Skip to comments.Smokies backdrop for Bush
Posted on 04/22/2005 7:52:18 AM PDT by SmithL
Alleging faulty leadership and a record of missed opportunities, advocacy groups bashed President Bush's environmental policies on the eve of his Earth Day visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The White House on Thursday countered that high-profile controversies have overshadowed the environmental achievements that should be the focus of Earth Day.
Bush is scheduled to help on a volunteer work project today before speaking on volunteerism and environmental issues in Cades Cove.
Environmentalists criticized Bush on issues ranging from global warming and air pollution to the energy bill approved earlier in the day by the House.
"It's the height of hypocrisy for President Bush to come to the Smokies on Earth Day," said Dave Muhly, who heads the Appalachian regional office of the Sierra Club.
Jim Connaughton, chairman of the president's Council on Environmental Quality, defended the administration's record, citing conservation provisions of farm legislation, a key law to clean up contaminated industrial sites and a wetlands conservation initiative.
"The policies on which we're making the greatest progress have enjoyed massive bipartisan support, and therefore have not received the attention they deserve because there's not a conflict," Connaughton said.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is both the most visited and most polluted national park in the country. Bush's primary air pollution proposal, the Clear Skies initiative, is bottled up for now in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, calls the Clear Skies initiative an "Orwellian" measure that would gut provisions of the Clean Air Act requiring industry to install advanced technologies to reduce emissions.
Though air pollution dominates the debate in the Smokies, Smith called global warming "the most important environmental issue facing the human race today."
Global warming could kill off fragile ecosystems like the spruce-fir forest at the highest elevations of the Smokies, Smith said.
Though the United States is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, the Bush administration has rejected the Kyoto agreement, the worldwide treaty to reduce carbon emissions in developed countries.
"We have no plan right now to curb carbon dioxide emissions," Smith said.
Michael Shore of Environmental Defense said even power producers like Duke Energy now say something should be done to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
"It's time for the United States to take action," Shore said. "President Bush has the opportunity to lead on this issue, and he hasn't so far."
The administration's energy bill, which passed the House on Thursday, would allow oil drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge and give $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to oil, natural gas, nuclear and coal producers. The House nixed a proposal to require higher fuel economy for cars.
Muhly said the bill would boost polluting industries and increase America's reliance on foreign oil, while giving scant attention to conservation and alternative fuels.
Connaughton said Bush doesn't believe oil and gas subsidies are needed either, especially with the price of oil above $50 a barrel.
"We do, however, need to remove barriers to the production of oil and gas," he said.
Connaughton deflected criticism of Bush's global warming policies by pointing to efforts to design a zero-emissions coal-fired power plant, an initiative to develop hydrogen-powered vehicles and spending $4 billion through the energy bill for conservation measures.
"The U.S. taxpayer under President Bush's leadership is investing more in climate change technology than the rest of the world combined," he asserted.
Signing the Kyoto agreement would only ship jobs to developing countries not covered by the treaty, Connaughton said.
As for Clear Skies, Connaughton said Congress is just now engaging in meaningful discussion that could lead to passage of a compromise bill. Other measures, like tougher diesel emissions standards, the haze rule and the interstate pollution rule, should yield dramatic improvements, he said.
Though they differ in approach, both sides link the environment to the economy.
Connaughton said ecological advances shouldn't be made at the expense of manufacturing jobs "that are the cornerstone of our economy."
Mary Anne Hitt, executive director of Appalachian Voices and a Gatlinburg native, noted that the financial health of the areas surrounding the Smokies depends on the health of the park.
Nah - you don't. It's storming like hell here right now.
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MORRISTOWN TN
1131 AM EDT FRI APR 22 2005
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MORRISTOWN HAS ISSUED A
* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
ANDERSON COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE
THIS INCLUDES THE CITIES OF...OAK RIDGE...CLINTON
KNOX COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF KNOXVILLE
EASTERN LOUDON COUNTY IN EAST TENNESSEE
THIS INCLUDES THE CITIES OF...LOUDON...LENOIR CITY
* UNTIL 1215 PM EDT
* AT 1125 AM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
LINE OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CAPABLE OF PRODUCING NICKEL SIZE
HAIL...AND DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60 MPH. THESE STORMS WERE
LOCATED ALONG A LINE EXTENDING FROM 12 MILES NORTHWEST OF OAK RIDGE
TO LOUDON...OR ALONG A LINE EXTENDING FROM 10 MILES EAST OF
WARTBURG TO LOUDON...AND MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.
* SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WILL BE NEAR...
FARRAGUT BY 1140 AM EDT
CLINTON BY 1155 AM EDT
KNOXVILLE BY 1210 PM EDT
DOPPLER RADAR HAS INDICATED SOME WEAK ROTATION WITHIN THIS STORM...
AND A TORNADO COULD DEVELOP WITH LITTLE WARNING. IF A TORNADO IS
SPOTTED...ACT QUICKLY AND MOVE TO A PLACE OF SAFETY IN A STURDY
STRUCTURE...SUCH AS A BASEMENT OR SMALL INTERIOR ROOM.
IN ADDITION TO LARGE HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS...CONTINUOUS CLOUD TO
GROUND LIGHTNING IS OCCURRING WITH THIS STORM. MOVE INDOORS
IMMEDIATELY! LIGHTNING IS ONE OF NATURES PRIMARY KILLERS. REMEMBER...
IF YOU CAN HEAR THUNDER...YOU ARE CLOSE ENOUGH TO BE STRUCK BY
LAT...LON 3616 8380 3615 8379 3591 8377 3585 8385
3588 8401 3583 8405 3586 8413 3580 8414
3580 8418 3572 8418 3566 8436 3580 8438
3588 8433 3590 8425 3606 8433 3616 8444
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