As Al Gore’s pivotal soon-to-be-released documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, makes clear, George W. Bush’s darkest legacy in the long run may be his unmitigated assault on the environment and his campaign to cover up the immediate threat of global warming. The Bush Administration has undermined the Environmental Protection Agency, appointed corporate cronies to critical environmental posts and muzzled top scientists from warning the public about the climate crisis. It was no exaggeration when Gore declared, “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 also galvanized the environmental movement, as activists have redoubled their efforts to save the planet. In celebration of Earth Day 2006, we salute those who took part in the top five environmental victories of the past year.
In what the Sierra Club called an “against-all-odds victory for wildlife, wild places and all Americans,” the Senate rejected a GOP attempt to attach provisions to the Defense Appropriations Bill 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 gained some important new supporters. Six new Democratic governors–Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, Christine Gregoire of Washington, Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Brian Schweitzer of Montana–joined an earlier trio–Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Bill Richardson of New Mexico–in embracing the Alliance’s goal of achieving sustainable energy independence within a decade. The nine governors are all leaders of state-based efforts at energy efficiency and increased use of renewables, the core twin planks of the Apollo program, which calls for a national investment of $300 billion over ten years to build the production and distribution infrastructure for a cleaner energy economy.
Cleaning Up Mercury Pollution.
While Bush’s EPA has deregulated mercury emissions, making it easier for power plants to emit this harmful chemical into the environment, several states have strengthened anti-mercury laws. Governor Blagojevich announced a proposal to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent, and months later Governor Granholm followed suit. The Massachusetts legislature recently passed a measure that bars mercury from household items such as thermostats, automobiles, fluorescent lights and electrical switches. And Idaho just issued a two-year moratorium on the building or operating of mercury-emitting coal-fired power plants.
Mayors Say Yes to Kyoto.
The United States remains one of only two major industrialized nations that have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. But America’s mayors are letting the world know that they stand with the global community–not Bush–on Kyoto. So far 224 mayors, frustrated with federal environmental inaction, have created their own Kyoto-compliance standards, investing in cleaner vehicles, cutting dependence on oil and promoting efficient and renewable energy projects. Check out Cool Cities (coolcities.us) to learn more about this growing movement.
Clean Cars Movement Rolls On.
Last year California adopted Clean Car legislation, requiring the reduction of auto emissions, and now eight other states have joined in. These states combined make up nearly 30 percent of the US car and SUV market.
Madison Gas and Electric of Wisconsin decided to stop burning coal at the state’s dirtiest coal-fired power plant and to switch to renewable energy in the next six years. Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia rebuffed a proposal that would have opened up the state’s coastline to offshore oil drilling. Atlanta has green-lighted an innovative public transportation plan for a downtown “beltline” surrounded with green space for walking, jogging, biking and public enjoyment.