By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Revealingly, in his lengthy remarks in Yellowstone, Clinton never mentioned the reason why a mine was slated for federal lands so close to Yellowstone: the archaic 1872 Mining Law, which gives away public land for as little as $2.50 an acre. The federal government received less than $25,000 for handing over the land containing the Noranda mine; yet, it now plans to pay the company $68 million to buy those very same lands back. There are more than 16,000 other mining claims in the Yellowstone ecosystem alone, similar deals for all these equally destructive mines would bankrupt the treasury.
§ Clinton's signing of the Food Quality Protection Act was even more conclusively disastrous. With the stroke of a pen, Clinton did to public health and environmental protection laws what the welfare bill did to the New Deal: it repealed its philosophical assumption in one key area of legislation. Since 1958 the so-called Delaney Clause of the Food and Drug Act had imposed an absolute ban on carcinogens in processed food, a law the food and chemical companies have been trying to overthrow ever since. Now the deed has been done and rationalized (like the welfare bill) in the name of children. The regulatory prohibition against carcinogens will be replaced by cost benefit analyses and risk assessments, meaning that panels of food industry scientists will decide how many people should die of cancer each year to protect the all-important corporate bottom line.
"This bill is the big lie," said Peter Montague of the Annapolis-based Environmental Research Foundation. "The administration, working with Monsanto and Dow, has adopted the corporate friendly approach of pollution control and cancer management."
§ The Beverly Hills bash had a subtext that mostly eluded a press corps entranced by the guest list and the entertainment. The hosts of the affair, media moguls Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, are involved in a huge real estate deal in Los Angeles, known as the Playa Vista development. Their plan is to build a giant studio for their new company, Dreamworks. The development, unfortunately, will destroy the Ballona wetlands, one of the largest coastal marshes in southern California and a critical staging area for migratory birds. The project needs federal approval before construction can begin.
Geffen and Spielberg have raised nearly $8 million for the Clinton-Gore campaign and the Democratic Party in the last year. Thus it's probably not surprising that in the past six months, Vice President Gore has been making calls to key Sierra Club members and other green activists in Los Angeles urging them to support the Playa Vista development as environmentally friendly.
§ More starpower was on hand at Clinton's stop in Arizona. It was Robert Redford who introduced Clinton on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Redford called the President's impending proclamation declaring Escalante Canyon 150 miles northeast in Utah a National Monument "important almost to a moral degree, almost to a spiritual degree."
As the president preened before the cameras, some environmentalists pinched themselves in astonishment. Their position (for which Redford had lobbied fiercely in Congress last spring) had long been that no less than 5.7 million acres of Utah should be designated as a national wilderness or national park--categories that afford more environmental protection than national monument status. The deal gave up more than the coal mining companies and ranchers had dared hope: Their final fallback position, introduced in Congress by Utah conservative Rep. James Hansen, would have designated up to 2 million acres as wilderness. In the end, Clinton used his executive powers to place 1.7 million acres land in the nebulous category of a national monument. The fate of the remaining 4 million acres remains in the hands of Congress.
But exactly how this designation protects the Escalante Canyon is unclear. As Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt confessed later that afternoon, the label of "national monument" (unlike park or wilderness status) still allows cattle grazing, off-road vehicle use, hunting, and kindred activities. The designation was "mainly a name thing," he said. When pressed, Babbitt also admitted that nothing in the proclamation prevented the coal mining companies from pressing forward with their claims within the national monument area, although he said he hoped they would be willing to work a Noranda-type deal elsewhere on public lands in Utah.
Good luck. The largest coal claim in southern Utah is owned by the Andalex Company, a Dutch consortium. Andalex's coal reserves have an estimated value of nearly a trillion dollars. Babbitt conceded this might seem like a very hefty sum, but he was confident that the company could get land of equivalent value elsewhere in the state: "There's a lot of federal land in Utah and there are a lot of minerals on those lands." A trillion dollars worth? At that rate a Dutch company could end up owning nearly half the federal land in the Beehive State.
Some environmentalists have rationalized the proclamation by saying Clinton may come back in his second term and shift the designation from national monument to wilderness or park and also include the missing 4 million acres. Babbitt promptly dashed those hopes by telling reporters that "this won't happen for generations."
§ Clinton's trip down Interstate 5 in Washington completed the greenwash tour. Every time Clinton comes to Portland he promises to save the old-growth forests, but more ancient trees always fall in his wake. Usually, a Clinton visit prompts at least a token protest from the timber industry. This time the timber companies were ecstatic over the deal they had just cut with the administration.