SocraticGadfly: The latest BushCo environmental lies

September 30, 2007

The latest BushCo environmental lies

Legal actions by lawsuit against uncooperative, and caught, polluters are down 70 percent for 2002-2006, compared to a similar period in the late 1990s.

In the face of this massive scofflaw-enabling by BushCo, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency, what do we hear? This:
“We have been on an unprecedented run of success in the enforcement arena,” said Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance. "These are major cases we are pursuing.”

In retort and reply, we have this”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell, whose panel oversees environmental enforcement, disagrees. “Where once a polluter could expect criminal prosecution, there are now civil settlements. Where once there were criminal penalties, there are now taxpayer subsidies,” Dingell (D-Mich.) said.

And this, in which Justice Department and EPA staffers both admit the problem, but blame the other side:
“Environmental crimes are simply not in the U.S. attorney top 10 priorities,” said one senior EPA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the news media.

Prosecutors counter that the EPA has fewer agents and is bringing them fewer cases. “We’re not turning away environmental crimes in order to prosecute other crimes. They are just not being presented in the first case,” said Don DeGabrielle, the U.S. attorney in Houston.

It’s easy to tell from the rest of the story that Mr. DeGabrielle is far nearer the truth than the anonymous EPA official. That’s probably why that person is staying anonymous — he or she knows this claim doesn’t stand up.

Further proof? Criminal cases are also down, off 36 percent in 2006 compared to 2001. The number of new criminal investigations opened declined 37 percent over the same period.

Oh, and Dingell’s “subsidies” charge? Well, it can be true:
The Justice Department in August also touted a plea bargain with IMC Shipping Co. that required the Singapore ship operator to pay $10 million in connection with a massive oil spill in 2004 that killed thousands of birds in Alaska's Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. …

The decision to drop negligence charges could be valuable to the company, which as a result remains eligible to seek reimbursement from a special government fund for $77 million of the more than $100 million it has spent cleaning up the spill.

The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund — administered by the U.S. Coast Guard and funded by a special oil tax — can reimburse shippers for all cleanup costs not covered by insurance, but only if the incident does not involve gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Certainly, by the seventh year of BushCo, neither the administration failure to rigorously enforce environmental laws nor its lying claims about actually doing that should surprise anybody.

Add in that Nakayama claims not to be “personally familiar” with a new EPA policy that requires agents to get pre-approval from their division heads to directly refer cases to state and federal prosecutors, and you have the third part of the BushCo trinity: incompetence. (That’s assuming that Nakayama is being truthful about his lack of personal familiarity. However, the “personally” modifier is one that I’ve found to be a common bureaucratic weasel word, so he could well be lying again.)

No comments: