Sunday, May 25, 2003

Chimpco is probably glad Christine Todd Whitman resigned last week as the head of the EPA. Now they can put an industrialist in charge of our environmental policy.

But there was little reason to believe Bush would put environmental protection over the interests of his corporate supporters and friends. Skepticism abounded when he promised during the campaign that he would seek mandatory power plant reductions of carbon dioxide, and that skepticism was well placed. Three months into his presidency, Bush undercut Whitman's pledge that America would help combat global warming when he reneged on the carbon dioxide pledge and rejected the Kyoto Treaty, which calls for mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Whitman has struggled ever since to defend a succession of environmental rollbacks initiated by her boss. Though she denied being at odds with Bush, the strain finally reached the breaking point Wednesday, when she announced that she was stepping down. As Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, said: "Christie Whitman must feel like her long national nightmare is over." Over the past two years, Whitman kept peace with Bush by abandoning environmental stances she had backed as governor, including support for the "polluter pays" method of paying for Superfund site cleanups and plans to cap toxic emissions, two policies rejected by the Bush administration.

Whitman also promoted a number of other egregious administration proposals, including relaxing industrial pollution regulations and handing the Defense Department several major exemptions from environmental laws.

Whitman did put up a fight occasionally but it's doubtful her replacement will. Bush's true colors as a hard-core anti-environment, pro-industry president have never been more vivid.

Emboldened by his success in pushing his right-wing agenda on so many fronts, the president may feel no need to put a so-called moderate in charge of EPA. The front-runners to replace Whitman include auto industry lobbyist Josephine Cooper and Florida Environmental Protection Secretary David Struhs, who recently backed sugar-industry-promoted moves in his state to postpone a cleanup of the gravely polluted Everglades.