By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
The Clinton administration offered no resistance to implementing that "loophole" provision. The whole loophole affair was a red herring, distracting attention from what the Clinton administration had accepted as an operating principle: salvage logging. Salvaging meant a green light to cut down any tree--even if it imperiled an endangered species--on the grounds that it might be nibbled at by insects, a fire risk, or an inhibition to prudent forest management. The Clinton Forest Plan called this logging strategy "forest health"; it became a way to confiscate the whole logging issue from public scrutiny. Forest health, you see, is a matter for experts. The salvage rider has opened to the chainsaw millions of acres of previously protected forest from Alaska to Mississippi, under cover of legislation that allows no appeal. This was no loophole; along with unfunded mandates, it was a premeditated surrender. We predicted it from the time of Clinton's Forest Summit in April of 1993.
A similar charade has been played out regarding the Endangered Species Act. With the attention of the press fixed on Rep. Don Young's bill, which would crudely destroy the nation's premier wildlife law, more subtle and more successful designs upon the Act have been carried out by the Clinton administration. Interior Secretary Babbitt has been trying to hollow out the Act by regulatory decree for some time.
Signs of this ploy were apparent as early as March of 1993, when Babbitt blessed the "win-win" habitat conservation plan, whereby endangered species such as the California gnatcatcher would coexist on coastal lands with developers. This perish-in-comity strategy has been duplicated across the country, much to the detriment of grizzly bears (a deathly embrace with ranchers), salmon (win-win again, with mining companies and hydro dams), and red-cockaded wood- peckers (which now share their living space with the Potlatch Timber Company in Clinton's home state of Arkansas).
What the win-win ploy didn't destroy was finished off by the "Reinventing Government" scam. Through the darkest days of Reagan and Bush, the Fish and Wildlife Service could be counted on to hold the line against plans by the industrial agencies of the federal government to destroy the habitat of endangered species. Babbitt has now forced the Fish and Wildlife Service to cooperate in half-a-loaf compromises with the agencies it previously regulated. Call it coercive harmony.
As governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton's poor record on toxic waste was plain enough, given the dioxin-spewing plant at Jacksonville, not a dozen miles from the state Capitol in Little Rock. With his arrival in the White House came surrender on the WTI incinerator outside Cincinnati. Though the Clinton EPA has banned most domestic sales of the lethal pesticides chlordane and heptachlor, it failed to restrict production of the same. This was a loophole specifically designed to please the Memphis-based Velsicol Chemical Company, which annually exports 2 million pounds of the chemicals to Third World nations. Using NAFTA as an excuse, the EPA has also opened U.S. borders to the unrestricted import of PCBs.
On the international front the Clinton administration has been more of an impediment to environmental protection than either the Bush or Reagan regimes. Despite Al Gore's homilies at Rio, the U.S. has still not signed onto the Convention on Biodiversity, because it opposes the biosafety plank on "genetically manipulated organisms." By way of explanation, consider the huge prospective market for bio-engineered soybeans. Over furious objections from European countries, the U.S. announced in October that it will permit the export of genetically engineered soybeans mixed with natural soybeans. This comes at the request of Monsanto, which developed "transgenic soybeans" to tolerate huge doses of its own Roundup pesticide. The U.S. has taken a similarly aggressive posture in support of overseas distribution of Monsanto's rBGH, a hormone stimulant for the dairy industry.
Acting on behalf of DuPont, the Clinton crowd has plotted a retreat from the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting chemicals, such as CFCs and methyl bromide--both produced by DuPont. The U.S. government now proposes a further 30-year delay in the complete phase-out of these chemicals.
One final surrender: All through the Cold War, the ultimate symbol of environmental irresponsibility was nuclear testing. For the first three years of his administration, Clinton stood by a nuclear test ban and announced his support for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. When President Chirac of France launched his nation's test series in the South Pacific, the Clinton administration publicly demurred (while quietly extending infrastructural support).
In November 1995, Project Rebound was discreetly unveiled. The Department of Energy is to supervise six underground nuclear tests in the deserts of Nevada in 1996. Since we are in the Age of Clinton, these are not called nuclear explosions but rather "hydro-nuclear tests," which are somehow more virtuous and enviro-friendly--just like that win-win deal that doomed the gnatcatcher and salmon. Who needs those Republican ultras?