Is Bush Repenting in his Final Fortnight?


For the past few months, the Bush administration has done its darndest to really stick it to the environment. From weakening the Endangered Species Act to allowing oil shale drilling near national parks to letting power plants pollute more, the 11th-hour regulations rolling out of the White House have been hitting the eco set hard.

But with only a handful of days left in the White House, Bush seems to be making an about-face. OK, maybe not an about-face, but an ever-so-slight veer in the right direction. Today, the president will designate nearly 200,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean as protected areas. In other words, these regions will be safe from oil drilling.

And yes, it’s true that Bush was the one who lifted the ban on offshore drilling in the first place, much to the dismay of conservationists everywhere. But we can’t deny the fact that today’s announcement will create world’s largest marine reserve. The three areas that will be designated as marine national monuments include the Mariana National Monument, Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, and the Rose Atoll.

Bush must have a soft spot for marine life: In 2006, the president created a national monument in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Either that or he just wants to do something halfway decent for the earth before he leaves office in 14 days.

In other related news, it looks like one of Bush’s anti-environmental 11th-hour regulations won’t be coming to fruition. Last week, the nation’s largest owner of timberland, Plum Creek Timber Co., wanted to negotiate a deal with the US Forest Service that would have allowed the company to pave Forest Service roads, use them, and make it easier for the company to develop homes in Montana’s forests. Yesterday, however, the company indicated that it would now back away from pursuing this new regulation.

From the Associated Press:

Critics of the proposed changes had included President-elect Barack Obama and Montana’s junior senator.

 

Changes in the agreements would benefit the public, but “given the lack of receptivity, we have decided not to go forward,” Plum Creek Timber Co. Chief Executive Officer Rick Holley wrote in a letter to Missoula County, which opposed altering the agreements.

Three cheers for small victories! Now all Obama has to do is reverse the countless other last-minute, cockamamie rules Bush has put forth. Luckily, with his eco dream team assembled, the President-elect should be up to the task.

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