Activists Frustrated at Obama's Environmental Record

Article excerpt

Environmental activists were delighted to have Barack Obama replace George W. Bush as president. But greens are increasingly unhappy with Obama's record - especially on climate change.

When Barack Obama took over the White House from George W. Bush, environmental activists breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Under Bush and vice president Dick Cheney, resource extraction - logging, mining, drilling for oil and gas - as often as not were favored over protection of habitat and endangered species. So was carbon-emitting energy production over conservation and "green" renewable energy.

No surprise there, since both Bush and Cheney had been oil men. It was more than symbolic that environmentalists got short shrift in the backroom meetings of Cheney's energy task force.

But things would be different with a progressive, young Democrat in the White House, enviros thought.

'A green, dream team'

Just as important to those looking for a change in direction were Obama's appointments to high environmental offices: Carol Browner, who'd headed the EPA under Bill Clinton, as White House climate and energy policy chief; Lisa Jackson, former head of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, as EPA administrator; former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and US Senator Ken Salazar as secretary of the Interior; and as secretary of Energy, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu.

Together, they were seen as "a green dream team," as Gene Karpinski, head of the League of Conservation Voters, put it at the time.

Indeed, things did change - particularly regarding climate change and declared energy policy as it relates to creating jobs and improving the economy. And from the California Bay Delta to the Great Lakes to Chesapeake Bay, the Obama administration pushed new strategies for environmental protection and restoration.

But recently, Obama and his administration have been taking flak from the left on the environment.

This past week, the Center for Biological Diversity sued the US Forest Service for failing to monitor and protect endangered species and habitat in Arizona and New Mexico national forests.

"The big picture for species recovery in southwestern national forests is grim," said Taylor McKinnon, the group's public lands campaigns director. "In addition to failing to monitor and protect endangered species while implementing the current forest plans, the Forest Service is aiming to roll back species protections in its new plans. In the long run, that's a recipe for extinction."

Another lawsuit

A week earlier, the same organization sued Interior Secretary Salazar for not turning over emails, phone logs, and notes from his meetings with oil-industry lobbyists before the BP oil spill when the administration agreed to more offshore oil and gas drilling.

"We want to know who Salazar was talking to, what was said, and what deals were made," said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the organization. …