W. Bush. This outcome set the stage
for the bewildering events in Florida.
Received 9 September 2002; accepted 6 May 2003.
An earlier draft of this article was presented at the Ninth International Symposium on
Society and Resource Management, Bloomington, IN, June 2–5, 2002. Special thanks to
Fred Buttel for initially suggesting the preparation of this review.
Address correspondence to Maurie J. Cohen, Graduate Program in Environmental Policy
Studies, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University Heights, Newark, NJ 07102, USA.
Society and Natural Resources, 17:69–88, 2004
Copyright #Taylor & Francis Inc.
ISSN: 0894-1920 print/1521-0723 online
DOI: 10.1080/08941920490247254
In the Sunshine State, too, the environment was the critical factor in the elec-
tions eventual result. Approximately 15,000 Floridians marked their ballots for
Ralph Nader and the insurgent Green Party. Exit polls indicated that most of these
voters were nominal Democrats who had grown frustrated with the Clinton
administration’s languid environmentalism. As a protest gesture they cast their votes
for Nader. It is highly probable that if the Green Party had not been on the ballot
Gore would have won Florida, and the general election, without a challenge.
Soon after the Supreme Court settled the election controversy, environmental
proponents began to express palpable anxiety about the future. Bush’s financial
interests in the oil industry and his weak environmental record as governor of Texas
did not inspire optimism. Nevertheless, the president-elect regularly expressed
fondness for Theodore Roosevelt, arguably the most environmentally progressive
president in the nation’s history. Moreover, the nomination of Christine Todd
Whitman to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was viewed
among most environmental proponents as a shrewd appointment.
During the weeks
preceding the inaugural, these opposing views created ambiguity about the new
administration’s environmental policy intentions.
The midpoint of his term provides a logical juncture for an initial assessment of
the Bush administration’s environmental record.
This appraisal begins with a review
of his first several months in office, focusing in particular on the activities of the
After a brief period during which the agency announced several envir-
onmentally favorable decisions, the White House reversed course by abandoning the
Kyoto Protocol and proposing to maintain scientifically unhealthful levels of arsenic
in drinking water. These actions prompted Senator James Jeffords to resign from the
Republican Party, a decision that shifted the Senate from Republican to Democratic
The discussion then examines the impacts of the September 11 terrorist attacks
on the U.S. EPA. Because of its responsibilities monitoring environmental hazards at
Ground Zero and handling new homeland security tasks, the agency during the
aftermath of the disaster was frequently forced to defend itself from harsh recrimi-
There are also indications that the U.S. EPA during this timeframe had to
struggle against a White House intent on using the prevailing national security
situation to undermine environmental protections. To assess this contention, the
analysis considers three policy domains: air pollution, climate change, and toxics
remediation. The assessment concludes with an overall evaluation of President
Bush’s environmental policy performance and a discussion of the politics driving the
current agenda.
Early Days
In accordance with presidential custom, Bill Clinton announced a number of uni-
lateral actions just prior to vacating office. While several disputable pardons
attracted the most attention, he also made a number of environmentally significant
decisions. For example, last-minute executive orders increased the protective status
of vulnerable public lands and established tighter limits on air particulates, lead, and
arsenic. He also proposed new rules to reduce haze in national parks, instituted new
standards on pesticide use, dismantled barriers barring public access to envi-
ronmental information, increased the energy efficiency requirements of new air
conditioners, and established standards for the storage of nuclear waste.
70 M. J. Cohen
Immediately after taking the oath of office, President Bush announced a review
of these initiatives and Andrew Card, the chief-of-staff, issued an order calling for a
60-day moratorium on their implementation (Samet and Burke 2001). This action
confirmed environmental proponents’ fears and suggested that the new adminis-
tration would in short order reverse many of these decisions. Drawing on lessons
from the 1980s, environmentalists sought to use the pending rollbacks to focus
public attention on the likely consequences of a reactionary environmental agenda.
However, several developments during the following weeks left both envi-
ronmentalists and industrialists wondering who had moved into the White House.
First, the U.S. EPA upheld a decision requiring New York City to build a con-
troversial water filtration plant. New York is one of a small number of cities that has
to date managed to maintain drinking water quality without filtration. However,
inadequate land use planning has allowed development to encroach upon several
municipal reservoirs. Despite the tremendous cost of the new facility, Whitman used
the occasion of a favorable court decision to announce that she would not rene-
gotiate the matter and to mandate that a scheme for filtering water be operational by
Second, the U.S. EPA announced that it had completed its review of a Clinton-
era directive to establish stringent standards for diesel fuel and engines. The new
regulations are designed to cut pollution from trucks and buses by 95% and to lower
the sulfur content in diesel fuel by 97%. Despite heavy lobbying by the oil and
trucking industries, the U.S. EPA refused to modify the provisions.
Third, Whitman began to stake out a resolute position on climate change.
Elaborating upon one of President Bush’s campaign statements, she emphasized the
need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in accordance with a multipollutant
approach that would also include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury. In a
now infamous speech at a G-8 conference of environment ministers, the U.S. EPA
administrator proclaimed that the Bush administration would support an inter-
nationally coordinated response to climate change.
Finally, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. EPA did not have to subject
elements of the Clean Air Act to cost-benefit analysis. The decision attracted
attention not only for its outcome, but for its emphatic delivery. Justice Scalia, a
member of the bench not normally regarded for his environmental values, wrote that
the law ‘‘unambiguously bars cost considerations.’’
Key industry groups were enraged by this series of environmental actions. After
all, it was their impression that the Bush administration would accommodate their
interests and support efforts to eliminate objectionable environmental regulations.
Indeed, some corporate officials spoke of going to ‘‘war’’ with the White House,
while others expressed a sense of disappointment and bafflement (see, for example,
Jehl 2001).
Early evidence that this initial series of decisions was not an accurate reflection
of the Bush administration’s environmental policy intentions came with preliminary
release of its first draft budget (Council of Economic Advisors 2002). This proposal
called for a 4% reduction in the U.S. EPA’s funding, with similar cuts for other
departments with environmental responsibilities. This news was quickly followed by
a sequence of stunning announcements.
Whitman first retracted Clinton’s proposition to make data on possible chemical
plant disasters more accessible. This right-to-know proposal called for increasing
public access to contingency planning documents, corporate risk management plans,
and other information regarding the mitigation of chemical production hazards.
George W. Bush and the EPA: A Midterm Appraisal 71
Subsequent to this decision was the release of a letter from four Republican
Senators asking the White House to explain the U.S. EPA administrator’s forthright
comments on climate change 2 weeks earlier. In his response, President Bush first
acknowledged that his campaign statement on the subject had been a ‘‘mistake’’ and
that a cabinet-level review had found that his prior position was incompatible with
domestic energy production goals. He then charged that the Kyoto Protocol was
‘‘fatally flawed’’ because it would be economically harmful to the United States and
it failed to establish mandatory targets for developing countries.
This announcement preempted several initiatives moving through Congress to
limit carbon dioxide emissions from electric utility plants. Additionally, Vice-Pres-
ident Cheney was poised to issue the final report of his energy task force, and
clarification of the White House’s position on climate change cleared the ground for
its release (National Energy Policy Development Group 2001). The supreme effect of
this bombshell on climate change, however, was to undercut Whitman’s credibility
and to make her appear hopelessly outside the policymaking loop.
Later in the month, Whitman made the U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto Pro-
tocol official. The declaration that the Bush administration had no interest in the
treaty was in stark contrast with her statements a few weeks before. Immediately
after making her public remarks, Whitman traveled to Montreal for a hemispheric
conference. Clearly discomforted by the circumstances, she sheepishly emphasized
that the Bush administration remained concerned about climate change and atten-
tive to the ramifications of its decisions.
During the aftermath of the climate change debacle, senior officials sought to
downplay tension between President Bush and Whitman. At the same time, some
accounts sought to portray the U.S. EPA administrator as a victim of her own
overexuberance. However, the record indicates that she had in fact cleared her earlier
stance with the White House and was not cavalierly crafting policy from a few
campaign statements (Berke 2001).
Moreover, within the Bush administration Whitman was not entirely alone
endorsing purposeful action on climate change. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil
supported efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in his previous capacity as
chairman of Alcoa and equated climate change with a potential nuclear holocaust
(Jehl and Revkin 2001). Secretary of State Colin Powell has also argued in favor of
responsible measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, though it is not clear
whether he played any role in this particular incident.
An even more damaging misstep for the Bush administration was its reversal of
President Clinton’s decision to strengthen the drinking water standard for arsenic, a
chemical regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Arsenic is a naturally
occurring substance and a by-product of mining activity, although its presence in
water varies widely with local geology and hydrology. The prevailing threshold of
50ppb was originally established in 1942, but more recent scientific research links
arsenic to bladder and lung cancer, as well as to other health problems. The World
Health Organization’s standard is 10 ppb and the limit in most European countries is
20ppb. During the early 1990s, Congress had called upon the U.S. EPA to review the
existing guidelines and the agency had studied the possibility of a revised standard
for 10 years. However, mining and wood products industries and municipal water
boards resisted any changes because of concerns that they would have to install
expensive filtration equipment.
The Bush administration was pilloried over this issue and Whitman was the
target of relentless condemnation for appearing to favor drinking water laced with
72 M. J. Cohen
dangerous poisons. The U.S. EPA administrator became a punching bag for the
most chastening form of civic opprobrium, namely, late-night jokes by television
comedians. To counter these attacks she asked the National Academy of Sciences
(NAS) to review the scientific literature on arsenic and human health. However, even
before the study panel had taken up its task Whitman began to hint that in the end
she would probably support a standard of at least 10 ppb.
In due course the NAS report provided unequivocal confirmation that arsenic in
drinking water required regulatory tightening beyond the threshold of 50 ppb
(National Research Council 2001a). In fact, the scientists claimed that even 10 ppb
might not be low enough. Unfortunately, the public release of the NAS document
occurred on September 10 and the pandemonium of the following day obliterated
any opportunity that the U.S. EPA might have had to derive benefit from this news.
One month later, in an announcement that was remarkable for its muted delivery,
Whitman indicated that the U.S. EPA concurred with the NAS report and would
endorse a drinking-water standard for arsenic of no higher than 10 ppb.
Based on these three issues—right-to-know, climate change, and arsenic—a
clearer view of the Bush administration’s environmental policy intentions began to
coalesce. Many Republicans hailed the climate change reversal (as well as the
combative way in which it was communicated) as evidence that the White House had
overcome its initial disarray and henceforth would champion a decidedly con-
servative environmental agenda. Indeed, soon after this episode the President’s
steadfast supporters began gleefully to assert that the Bush administration was
destined to surpass the environmental policy precedents set under Ronald Reagan
(Toner 2001).
In contrast, prominent environmental organizations began to abandon their
strategy of pragmatic engagement with the Bush administration and to endorse a
more critical approach. The spokesperson for one leading group said, ‘‘It’s been a
pretty rough ride. [Whitman has] probably suffered one of the most immediate and
embarrassing eviscerations of a new cabinet secretary ever’’ (Henneberger 2001).
Even the Sierra Club began to express disappointment with the White House, while
Friends of the Earth went so far as to call for Whitman to resign.
While questions swirled around about how long Whitman would be able to hang
on, the lead-up to its first Earth Day in office prompted the Bush administration to
make several conciliatory gestures. First, the U.S. EPA announced that it would
retain two Clinton-era initiatives, one on wetlands protection and another on the
emission of lead from industrial sources. Second, the Bush administration signaled it
would submit for ratification an international treaty banning one dozen toxic che-
Finally, on the roiling issue of climate change the White House asked the
NAS to evaluate the current state of scientific knowledge, a move that suggested the
matter was perhaps still open for further consideration.
Then, as Congressional negotiations on President Bush’s first tax cut were
drawing to a close, the American political establishment received the kind of historic
jolt that only occurs once in a generation. Senator James Jeffords of Vermont
shocked his colleagues and the rest of the country by resigning from the Republican
Party and declaring himself an Independent. This announcement was monumental
because it shifted control of the chamber from Republican to Democratic control for
the first time since 1995.
The iconoclast senator first provoked President Bush by refusing to support his
proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut. The White House then retaliated by reneging on a deal
with Jeffords to fund special education programs across the country and tried to
George W. Bush and the EPA: A Midterm Appraisal 73
intimidate the senator by threatening to derail a bill funding a subsidy program for
New England milk producers. The coup de graˆ ce, however, came when President
Bush failed to invite Jeffords to the White House for a ceremony honoring a Ver-
mont schoolteacher. In the words of one political strategist, Jeffords had been
‘‘constantly dissed, ignored, embarrassed, not treated with the kind of respect you
would accord a Senator, let alone a Republican’’ (Bruni 2001).
Senate committee chairs have sweeping authority to select which pieces of leg-
islation to consider, when debate will be scheduled, and how proceedings will move
forward. Jeffords’s decision shifted all of these assignments from Republican to
Democratic hands and elevated Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) to majority leader.
Had Republicans retained Senate control during this interval they would have been
able to assist President Bush by supporting his conservative legislative agenda.
Instead, the Senate’s 15 committees operated during the next 18 months as defensive
shields to block objectionable measures.
September 11 and Its Aftermath at the U.S. EPA
Following the September 11 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center (WTC)
and the Pentagon, the world for the U.S. EPA, as for all other government agencies
in the United States, was turned upside down. Immediate environmental concerns
focused on possible health effects caused by the burning of hazardous materials at
Ground Zero, and the U.S. EPA carried out intensive monitoring activities from the
very beginning (see also Cohen 2003). During the immediate aftermath of the WTC
collapse there was confusion as to whether the original design plan called for
asbestos in the towers’ construction. While professional engineering associations
contended that the buildings had been among the first high-rise structures to use
ceramic fireproofing, the U.S. EPA measured elevated asbestos level in the air.
Amid this chaos there was also anxiety about other hazardous materials, and the
U.S. EPA set up decontamination stations and carried out debris sampling. Elec-
trical fixtures in the WTC contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and some
experts thought that extreme heat could convert them into dioxins. A competing
theory suggested that the intensity of the fires would incinerate any potentially
harmful substances. There was also fear about lead because lead paint was still legal
when the WTC was constructed during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In response to
these concerns, the U.S. EPA implemented an extensive street-cleaning project to
reduce the volume of material fallout.
The U.S. EPA also became closely involved in homeland security activities
across the country. In particular, the agency established new protective protocols at
nuclear power plants, waste storage depots, and reservoirs. Another source of
apprehension was the nation’s chemical plants. However, Whitman showed no
inclination to claim any extraordinary authority over these facilities, preferring
instead to emphasize the industry’s high level of capability and vigilance.
As the immediate crisis atmosphere subsided, the U.S. EPA came under fierce
criticism for its response to September 11, particularly for how it handled the
complex problem of monitoring indoor air quality in lower Manhattan. Local
residents and workers complained bitterly that the agency failed to provide timely
information about ultrafine particles of asbestos, lead, mercury, fiberglass, and glass.
A public hearing nearly 6 months after the WTC collapse turned into a scramble for
political advantage as state and city officials used the opportunity to bash the U.S.
EPA. To diffuse tensions, Whitman offered to clean the exteriors of more than 200
74 M. J. Cohen
buildings to prevent microscopic-sized materials from blowing inside offices and
Although the various cleanup and monitoring projects and the deployment of
new security systems around the country were important tasks, the U.S. EPA is
likely to face more formidable challenges during the post-September 11 era. The
agency is now immersed in the precarious politics of having to defend its core
functions during a period when other priorities are foremost. For instance, the new
preoccupation with national security and military preparedness has emboldened the
Defense Department to seek exemptions from several environmental laws, including
the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the
National Environmental Policy Act (Seelye 2002a). One consequence of this new
reality is that environmental arguments will no longer be given easy access to the
moral high ground in public debate and the U.S. EPA will need to work much harder
to make itself heard.
Air Pollution
Christie Whitman repeatedly stated that air quality is the issue on which she would
like to leave her lasting mark as U.S. EPA administrator.
With regard to stationary
sources, the most prominent issues were the Clean Air Act’s so-called ‘‘new source
review’’ provisions, the lawsuits filed by the Justice Department against several
dozen electric utility plants, and the reduction of air pollution in national parks. The
Bush administration also promoted a more comprehensive air quality initiative
known as Clear Skies; however, the regulation of mobile sources of air pollution
focused exclusively on diesel emissions from trucks and buses. Notably absent from
this air management portfolio was any meaningful action to improve automotive
fuel efficiency, and this section also discusses some dimensions of this issue.
New Source Review
During the Bush administration’s first 2 years in office, advocates of a supply-driven
energy policy exercised a great deal of influence, and the White House con-
sistently endorsed the expansion of electricity generating capacity without con-
sidering its impacts on air quality. One especially contentious area of the debate
centered on a provision of the Clean Air Act exempting many of the oldest and
dirtiest power plants in the country from stringent emissions standards under the
presumption that owners would in due course replace these outmoded facilities.
However, electric utility companies have kept these aging power plants on line
and, in many instances, have made substantial investments to extend their lives
and to increase their size. These upgrades have been illegal in the strict sense, but
the U.S. EPA has customarily allowed companies to proceed under the suppo-
sition that they were merely engaging in ‘‘routine maintenance.’’ The Clinton
administration refocused attention on this practice and began to require power
plants to invest in pollution control equipment when they made extensive facility
Electric utility companies complained that strict interpretation of these ‘‘new
source review’’ provisions precluded them from performing necessary maintenance
and making efficiency improvements. After President Bush’s inaugural and the onset
of the 2001 California energy crisis their concerns began to receive a more favorable
George W. Bush and the EPA: A Midterm Appraisal 75
hearing. For instance, Vice-President Cheney’s energy task force proposed relaxing
new source review as a quick way to increase electricity production. In response,
President Bush ordered the U.S. EPA to study new source review and to advance
proposals for its modification.
After numerous delays, the U.S. EPA released in summer 2002 the outcome of
its new source review study panel. The long-anticipated decision called for the
clarification of what the Clean Air Act defines as ‘‘routine maintenance.’’ Though
not fully conclusive, both sides of the debate interpreted this announcement as the
cornerstone of what would eventually be a more accommodating interpretation, one
that would allow old power plants to expand without having to upgrade their pol-
lution control equipment. This incremental action bought the White House a year’s
time, an interval during which one could expect a fading (or diverting) of public
attention that would allow the change to be slipped through without much vocal
opposition. In this instance, however, Congressional response to the new source
review decision was swift, with Senator James Jeffords calling for a subpoena to
obtain U.S. EPA documents regarding internal agency discussions on the matter.
Law Suits Against Electric Utility Companies
The Bush administration’s efforts to amend new source review became entangled
with federal legal action against several Midwestern and Southern electric utility
companies. In 1999, the Justice Department, in partnership with the attorneys
general from the northeastern states, filed lawsuits against nine corporations for
violating the Clean Air Act. Wind and weather patterns transport emissions from
these firms’ power plants eastward where they contaminate the regional airshed.
Managers of these facilities have consistently argued that the northeastern states
have no legal authority to force them to make pollution reductions.
After the election, environmental proponents and the relevant state attorneys
general pressured the Bush administration to proceed with these lawsuits. The actions
present complex questions regarding states’ legal standing, and the proponents would
face insurmountable financial barriers taking the cases forward on their own.
For nearly a year the Bush administration was silent on how (or if) it would
pursue the cases. The influential position of energy supply advocates in the White
House suggested that the Justice Department would drop them. Many observers
were therefore surprised when Attorney General John Ashcroft announced early in
2002 that the federal government would retain its status as plaintiff. Whitman,
however, sought to soften the impact of this move the next day by extending
the deadline for Midwestern power plants to reduce their annual nitrogen oxide
Air Pollution in National Parks
One strategy for reducing air pollution in the United States has been to invoke the
issue of deteriorated air quality and scenic viewscapes in national parks. There is a
quirkiness in this approach because these lands, as a general rule, have few per-
manent human residents and are generally situated far from major emission sources.
By any reasonable measure the public health risks of polluted air in national parks
pale by comparison to those in large urban areas. Nevertheless, the Clean Air Act
contains specific provisions for improving air quality in these federal properties, and
this legal angle, in combination with the iconic value of such places, has created
leverage for progress.
76 M. J. Cohen
The Clinton administration initiated a last-minute rule change requiring certain
industrial facilities to upgrade their pollution control technology by 2013 as a means
of improving air quality in 156 national parks. More specifically, the states would be
empowered to impose new limits on older coal-burning power plants, oil refineries,
industrial boilers, iron and steel foundries, and similar facilities that impair
panoramic vistas. Following 5 months of internal deliberation, Whitman announced
that the U.S. EPA would move forward on the Clinton initiative.
Clear Skies
A more comprehensive plan by the Bush administration to overhaul the Clean Air
Act is likely to supplant these more piecemeal endeavors. Early in 2002 the White
House first delineated in outline form its so-called Clear Skies proposal calling for
power plants to reduce their emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen
oxides by an ambitious 70% by 2018. This initial draft contained few details on how
this objective would be achieved, and it took the White House more than 6 months
to formulate a more comprehensive legislative proposal. Although still lacking sys-
tematic analysis of how it would meet its goals, the Bush administration asserted that
its Clear Skies program offered a more effective approach for improving air quality
than the existing Clean Air Act. The backbone of Clear Skies is a market-based
system of emissions trading (so-called ‘‘cap and trade’’) similar to the scheme that
presently operates for sulfur dioxide. Electric utility companies that are able to
reduce their emissions at relatively low cost could sell their unused quotas to other
firms. According to its champions, such a plan promises to achieve emissions
reductions in the most efficient way.
Environmental proponents’ criticism of the Clear Skies plan springs from a
number of concerns. First, several groups denounced the initiative as hopelessly
incomplete because it does not include carbon dioxide. Second, there was skepticism
about the plan’s provision calling for cost-benefit analyses in conjunction with studies
of the public health implications of air pollution. Third, environmentalists com-
plained that by establishing a deadline nearly two decades into the future the Bush
administration was proposing an overly generous schedule. Fourth, environmental
organizations pointed out that air pollution is a regional problem and efforts to
address it with a national trading scheme would lead to the geographic concentration
of polluting facilities. Finally, critics argued that the Clear Skies plan would be
unnecessary if the U.S. EPA vigilantly enforced the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.
Interestingly, the U.S. EPA originally advanced a more rigorous Clear Skies
proposal, but the White House rejected it in favor of the less ambitious alternative.
The agency’s earlier draft recommended, for instance, a more stringent annual sulfur
dioxide emission reduction target of 3 million tons (instead of the 2 million tons
contained in the legislative proposal) and a deadline that was 10 years shorter.
However, the Department of Energy charged that these goals would be too difficult
to achieve and would involve excessive costs. U.S. EPA officials then found them-
selves in the peculiar position of having to distance themselves from their own plan
and to convey the public impression that they in fact favored the weaker option
(Seelye 2002b).
New Diesel Regulations
Current efforts to regulate ground-level ozone and particulate matter from diesel
trucks and buses date back to 1997. In response to growing scientific evidence alleging
George W. Bush and the EPA: A Midterm Appraisal 77
connections between vehicle exhaust and respiratory impairment, the Clinton
administration modified the threshold for ground-level ozone from 120ppb per hour
to 80ppb for an 8-hour period and reduced the particulate standard from 10 to 2.5 mm.
The trucking industry greeted this initiative with a lawsuit to block imple-
mentation. After several preliminary judicial decisions the Court of Appeals for the
DC Circuit issued in 1999 a controversial decision premised upon a largely dis-
regarded legal notion known as the ‘‘delegation argument.’’ This theory contends
that it is illegal for Congress to assign authority to an administrative agency such as
the U.S. EPA. According to this reasoning, if the legislative branch wanted to reduce
vehicle emissions it needed to formulate the standard itself. This decision could have
had profound implications because it called into question the legality of virtually all
federal regulation.
The Supreme Court ultimately overturned the lower court’s decision, although
the justices remanded the case to resolve several procedural issues pertaining to how
the U.S. EPA formulated its rule. In March 2001 the appellate court eventually
found that the agency did not act arbitrarily in developing these regulations.
Although the U.S. EPA prevailed in the end, the plaintiffs very effectively exploited
their legal prerogatives and postponed progress on this issue for 5 years.
A noteworthy exception to the Bush administration’s air pollution policies has
been the way that the U.S. EPA has handled the regulation of diesel engines. In the
first instance, following the favorable Supreme Court ruling on superfine particu-
lates, the agency pledged to have in place a new rule by 2004 reducing emissions from
diesel-powered trucks and buses by 90%. This announcement was followed by a
move in summer 2002, over the opposition of Congressional Republicans and
industry lobbyists, to impose penalties on diesel manufacturers of up to $12,000 for
every engine produced that does not meet federal emission standards.
Automotive Fuel Efficiency
Visibly absent from the Bush administration’s air pollution program has been any
serious consideration of automobile emissions. The chief mechanism for improving
automotive fuel efficiency in recent decades has been a cumbersome system known as
Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards. Car manufacturers are
required to achieve a fuel economy target that is a weighted average of each
company’s total fleet sales. Of particular significance is the fact that the federal
government calculates CAFE standards separately for cars and light trucks, with the
latter category including sport utility vehicles (SUVs), minivans, and pickups.
current CAFE standards of 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 20.7 miles per gallon for
light trucks have been essentially unchanged since 1989. With consumers purchasing
larger numbers of SUVs and minivans instead of more fuel-efficient passenger cars,
the overall efficiency of new vehicles has actually declined over the past decade.
Further complicating the problem are allegations that CAFE standards have
been a failure because greater efficiency leads to increases in miles traveled. There are
also indications that this system has encouraged consumers to upgrade the size and
power of their vehicles. Moreover, opponents of CAFE standards point out that this
approach invariably leads to compromises in safety because the regulations prompt
manufacturers to design lighter and smaller vehicles as the chief means of improving
fuel efficiency.
Partly due to these reasons, the automobile industry has actively resisted
increases in CAFE standards. Its rhetoric has typically emphasized the need to defer
78 M. J. Cohen
to consumer preferences rather than to produce vehicles prefigured by government
regulations. Throughout the 1990s the Republican-controlled Congress was highly
sympathetic to this position and went so far as to prohibit federal agencies from
studying automotive fuel efficiency.
Nevertheless, even before September 11, Congress seemed to be guided by a new
sensibility regarding the desirability of raising CAFE standards, particularly for the
light truck category. The terrorist attacks then added momentum to the campaign by
casting fuel economy as an important element of national security. Despite its
proven success, conservation remains a decidedly unpopular course of political
action in the United States. A massive advertising campaign by automobile manu-
facturers and organized labor ultimately encouraged Congress to retreat to its cus-
tomary position on CAFE standards.
For its part, the Bush administration initially demurred on CAFE standards,
preferring instead to await publication of a pending NAS report.
Released during
summer 2001, this study indicated that it was feasible to expect technological
improvements that would enhance fuel economy by 40% over the next 10 to 15 years
(National Research Council 2001c). The White House then used this projection to
sidestep the matter of regulatory mandates and to reframe the debate on automotive
fuel efficiency in terms of technological inventiveness.
Such thinking prompted the Bush administration to scrap the Partnership for a
New Generation of Vehicles, a program aimed at launching by 2004 a series of mass-
produced cars capable of achieving eighty miles per gallon. The Bush administration
replaced this project with one focused instead on hydrogen fuel cells.
While this
technology no doubt holds great potential, environmental proponents harbor
skepticism about President Bush’s commitment to this course of action. There is
unease that research programs to supplant the internal combustion engine are a
smokescreen to diffuse more immediate pressure to raise CAFE standards. The fear
is that loose promises of prospective progress on the technological front will stifle
discussion about improved fuel economy in the short term.
Climate Change
During June 2001 the NAS released its anticipated climate change report. The Bush
administration had earlier requested this review, in part to deflect criticism sur-
rounding its decision to renounce the Kyoto Protocol. The White House had also
stressed that NAS input was necessary to formulate an alternative proposal for the
Bonn round of international negotiations scheduled for the following month. While
the report did not open any new scientific ground, it was noteworthy for the candid
terms with which it described the problem—a view that even ‘‘skeptical’’ members on
the panel endorsed. The climate scientists wrote, ‘‘Greenhouse gases are accumu-
lating in the earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air
temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise’’ (Seelye and Revkin 2001;
National Research Council 2001c).
Despite the report’s apparent clarity, public response took its conventional
form. On one hand, environmental proponents condemned the Bush administration
for failing to act in the face of unambiguous evidence. On the other hand, con-
servative Republicans and industry loyalists claimed that concerted action on climate
change was still premature and that the United States should not take action that
could cause economic harm or impinge upon national sovereignty.
George W. Bush and the EPA: A Midterm Appraisal 79
Responsibility for responding publicly to the NAS report did not fall to Whit-
man this time, but to Condoleeza Rice, the national security advisor. The Bush
administration’s reaction here is significant because it was at this juncture that senior
officials began to distance themselves from previous contentions that the science
underlying climate change was flawed. However problematic this dismissive view
may have been in scientific circles, it made a go-slow approach politically plausible.
The NAS’s definitive statement, coupled with the fact that the White House had
itself solicited the report, invalidated this prior line of reasoning. If the Bush
administration intended to endorse a more proactive climate policy at a future point
in time, Rice’s stature and personal authority could provide a credible platform on
which to build it. Such a move also signaled that the issue, rather than being rele-
gated to the U.S. EPA, was being handled at the highest levels.
The NAS report also induced a tactical shift by several climate change oppo-
nents. In the Senate, for example, instead of continuing to dispute the credibility of
the science, the purported inadequacies of the Kyoto Protocol came to occupy center
stage. More specifically, key Senate adversaries of the accord began to criticize its
fairness and the extent to which the United States was subject to an inequitable
burden. At the same time, they continued to stress the need to devise an agreement
that would impose obligations on large developing countries.
Public release of the report was also striking for its timing and it seemed to
foreshadow, at least for a short interval, the possibility of yet another policy reversal.
Issued 1 week before President Bush was due to embark on his first official trip to
Europe, the incongruity between the scientific counsel the White House was receiving
and its lack of action on the issue was now unavoidable. However, rather than use
this occasion to alter course, President Bush simply pledged to propel the United
States into a leadership position on climate science and to encourage the develop-
ment of more energy efficient technologies.
The Bush administration found itself isolated during the Bonn round of climate
change negotiations. Following 2 weeks of deliberations, 178 countries voted to
redouble their commitment to the Kyoto Protocol despite the U.S. decision to
withdraw. While the White House was nonplussed, the prospect of growing diplo-
matic tension made an impression on the Congress. The Senate Foreign Relations
Committee passed a nonbinding motion calling upon the Bush administration to
prepare a greenhouse gas reduction plan and to reengage itself in international
discussions. Careful crafting ensured unanimous passage of the resolution, and it
even attracted the support of Chuck Hagel (R-NE).
However, the summer recess,
followed by the September 11 terrorist attacks, diffused momentum on the issue.
Finally, during February 2002, after nearly a year of delay, the Bush adminis-
tration began to release in partial form its greenhouse gas reduction program. In
advance of a planned presidential trip to Asia, the White House came under pressure
from Japan to demonstrate serious interest in climate change. The Japanese gov-
ernment was at the time facing a sharp domestic attack for bowing to foreign
demands to hold firm on the Kyoto Protocol.
The White House continued to insist that it was premature to embark on
initiatives to curtail carbon dioxide. Instead, it would be preferable to rely on a
gradual approach to first stabilize emissions early in the next decade. The aim of the
proposal would not be to drive carbon dioxide below a target level as stipulated by
the Kyoto Protocol, but to reduce the rate of greenhouse gas production (so-called
emissions intensity) relative to economic output by 18% by 2012. The program
would not be compulsory, but the federal government would make $5 billion in tax
80 M. J. Cohen
credits available to induce companies to participate. The plan’s principle innovation,
however, calls for expanding a voluntary requirement for companies to report their
greenhouse gas emissions to a federal registry modeled after the Toxic Release
Inventory. Firms that were forthcoming then might receive credit for improvements
in the event the U.S. EPA launched an emissions trading system in the future.
For many observers this proposal was little different from the 1992 UN Fra-
mework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This earlier agreement was
predicated upon voluntarism and after 3 years many national governments dismissed
it as a failure. It was this recognition that prompted the move to negotiate the
binding targets contained in the Kyoto Protocol. Across the political spectrum there
is broad agreement that the Bush administration’s proposition will repeat this pat-
tern. Indeed, the White House has already conceded that if its preferred approach
proves to be insufficient by 2012, it would then be appropriate to consider obligatory
measures. However, even if President Bush secured reelection, his second term would
expire before climate change again became salient.
The Bush administration has had to perform some deft leaps to maintain its
solitary position on climate change. One of the more peculiar twists came during
summer 2002 when the federal government, as a party to the UNFCCC, released one
of its required periodic assessments (U.S. Department of State 2002). The document
concluded that human activities were responsible for climate change and that the
United States would suffer irrevocable environmental damage in coming decades.
The report estimated that temperatures across the country would rise by an average
of 5 to 9 degrees over the next century and these conditions would intensify droughts
and lead to the loss of several sensitive ecosystems. Additionally, at the national
level, climate change would amplify air pollution problems and extreme weather, as
well as magnify disease vectors. On the more positive side, enhanced agricultural
productivity, owing to longer growing seasons and the expansion of forest cover,
could economically offset these impacts.
Despite these generally portentous conclusions, the Bush administration con-
tinued to assert that climate change did not merit special action and that the Kyoto
Protocol was a ‘‘fatally flawed’’ agreement. Instead of mitigating the effects of rising
sea levels, species loss, and so forth, the White House’s advice was that the United
States and other countries should adapt to the inevitable changes.
During the late 1970s the improper disposal of toxic chemicals first came to the
attention of the American public. Graphic television footage from the Love Canal
neighborhood of Niagara Falls, NY, showed residents coping with mysterious
substances seeping down the walls of their basements and struggling to understand
the implications on family health. It quickly became apparent that Love Canal was
not unique and that industrial firms had been casually dumping hazardous materials
at thousands of locations for several decades.
One response to this catastrophe was enactment of the Comprehensive Envir-
onmental Response, Liability, and Cleanup Act (CERCLA), more commonly
known as Superfund. Originally passed in 1980, the legislation serves as the basis for
stabilizing and restoring contaminated sites around the country. The vast program
suffers from an ignominious reputation due to the unenviable problem it addresses.
More important though in establishing Superfund’s unfortunate public relations
position is the difficulty the U.S. EPA had during the 1980s getting the first
George W. Bush and the EPA: A Midterm Appraisal 81
generation of cleanups off the ground. Foremost was (and is) the technical com-
plexity of treating seriously contaminated soil and water and conducting epide-
miological studies to assess potential health risks. A systematic effort by the Reagan
administration to disable Superfund also contributed to the slow pace of the pro-
gram’s startup. The difficulty of establishing legal responsibility for decades-old
chemicals further compounded these scientific and political obstacles and led to a
litany of expensive and time-consuming lawsuits.
Superfund distinguishes between two types of contaminated sites—those for
which it is possible to hold an existing entity liable and those for which the U.S. EPA
cannot establish legal responsibility. In the 70% of cases where the agency is able to
identify a potentially responsible party (PRP) it becomes the PRP’s obligation to
remediate the property or, if cooperation is not forthcoming, the U.S. EPA can carry
out the work and bill the PRP. Cleanup of the remaining 30% of sites, so-called
orphans, is often more complicated. To cover the costs of these properties, Congress
in the original Superfund legislation imposed a special tax on chemical and oil
companies, a mechanism that was partly motivated by a commitment to the ‘‘pol-
luter pays’’ principle. These taxes, totaling approximately $1 billion annually, were
then used to finance a trust fund to pay for the restoration of orphan sites.
Since 1995 deep partisan fissures have stalled reauthorization of the special tax,
and to compensate for the shortfall Congress has apportioned money from the
general treasury. By the end of FY2002 the trust fund contained less than $30
million, down from its peak in FY1996 of $3.8 billion. Nevertheless, the Bush
administration is strongly opposed to renewing the special tax and has instead
sought to economize by reducing the number of Superfund sites receiving money.
In putting its intentions for Superfund into play, the Bush administration has
tried to stress that over the last two decades the program has successfully resolved
contamination problems at many smaller sites. These circumstances suggest a need
to reevaluate how money is being appropriated and to turn attention toward the
specific requirements of larger facilities. While Superfund has indeed remediated
more than 800 properties, many environmental proponents interpret this restruc-
turing as a thinly veiled plan to realign the program away from predominately
Democratic Eastern and Midwestern states in favor of Western states that command
Republican majorities (Hernandez 2002).
During summer 2002 the Bush administration fired its first salvo in the Super-
fund battle. In a routine budget report to Congress the U.S. EPA Inspector General
indicated that the agency was planning to withdraw funding for remediation work at
33 sites. Publication of this news set off a firestorm of protest in these communities
and mobilized Congressional Democrats to reverse the decision. At several of the
sites slated to lose funding active mitigation was only just getting under way after
long delays. Within 2 weeks the U.S. EPA was scrambling to restore money at nearly
a dozen locations where cleanups were in process (Whitman 2002).
Despite Whitman’s efforts to deemphasize the problem, the precarious financial
status of Superfund is becoming clearly apparent and program managers are finding
themselves forced to develop inventive schemes to compensate for insufficient federal
funding. For instance, the U.S. EPA entered into a highly unusual arrangement in
Florida at one of the sites earmarked for defunding. Residents living near a
Superfund site in Port Salerno had become concerned that the installation of piped
drinking water to 150 homes would be deferred and the state’s environment
department agreed to pay $1.4 million to complete the project. The state paid the
10% of the cost for which it was obligated, as well as the 90% that Superfund was
82 M. J. Cohen
due to contribute. In exchange, Florida’s environment department will carry a credit
with the U.S. EPA that it can apply to a future project.
While it is premature to speak of enduring political impact, it is appropriate to use
the midpoint of the Bush administration’s first term to assess its environmental
policy record and to examine the politics driving decision making. A frequent point
of observation is that during the campaign the Bush camp adopted moderate posi-
tions on most consequential issues and rarely emphasized environmental themes. In
contrast, his major opponent was fearful of being labeled an environmental extremist
and was largely silent on the specific initiatives he would endorse. In hindsight, it
appears as if there was a tacit agreement between the candidates to keep the
environment off the table during the campaign as neither Bush nor Gore would have
derived much competitive advantage from it.
Under these circumstances, it is perhaps not surprising that it took the Bush
administration some time to establish its environmental priorities. Before the White
House could set a course it was blindsided by Whitman’s lightening move to push for
aggressive action on climate change. In short order though, it became clear that
discipline and loyalty were the new coins of the realm. A contrite Whitman did
penance for the climate change episode, but she never recovered her ability to
exercise sole discretion on major environmental decisions. This subordination of her
role was conspicuous not only with respect to the policy issues discussed in the
previous sections; it also extended to other parts of the U.S. EPA’s regulatory scope
and includes, for example, wetlands protection, energy extraction, and oversight of
the mining industry.
After his first few tentative weeks, President Bush cast off his centrist campaign
rhetoric and across a range of programmatic areas began to endorse a stridently
conservative policy program. The audaciousness with which he put this strategy into
play in terms of the environment is virtually without precedent (see, for example,
Dunlap 2003; McCright and Dunlap 2003). All prior indications were that President
Bush’s personal environmental sensibilities trended more toward ambivalence than
antipathy and that upon taking office he would not deliberately disregard sound
policy recommendations. Nevertheless, the White House pushed the U.S. EPA to
embrace a strongly reactionary agenda and to stake out purposefully divisive posi-
tions that appeal to conservative ideologues. For instance, it is difficult to find any
political logic in the U.S. EPA initial position on arsenic. At the same time, the Bush
administration’s ham-handed handling of climate change is shocking to observers
familiar with the customary conduct of foreign relations. The White House’s deci-
sion to stick its finger in the eye of the international community, and to forsake the
accord root and branch, is evidence of deep contempt for multilateral commitments
and expert appraisal. The subsequent political clash between the United States and
several European countries over war against Iraq revealed that this stance was not an
anomaly limited to the environmental domain, but rather was part of an explicit
foreign policy strategy.
Throughout 2002, while the Democrats were the majority party in the Senate,
the Bush administration appeared to modulate some of its vitriol and moved toward
a less outwardly antagonistic posture on a number of issues. While this may have
been true on a superficial level, across the full range of the federal bureaucracy the
White House charged political appointees with the task of disabling key elements of
George W. Bush and the EPA: A Midterm Appraisal 83
the country’s environmental policy infrastructure and this work continued during
the Senate interregnum. The midterm elections again gave Republicans control of the
upper chamber and eliminated most legislative resistance to these initiatives.
Questions remain though as to what is politically driving the Bush administra-
tion to pursue this provocative line of action and what are its implications in the lead
up to the 2004 presidential election. There are surely major problems in how the U.S.
EPA currently conducts its affairs, and it is no longer debatable that organizational
renewal is long overdue. At the macro level the agency is handicapped by an
increasingly outmoded regulatory philosophy, a lack of programmatic coherence,
and a poorly articulated sense of organizational mission. It is notable that the Bush
administration has recognized the need to reconfigure some of the U.S. EPA’s core
functions, but it is using the language of constructive reform to camouflage a wish
list of initiatives ginned up by lobbyists and trade association representatives. While
many of the world’s most advanced countries have made earnest strides over the past
decade to embrace sustainable development, the United States is steadily moving
backward in time. This growing policy gap promotes speculation as to whether
the Bush administration is unaware of these developments or it is simply indifferent
to them.
The obvious ancillary issue flowing from this discussion then becomes whether
President Bush will pay a price for riding roughshod over presumed public sensi-
bilities. While opinion polls over the past 30 years have consistently exposed an
abiding sense of environmental concern among Americans, this resolve tends to be
amorphous and rarely figures prominently in voting decisions. Nevertheless, when
this latent environmental interest is unleashed it often has profound political
implications. For instance, the Reagan administration’s attempts to dismantle reg-
ulatory statutes met stiff resistance and enabled the environmental movement to
make unanticipated political gains. The so-called ‘‘Contract with America’’ that
conservative Republicans championed during the mid-1990s contained provisions
for massive regulatory rollbacks, but this offensive encountered similar opposition.
During the early weeks of 2003, President Bush’s approval rating fell below 60%
for the first time since September 11, 2001. An apparent explanation for this decline
is expanding unease about how the White House is handling key domestic policy
issues, foremost among them unemployment and the continued slackened economy.
The aftermath of American military intervention into Iraq has created deepening
anxiety about the long-term consequences of this action. Against this background,
any public misgivings that may exist with respect to environmental policy outcomes
are relatively minor considerations. However, growing public disillusionment on this
score could conceivably augment movement already set in train by other sources of
Of related importance is the evenly divided composition of the American elec-
torate, a phenomenon that has given independent voters a pivotal position in
national elections. Most political experts emphasize that within this group it is more
specifically suburban women that now have the power to decide close contests.
Opinion polls point to the relatively strong environmental sensibilities of this voting
group, especially as expressed in terms of protecting public health, preserving open
space, and maintaining the ‘‘livability’’ of local communities. While these women
demonstrate a general aversion to government intervention, they typically recognize
the need for public action to stem environmental deterioration. Some observers may
rightfully cast doubt on the depth of these commitments, but there continues to exist
across the country’s suburban expanses palpable fear about toxic chemicals and
84 M. J. Cohen
other environmental hazards. In the event that the Democratic Party is able to field a
credible candidate in the 2004 election, President Bush’s reelection prospects will
hinge heavily on his ability to draw suburban woman in the Northeast—the majority
of whom identify with the Republican Party’s moderate wing—into his camp.
Environmental proponents may be heartened, at least to some extent, by the fact
that support from this particular constituency will not be forthcoming if the White
House and the U.S. EPA continue to pursue an agenda that deliberately disregards
their concerns.
1. In Whitman’s home state of New Jersey, there was deep ambivalence about her nomi-
nation. Her environmental credentials were not especially strong and as governor she pursued
several provocative measures, including massively reducing the budget of the Department of
Environmental Protection. During her second term, Whitman reversed course to some extent
and did champion initiatives to protect coastal resources and to establish a $1 billion fund to
preserve open space.
2. There is a sizable literature that examines presidential performance in the area of envir-
onmental policy. See, for example, Kraft and Vig (1984), Vig (2000), and Shanley (1992).
3. This discussion reviews the Bush administration’s environmental record largely in
terms of initiatives taken by the U.S. EPA. For both historical and political reasons the
United States lacks a single institutional body with thoroughgoing environmental policy
responsibility. A more comprehensive analysis of how the Bush administration has handled
the environment would necessarily include the full range of federal agencies that cover nat-
ural resource management, food safety, mining, nuclear hazards, and so forth.
4. The nominations of several controversial figures to secondary and tertiary environ-
mental positions were less visible. For example, President Bush appointed John Graham as dir-
ector of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the Office of Management and
Budget, Linda Fisher to become deputy U.S. EPA administrator, and James Connaughton
to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The nomination of Donald
Schredgardus, who served during most of the 1990s as Ohio’s chief environmental official,
was withdrawn after Senate Democrats invoked a procedural move to stall his confirmation.
5. Following this difficult series of incidents, rumors began to circulate that Whitman’s
enthusiasm for the job was beginning to wane and that she had begun to consider other pro-
fessional options. Media reports aired her name as an opponent to challenge Senator Robert
Torrecilli (D-NJ), who was the target of a lengthy ethics investigation. Senator Torrecelli ulti-
mately withdrew his candidacy the following year. Whitman, at least for a time, did little to
damp down this speculation. Another potential factor responsible for this ambivalence was
her declining stature among Bush administration colleagues. Secretary of State Colin
Powell famously described Whitman as the administration’s ‘‘wind dummy,’’ a military refer-
ence that likened her to an object thrown from a plane to get a rough measure of wind speed
(Easterbrook 2001).
6. In December 2000, after 2 years of deliberation, officials finalized this accord to reduce
substantially the use of 12 persistent organic pollutants. Included on the list are PCBs, dioxins,
DDT, and several pesticides linked to birth defects. After signing the treaty in May 2001 the
Bush administration waited nearly a year before submitting it for ratification. However, the
draft the White House sent to the Senate did not include previously negotiated provisions
about phasing out other chemicals in the future, and President Bush offered no guidance
on how to meet these objectives. In explaining the difference between the two treaty render-
ings, Whitman acknowledged, ‘‘It got so complicated to find language that was comprehensive
enough and yet didn’t tie our hands or would be something that could be accepted by the rest
of the world community.’’ Interestingly, an earlier draft of the treaty that the U.S. EPA pre-
pared for Senate ratification did include explicit procedures for discontinuing the use of other
chemicals in the future, but this wording was apparently expunged from the final version
(Associated Press 2002).
7. The outcome of the 2002 midterm election reversed once more the political alignment
of the Senate and again gave majority control of this legislative body to the Republican Party.
George W. Bush and the EPA: A Midterm Appraisal 85
8. One consequence of the controversies surrounding the U.S. EPA role in the post-
September 11 cleanup was the resignation of Robert Martin, the U.S. EPA ombudsman.
This position is responsible for investigating allegations of impropriety against the agency
and for ensuring compliance with legislative intent. Congress created Martin’s position in 1984
after U.S. EPA officials during the Reagan administration were forced to resign because of
irregularities in how they administered Superfund. Several months earlier, Whitman
announced her intention to relocate Martin from the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency
Response to the Office of the Inspector General. Such a move would have left him largely
powerless to pursue allegations of agency misconduct and stripped him of his autonomy. One
explanation for this reassignment is that it was in response to an inquiry that Martin launched
into (ultimately unproven) allegations that Whitman’s husband stood to benefit financially
from several Superfund projects. The conflict between Martin and Whitman came to a head in
spring 2002 after the two sparred in an unusually public disagreement over the U.S. EPA’s air
monitoring program in lower Manhattan.
9. In May 2003, Whitman announced her decision to resign as administrator of the U.S.
EPA. At the time this article was going to press the Senate had just confirmed Utah Governor
Michael Leavitt to serve as her successor.
10. Congress created the light truck classification in 1975 as part of the original CAFE
legislation. The intent at the time was for this vehicle category to comprise a limited
number of work vehicles (i.e., pick-up trucks). Automobile manufacturers eventually recog-
nized that they could exploit the light truck classification to produce less efficient (though
more profitable) vehicles, and this loophole created the impetus for SUVs.
11. The 2002 Congressional debate on CAFE standards was an episode of bizarre thea-
ter. At one point Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) stood before a photograph of a one-seat auto-
mobile and said, ‘‘I don’t want Americans to have to drive this car.’’ Senator Christopher
Bond (R-MO) hinted that under more rigorous standards golf carts would become the domi-
nant form of transportation (Rosenbaum 2002). Among leading Republicans, an exception on
CAFE standards is Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who has introduced a bill calling for a 50%
improvement in automotive fuel economy by 2016. The proposed legislation would also allow
car manufacturers to participate in a greenhouse gas trading scheme with other industries
(Hakim 2002b).
12. The final NAS report presented a less optimistic picture of the potential for fuel econ-
omy improvements than the draft version reviewed by a 9-member panel just 3 weeks earlier.
Additionally, issues pertaining to the safety of lighter weight vehicles received much more con-
sideration in the final report than they did in the earlier draft (National Research Council
2001b; Bradsher 2001).
13. In addition to its emphasis on hydrogen fuel cells, the Bush administration has
advanced a scheme to allow automobile manufacturers to trade fuel economy credits and
an incentive system to provide consumers with tax credits on the purchase of more energy effi-
cient models (Hakim 2002a). Conspicuously missing from the Bush administration’s auto-
motive emissions program is a strategy that many economists endorse to replace the CAFE
standards with a substantial increase in gasoline taxes. Such a policy would provide consumers
with a direct incentive to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles and to drive less. Furthermore,
Congress could couple this proposition with a proportional reduction of the income tax.
14. The House of Representatives passed a similar resolution earlier in the year calling on
the Bush administration to take constructive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to
play a part in deliberations to reach an international agreement.
15. The U.S. EPA posted this report on its web site without any prior notice, and it was
not until after media reports drew attention to it that the agency issued any formal statement.
Whitman claimed that the relevant staff members did not obtain proper approval for the
document’s release and publicly reprimanded them for not following appropriate procedures
(Seelye 2002c).
16. Against this effort to scale back Superfund, a notable development is Whitman’s
decision to reaffirm a Clinton administration order requiring General Electric to carry out
a $460 million project to dredge polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the Hudson River.
The U.S. EPA banned the chemical in 1977, but by then GE’s manufacturing facilities
north of Albany had discharged more than a million pounds of the material into the river.
17. It is indeterminate how widespread this kind of creative financing will become. A
limiting factor may be the extent to which state governments have the financial ability to
86 M. J. Cohen
step forward in this way. There are also concerns that this accounting technique conflicts with
federal budgeting rules. Nevertheless, local political pressure will likely generate other inven-
tive approaches to keep projects from lapsing (Cushman 2002).
18. It bears noting that Southern suburbanites cast their ballots for President Bush in the
2000 election in much greater numbers than did suburban voters elsewhere in the country. Pre-
sident Bush’s support during the election was particularly weak among moderate Republicans
in the metropolitan regions of the Northeast.
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George W. Bush and the EPA: A Midterm Appraisal 87
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... 48 Arnold, Richard and Andrew B. Whitford (2005), "Organisational Dilemmas of the US EPA: Why Structures Matter for Environmental Protection",Environmental Politics,Vol.14,No.1,[118][119][120][121][122][123]121. 49 Cohen, Maurie J. (2004), "George W. Bush and the Environmental Protection Agency: A Midterm Appraisal", 85. and the overview provided by Gustav Speth. 50 Speth concluded that "Environmental deterioration in the United States remains surprisingly severe" and that although "environmentalists have been winning battles, [they] are losing the war. ...
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A Planetary Tragedy addresses the question why, some 50 years after ‘the environment’ became a topic of public concern, efforts to address environmental problems have by and large failed and the world appears to be headed for a disastrous future. Although over these years, governments have adopted a raft of national and international measures to combat environmental issues, most of these have proven to be inadequate and the rate of environmental degradation has continued unabated. The book critically surveys and analyses the environmental performance of countries, in particular some that have been regarded as ‘environmental leaders’ and identifies and discusses three broad reasons for this failure. First, the way environmental problems have been predominantly interpreted, which largely ignores the deep and interconnected nature of the environmental challenge; second, the failure to recognise, let alone address, the systemic sources and causes of environmental problems; third, the power structures in the prevailing political-economic systems, which make it virtually impossible to fundamentally change those systems and to put societies onto a path towards sustainability. Covering an extensive literature, the book draws on research, theories, findings, and ideas from the fields of environmental politics and policy, including comparative, international, and global analyses and perspectives, environmental sociology and history, economics and the environment, political and social theory, and environmental management. It puts forward a framework that can assist in taking a comprehensive and integrated approach to the environmental challenge, discusses the strengths and weaknesses of a range of theoretical perspectives, clarifies key concepts and factors central to better understanding the systemic issues and obstacles lying at the heart of the environmental challenge, and puts forward ideas on how to strategically address the enormous imbalance of power that stands in the way of transformative change. While not offering a basis for facile optimism, it puts the finger on what will be needed to prevent the world from sliding further towards the abyss.
... While more extreme in its environmentally destructive agenda, this shift is not unprecedented. In fact, when we look more broadly, we see similar trends with previous Administrations based on the political party in power and the priorities of the specific administration (for a discussion of the George W. Bush Administration, e.g., see Cohen 2004). ...
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For years, sociologists who study the society-environment relationship have focused their attention on resolving the debate regarding the relationship between economic development and environmental degradation. Research coming from a family of critical perspectives tends to find that economic development is antithetical to environmental protection, while a suite of more optimistic perspectives has more hopeful findings. We attempt to resolve these differences by situating this debate within the larger framework of the Anthro-Shift. The Anthro-Shift explains how the society-environment relationship changes over time. The theory assumes that this relationship is the product of the interrelations among the state, market, and civil society sectors. We focus on two distinctive qualities of the Anthro-Shift: the role that risk plays as a pivot for reorienting how society interacts with the natural environment and the multidirectionality of the theory, highlighting how it combines elements of many of the dominant critical and optimistic perspectives into a broader framework.
... Of all topics modeled, Politics seems most predictive of having high impact, although it is only the fifteenth most common topic in terms of prevalence. Examples of the Politics topic include Cohen (2004), McCright and Dunlap (2011), Hoffbauer and Ramos (2014), and McCright, Xiao, and Dunlap (2014. Other high impact topics include Demography and Social Theory. ...
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ABSTRACT Environmental sociology is a growing field producing a diverse body of literature while also moving into the mainstream of the larger discipline. The twin goals of this paper are to introduce environmental sociologists to innovations in content analysis, specifically a form of text-mining known as topic modeling, and then employing it to identify key themes and trends within our diverse field. We apply the topic modeling approach to a corpus of research articles within environmental sociology, identifying 25 central topics within the field and examining their prevalence over time, co-occurrence, impact (judged by citations), and prestige (judged by journal rankings). Our results indicate which topics are most prevalent, tend to occur together, and how both vary over time. They also indicate that the highest impact topics are not the most prevalent, the most prestigious topics are not the most prevalent, and topics can be prestigious without exerting much impact. We conclude with a discussion of the capabilities computational text analysis methods offer environmental sociologists.
How did governmental experts respond publicly to the politicisation of climate change in the policy domain? Did they remain neutral to this process, resisted these efforts, or enabled them? Using longitudinal data derived from a content analysis of congressional testimonies provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) between 1983 and 2015, I find that the proportion of climate-related advocacy statements increased over time, yet their prevalence varied with the political context. As the agency’s position-taking on the issue intensified over time, this intensity was conditional on the political context. Most importantly, the EPA experts never denied the scientific basis of climate change, not even under presidential administrations that did, and instead advocated for climate action. These findings complicate traditional conceptualisations of experts as either independent from or subservient to politics, suggesting a more complex relationship where experts attempt to respond to contentious politics while maintaining continuity in their mission.
Studies of policy feedback have produced an increasingly nuanced understanding of when, why, and how public policies generate—or fail to generate—political effects that entrench the policies themselves and provide benefits to their proponents. Left open, however, is the question of whether policies can paradoxically generate political benefits for those who opposed them. This paper extends the study of policy feedback by exploring the mechanisms through and conditions under which organized groups can counterintuitively use policy losses to build power moving forward. It then demonstrates how post‐loss power building operates by exploring the National Rifle Association’s historical use of gun policy losses to reinforce a shared identity among its supporters, which it later uses to spur collective action on behalf of gun rights. The analysis shows how policy outcomes can interact with the identity‐building efforts of organized groups in ways that enable those groups to use losses to their long‐term advantage. 政策反馈研究已越来越细微地分析公共政策在何时、为何、如何产生—或无法产生—政治效果,这些政治效果根植于政策本身并为支持者提供利益。不过,尚不清晰的问题是,政策是否能反常地为反对者提供政治利益。通过对有组织集团能反常地利用政策损失来建立前进动力一事背后的机制及相关条件加以探究,本文扩展了政策反馈研究。本文随后证明了政策损失之后的权力建立过程如何进行,通过探究美国全国步枪协会(NRA)过去利用枪支政策损失来加强NRA支持者之间的共有认同,之后借由这种认同以枪支权利的名义来刺激集体行动。分析结果表明了政策结果能如何与有组织集团为认同建立所付出的相关努力产生交互作用,这种作用方式能让有组织集团利用政策损失来获得长期优势。 Los estudios de retroalimentación de políticas han producido una comprensión cada vez más matizada de cuándo, por qué y cómo las políticas públicas generan—o no generan—efectos políticos que afianzan las políticas en sí mismas y brindan beneficios a sus proponentes. Sin embargo, queda abierta la cuestión de si las políticas pueden, paradójicamente, generar beneficios políticos para quienes se oponen a ellas. Este documento amplía el estudio de la retroalimentación de las políticas al explorar los mecanismos y las condiciones bajo las cuales los grupos organizados pueden utilizar las pérdidas de las políticas de manera contraria a la intuición para construir poder en el futuro. Luego demuestra cómo opera la construcción de poder después de la pérdida al explorar el uso histórico de la NRA de las pérdidas de la política de armas para reforzar una identidad compartida entre sus partidarios, que luego utiliza para estimular la acción colectiva en nombre de los derechos de armas. El análisis muestra cómo los resultados de las políticas pueden interactuar con los esfuerzos de construcción de identidad de los grupos organizados de manera que permitan a esos grupos utilizar las pérdidas para su ventaja a largo plazo.
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The executive order process can be a long and complicated one, as directives may wind their way through various agencies before finding their way onto the president’s desk. Even after these orders have been issued, federal agencies will have a wide degree of latitude under certain conditions as it pertains to implementing them. In this article, I study the history of three separate presidential directives, two dealing specifically with environmental issues and one with general regulatory issues, in order to provide a picture of the process from inception to implementation. I consider three cases and explore the factors that drive presidents in choosing when or whether to issue an order and those that drive federal agencies to react as they do. This article encourages scholars to reconsider what they consider “unilateral,” pointing to the instances in which presidents must engage in bargaining within the executive branch they ostensibly head.
'Environmental skepticism' describes the viewpoint that major environmental problems are either unreal or unimportant. This is the first book to analyze the importance of the anti-environmental counter-movement in world politics and its meaning for democratic and accountable deliberation, as well as its importance as a mal-adaptive project that hinders the world's people to rise to the challenges of sustainability.
"George W. Bush's Healthy Forests reads like a textbook for political activists, arguing that the most important part of any political strategy is to craft a simple, persuasive message that demonizes opponents while it points to your preferred policy as the only solution to major problems. Vaugn and Cortner note that, having won this battle over forest policy, congressional Republicans have attempted to use the same strategy of blaming environmentalists to promote their agendas on grazing, mining, and other issues."-Forest Magazine" Vaughn and Cortner argue that the weakening of environmental laws was by design, not a byproduct of budget cuts. . . . The authors argue that the Bush administration succeeded because it cast environmentalists as 'nuts' and 'extremists,' in spite of the fact that many environmental groups have long supported thinning of small trees around communities at the wildland-urban interface."-High Country News This groundbreaking study analyzes the context and legal effects of the Healthy Forests Initiative, Healthy Forests Restoration Act, and related regulatory changes. The authors show how the Bush administration used news events such as wildfires to propel legislation through Congress. Focusing blame for wildfires on legal obstacles and environmentalists' use of appeals to challenge fuel-reduction projects, the administration restricted opportunities for environmental analysis, administrative appeals, and litigation. The authors argue that these tools have a history of use by diverse interests and have long protected Americans' right to question government decisions. This readable study identifies the players, events, and strategies that expedited the policy shift and contextualizes it in the president's career and in legislative and administrative history. Revealing a policy change with major implications for the future of public lands and public process, George W. Bush's Healthy Forests will become required reading in environmental studies and and political science.
The greening of industry has emerged as an important topic among business, environmental, and governmental leaders only since the mid-1980s. At this early stage in what will require a profound transformation by the time it is complete, debate exists over which business and industry practices are most in need of change and how to bring these about: To what extent is it at the stage of waste management, air and water pollution control, or energy usage that policy intervention is best applied? Is it in production methods, product design, or the end products themselves that the most change can be realized? It is at the stage of consumption and usage of products that the strongest drive for change will come? Equally unclear is the best position for society to adopt in order to promote the most comprehensive while cost-effective transformation. Four broad approaches to this question illustrate the differences of opinion about how best to achieve industrial greening. They start with government imposing on all business and industry prescribed environmental protection technologies and methods of emissions reduction. A second, more flexible approach, would allow businesses to select their own most cost-effective strategies for reducing emissions, under the watchful eye of government. A third way is to use market-based incentives approaches that provide bottom-line rewards for environmentally-friendly business behavior, leaving change to the natural workings of the marketplace. The fourth is to rely largely on volunteerism, wherein businesses commit to environmental goals that match and/or exceed those required in exchange for relief from the prescribed technology and command-and-control regulations that would otherwise be imposed. Since the mid-1990s the amount of research on these approaches has expanded rapidly and heated debate has ensured about which approaches or mix of approaches to use. At one side of the debate, attention is mainly focused on the shortcomings of the nation's long-standing environmental policies-variously referred to as "command-andcontrol," "top-down," "deterrence-based" policies for air, water, land-use, noise, and endangered species protection-and the need to roll back these policies. Others focus mainly on the growing importance of the corporate responsibility and quality management movements within and across industries-domestically and internationally-and how this is moving many businesses towards a greener path. All reformers want to know how best to accelerate this trend through various flexible governmental and voluntary policies, particularly in light of the unrelenting challenges to the environment posed by modern technological society and a growing worldwide population. In assessing the contending positions and approaches, it is reasonable to assume that all else being equal, business and industry owners, managers, and workers would prefer to live and work in a cleaner, more environmentally-sustainable world. Yet seldom is "all else equal." The market economy in which businesses operate has a long history of freely using natural resources and nature's goods, such as clean air, water, and soil, food and fodder, and shielding both producers and consumers from the environmental pollution and resource degradation associated with the extraction of these goods, their use in production, and their consumption. This is the very same market economy, after all, that nurtures consumer tastes and expectations, ultimately their "demands," for ever-more goods and services, resulting in the extraordinary material consumption of today's modern lifestyle (Princen, Maniates, and Conca, 2002). Consequently, the greening of industry is neither a private business matter nor a minor marketplace imperfection so much as a serious "public" problem, in need of a public policy solution. Since there are real costs associated with transforming into a green business we do not expect businesses to automatically or enthusiastically assume these costs. Indeed, it is typically in a firm's best interest to minimize if not avoid the additional costs of transformation to the extent that doing so does not demonstrably improve its near-term market position. This is precisely why the first generation of environmental laws, starting in the 1970s in the United States, were compulsory for all business, creating the "command-and-control" regulatory regime of the first environmental epoch. As this chapter shows, a good deal of progress resulted, but at great expense; arguably many unnecessary costs were incurred by both business and government, costs that arguably can be avoided under a different approach.
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Disaster preparedness and emergency response in the United States have become increasingly decentralised with state and local governments assuming a larger share of these responsibilities. Policy planners generally view these as positive developments because of the presumed greater adaptability of lower levels of government rapidly evolving crisis conditions. The terrorist incidents of September 11, 2001 required disaster managers across the country to take charge of a situation of an unanticipated type and magnitude. During the events' aftermath public attention was transfixed on activities at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside of Washington, DC. However, emergency responders nation-wide were simultaneously taking preventative measures to secure nuclear power plants, water resources, and other exposed facilities. This analysis highlights the immediate response activities implemented in New Jersey under the aegis of the state's Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). The discussion also considers several of the longer-term initiatives carried out in the state during the subsequent period due to on-going threat vulnerability assessments and actual events such as anthrax contamination. The conclusion assesses the implications of the September 11 incidents on emergency preparedness at the state level.
In order to increase the corrected field of view of an adaptive optics (AO) system, several deformable mirrors (DM) have to be placed in the conjugate planes of the dominant turbulent layers (multi-conjugate adaptive optics,MCAO (Beckers, 1988)).The performance of MCAO systems depends on the quality of thewavefront sensing ofthe individual layers and on the number of corrected modes in eachindividual layer as in single layer AO systems. In addition, the increase in corrected field of view depends on the number of guide stars providing information about theturbulence over a sufficiently large area in each turbulent layer. In this article, we investigate these points and provide formulae for calculating the increased field of view with a new approach using the spatial correlation functions of the appliedpolynomials (e.g. Zernike). We also present a new scheme of measuring the individual wavefront distortion of each of the dominantlayers with a Shack-Hartmann-Curvature Sensor using gradientinformation as well as scintillation. An example for the performance of a two layer MCAO system is given for the 3.5-m telescope of the Calar Alto Observatory, Spain, using ameasured Cn 2-profile. The corrected field of view in K-band(2.2 m) can be as large as 3 arcmin with a Strehl ratio above 60%.
This paper is an analytic comment on two chapters of the Economic Report of the President for 2006. Chapter One deals with the economy in 2005 and the outlook for the future. The chapter provides a detailed analysis of the expansion in 2005 but not an explanation of why the expansion occurred despite the sharp rise in oil prices. I discuss the role of easy money in stimulating mortgage borrowing which generated negative savings in 2005. Looking ahead, I comment on the risk to inflation implied by the rising unit labor costs over the past four years. Chapter six deals with the international position of the United States. It provides a useful analysis of capital flows to the United States and the reasons why other countries have current account surpluses. It does not deal with the role of the dollar or the nature of the adjustment that might occur to reduce the US current account deficit. I present some comments on those issues. Economics
Keep the momentum for Superfund cleanups
  • C T Whitman
Whitman, C. T. 2002. Keep the momentum for Superfund cleanups. New York Times July 18:A21.
Moves on environment disappoint industry
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Jehl, D. 2001. Moves on environment disappoint industry. New York Times March 11 (Sect. 1):24.