Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Via Zemblan patriot J.D.: With his first term drawing to a close (and his approval rating dipping into the thirties), the President is no doubt thinking about his "legacy." True, his accomplishments, if one wishes to call them that, are uniformly dismal: abroad, he led the nation into a costly, disastrous war under false pretenses, creating a breeding ground for terrorists while squandering the goodwill of the world; at home, he is the first President since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs. But still -- taking all that into account -- it is not too late for him to redeem himself. He can still reward his campaign contributors by opening vast expanses of pristine wilderness to corporate rape and plunder:
Placing a heavy emphasis on energy production in the American West, the Bush administration has moved aggressively to open up broad areas of largely unspoiled federal land to oil and gas exploration.
The administration has pressed for approval of new drilling permits across the Rocky Mountains and lifted protections on hundreds of thousands of acres with gas and oil reserves in Utah and Colorado. In the process, it has targeted a number of places prized for their scenery, abundant wildlife and clean water, natural assets increasingly valuable to the region's changing economy.
Soon after taking office in 2001, the Bush White House set up a little-known task force that acts as a complaint desk for industry, passing energy company concerns directly to federal land management employees in the field. Although the creation of White House task forces is commonplace, experts on the executive branch say it is unusual to have one primarily serving the interests of a single industry.
In addition, the Bureau of Land Management has been pushed to issue drilling permits at a record pace for three of the last four years, an increase of 70% since the Clinton administration.
Internal memos and interviews show senior administration officials have directed federal employees to be responsive to industry, commended offices that approved large numbers of drilling permits and chastised those that were slow.
The effort is so intense in the oil- and gas-rich Rockies that some Bureau of Land Management employees there have taken to calling the region "the OPEC states" . . . .
The evolving policy is being carried out by senior officials at the Department of Interior, a number of whom have past ties to the energy industry.