Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen.

Of all of the disastrous hallmarks of the Bush presidency, Bush’s darkest legacy in the long run may be his unmitigated assault on the environment and his deliberate campaign to cover up the immediate threat of global warming.

The Bush Administration has undermined the Environmental Protection Agency, appointed corporate cronies in the oil industry to critical environmental posts, and muzzled top scientists from warning the public about the imminent climate crisis. It was no exaggeration when Al Gore said “George W. Bush has by all odds been by far the worst president for the environment in the entire history of the United States of America — bar none.”

Yet, Bush’s actions have brought the environmental movement closer together than ever before, as activists have redoubled their efforts to combat Bush’s relentless assault on the planet. On Earth Day 2006, we salute those who took part in the top five environmental victories of the past year.

Saving ANWR: In what the Sierra Club called an “against-all-odds victory for wildlife, wild places and all Americans,” the Senate rejected Sen Ted Stevens’ (R-AK) attempt to attach provisions to the Defense Appropriations Bill last December that would have opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling for oil. And weeks ago, the House Budget Committee also refused to appropriate funds for ANWR drilling in the FY2007 budget. Thanks to overwhelming pressure from environmental advocates, one of our nation’s most pristine natural refuges remains safe from corporate poachers.

Governors Embrace Apollo: In July, The Apollo Alliance, one of the best progressive ideas of the millennium, gained some important new supporters. Six new Democratic governors–Rod Blagojevich (IL), Jim Doyle (WI), Christine Gregoire (WA), Ted Kulongoski (OR), Janet Napolitano (AZ), and Brian Schweitzer (MT)–joined an earlier trio–Jennifer Granholm (MI), Ed Rendel (PA), and Bill Richardson (NM)–in embracing the Alliance’s goal of achieving sustainable American energy independence within a decade. The nine governors are all leaders in state-based efforts at energy efficiency and increased use of renewables, the core twin planks of the Apollo program. That program calls for a national investment of $300 billion over the course of ten years to build the basic production and distribution infrastructure needed for a cleaner energy economy.

Cleaning Up Mercury Pollution: While Bush’s EPA has deregulated controls on mercury emissions–making it easier for power plants to emit this deeply harmful chemical into the environment–several states have strengthened anti-mercury laws. Gov Rod Blagojevich of Illinois announced a proposal to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent, and weeks later, Gov Jennifer Granholm of Michigan followed suit. Massachusetts’ legislature just passed legislation that would prevent mercury pollution in household items such as thermostats, automobiles, fluorescent lights and electrical switches. And Idaho just passed a two-year moratorium on the building or operating of mercury-emitting coal-fired power plants.

Mayors Say Yes to Kyoto: We remain one of only two major industrialized nations that have not signed the Kyoto Protocol. Yet America’s mayors are letting the world know that they stand with the global community–not Bush–on Kyoto. So far, 220 mayors, frustrated with federal environmental inaction, have created their own Kyoto-complying standards, investing in cleaner vehicles, cutting dependence on oil, and promoting efficient and renewable energy projects. Check out Cool Cities for more info on this growing movement.

Clean Cars Movement Rolls On: Last year, Clean Car legislation–requiring the reduction of harmful auto emissions–was adopted in California and now eight other states have followed suit. These states combined cover a full third of the car and SUV market in the US.

Honor Roll: Madison Gas and Electric Co. of Wiconsin decided to stop burning coal at the state’s dirtiest coal-fired power plant and switched to renewable energy. Gov Tom Kaine of Virginia rebuffed a proposal that would have opened up the state’s beautiful coastline to offshore drilling. Atlanta’s Development Authority greenlighted an innovative new public transportation plan for a beltline connecting the entirety of Atlanta’s downtown and surrounding the line with green space for walking, jogging, biking, and public enjoyment.

Thanks to our friends at NRDC and the Sierra Club for their nominations!


Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker, contributes to The Nation’s new blog, The Notion, and co-writes Sweet Victories with Katrina vanden Heuvel.


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