California, the state with the nation's toughest environmental laws and regulations, faces an attack on all fronts from the Bush administration, according to the state's conservation activists and leaders.
From undermining the Golden State's recent legislation on reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions to changing forest management practices in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, long-time environmental experts say the Bush White House is undertaking an unusually ambitious campaign that will undermine California's ability to protect its environment.
Recent federal policy changes and administration interventions within the nation's most populous state demonstrate "a dangerous hostility to the very idea of environmental stewardship," Sierra Club president Carl Pope, told NCR. "Anyone who shares the broad national consensus that this country is committed to protecting its citizens from easily avoidable risks from polluted air, contaminated water or reckless toxic waste dumping should be deeply concerned."
The deepest fear, many say, is that if the administration's initiatives are successful here, they will take hold in other areas of the country. In fact, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental advocacy group, just released its annual report, titled "Rewriting the Rules: The Bush Administration's Assault on the Environment," which details continuing environmental retreats nationwide by the Bush administration over the past year (see related story).
California's environmentalists tick off a list of recent moves within their state:
* The administration is driving for an extension of off-shore oil drilling rights in California's southern coastal waters. The state had declared its coastal waters off-limits to new oil wells, yet the U.S. Interior Department wants to extend 36 oil and gas leases without requiring oil companies to seek review and approval under the state's federally approved coastal zone management program.
A destructive oil spill in 1969 in off-shore waters of Santa Barbara inaugurated California's determined, decades-long drive to protect its shores, its inland waters and forests. Preserving the ban on off-platform Democrat or Republican, anywhere in the state for the last 30 years. Bush's Interior Department wants to help reverse this solidly green trend in the Golden State, critics say.
* At the same time the White House seems to be pushing to overturn a Clinton-era management plan for the national forests of the Sierra Nevada, replacing a conservation-based approach with one that would accelerate logging, according to reports that appeared in late January in The Sacramento Bee, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Recently announced plans indicate …