Wednesday, October 27, 2004


"The environment was mentioned only in passing in the Presidential debates and has been raised on the campaign trail rarely. What explains the absence of an issue that was so prominent during the last election cycle? First is that, for Americans, the environment is way down their list of priorities. The attacks of 11 September 2001, the subsequent American involvement in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the associated economic downturn have all pushed the environment away from the forefront of America's collective mind.

This was confirmed by a Missing In Action poll organized by the Gallup organization for Earth Day, America's national day of environmental awareness, which celebrated its 34th anniversary this year. It found that Americans placed the environment 11th out of 12 major issues in terms of importance to them.....

Moreover, the poll found that 44 percent of Americans believed that the economy should take precedence over the environment. This probably explains why the Kerry campaign, which should find the environment a natural issue to focus on, has only seemed to mention the issue in certain areas. The Kerry campaign has made jobs a central issue in the campaign, and so does not want to set itself up for the accusation that its support for environmental policies would cost American workers their jobs.

This can be seen in the Kerry campaign's schizophrenic approach to the global warming issue. On Friday 19 August, the campaign issued a document aimed at keeping the West Virginian coal industry open. It included the words, "John Kerry and John Edwards believe that the Kyoto Protocol is not the answer. The near-term emission reductions it would require of the United States are infeasible, while the long-term obligations imposed on all nations are too little to solve the problem."

But on 24 August, The Journal Times of Racine, Wisconsin, published an account of John Edwards' visit to the town the day before. According to the paper, Edwards "lamented" America's failure to join the Kyoto treaty. It seems the Kerry-Edwards campaign opposes Kyoto when coal miners' votes are at stake but supports it in other areas. The context in which John Kerry raised the issue during the Presidential debates was that of foreign relations, not the environment....

American Enterprise Institute scholar Stephen Hayward points out that, in America at least, environmental spending has followed Gresham's Law, which states that bad money drives out good. He points to a campaign around Earth Day this year that sought to outlaw disposable diapers as a case of the public looking askance at an environmental movement seemingly increasingly divorced from reality.

When Americans vote, it will be literally true that the environment is the last thing on their minds.

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It's a good thing someone does

"Defense officials say state and federal environmental agencies have too much power to demand costly and intrusive cleanups on military land. The Pentagon wants to cut its $4 billion a year in environmental costs - less than 1% of defense spending - by gaining more authority over where and how cleanups will be done. "Some of these regulators are doing wrongheaded things based on poor scientific evidence," says Raymond DuBois, deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and environment. "Shouldn't we, as stewards of the taxpayers' money, decide how we're going to clean up?"

Congress, with support from both Republican and Democratic administrations, reinforced that notion repeatedly over the past two decades. It approved a series of measures to hold the armed services to the same environmental rules as private industry. The Pentagon responded with new efforts to control and clean up pollution, and now the military generally does as well as private industry in making current activities comply with environmental laws.

But the military's big challenge is cleaning up messes from the past, when less was known about the environmental risks associated with building the world's mightiest fighting force. That's where the Pentagon faces the biggest costs. And that's where environmental regulators see the biggest threat to public health.

State environmental regulators are facing military resistance, too. In Colorado, California, Ohio and Minnesota, the services are fighting state efforts to restrict the future use of contaminated military property. In California, Florida, Hawaii and Alaska, the military has challenged the authority of state officials to fine the armed forces for pollution problems.

Administration officials say there is no concerted effort to weaken environmental oversight of the military or to lessen its commitment to cleanups. After 15 years of pressure on the armed services to emphasize conservation and pollution control, they say, that commitment is here to stay. But Pentagon officials acknowledge that they're more aggressive in resisting environmental rules and cleanup demands that they see as misguided. With the services strained by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, they add, it's more important than ever to make sure their missions aren't hampered. "There are two very important national issues here. There's the issue of protecting the environment and the issue of protecting our nation," says Donald Schregardus, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for environment. "We want to make sure that the environmental laws allow us to do both."

Defense officials say cleanup orders from environmental agencies can limit their ability to "train as we fight," a motto of military readiness. They argue that some of the demands could dictate everything from where planes may practice their bombing runs to what sort of ammunition troops may use on artillery ranges. For instance, soldiers at Camp Edwards, an Army National Guard base on Cape Cod, Mass., do their howitzer training on simulators because a 1997 EPA order barred the use of live ammunition that was polluting drinking water supplies. Edwards is the only military installation in the nation where operations have been curtailed as a direct result of orders from an environmental agency.

More often, the services' disputes with state and federal environmental regulators are based on concerns about the scope and cost of cleanups. The services have learned a lot about "what makes sense" in cleaning up pollution, says Maureen Koetz, a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force who oversees environmental matters. So military officials "come to the table with (proposals) that we think are a better menu of options for both us and the regulators."

The fight over the asbestos cleanup in Amy Ford's Lowry neighborhood revolves around a question driving many of the military's clashes with regulators: How much public health risk is acceptable at a polluted site? At the state's direction, workers have removed nearly all the tainted soil at Lowry, where the asbestos was left from building debris and an old steam pipeline bulldozed decades ago by the Air Force. But the Air Force says there wasn't enough danger to warrant the work. The science on asbestos is evolving, and there are no federal or state limits on how much can safely remain in soil. New research suggests that inhaling even a few asbestos fibers may cause lung disease. Other studies say low levels of asbestos are a negligible risk.

An Air Force risk assessment for Lowry concluded in April that residents could have up to a 4-in-100,000 risk of cancer or lung disease linked to asbestos exposure. And it put the risk to construction workers at 2-in-10,000. Those figures are well above the one-in-a-million threshold that health agencies typically deem a significant risk. But absent any legal limits on asbestos contamination, the Air Force report concluded that the threats weren't great enough to warrant a cleanup.

Pentagon officials say the big concern isn't the cost of cleaning up Lowry; it's the costs the services could face if they have to do similar cleanups elsewhere. Asbestos was a common building material for decades, and it would cost the Pentagon billions of dollars if the zero-tolerance cleanup demanded at Lowry became a precedent. "We want them to develop a cleanup goal based on risk," says Doug Karas of the Air Force Real Property Agency. "The state says there's a risk, but we haven't seen data to support that.""

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Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

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