Bush errs, Coleman haggles

President George W. Bush is making poor environmental decisions, and despite high expectations, Sen. Norm Coleman is waffling on his commitment to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Each should act in the interest of a better environment.

Bush and the “Clear Skies” initiative

Bush stubbornly refuses to admit climate change is a serious issue, supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and support allowing snowmobiles and loggers free rein in national parks – the list goes on.

Bush’s latest attack is a Trojan horse named the “Clear Skies” initiative, which will provide anything but cleaner air. In actuality, Bush’s proposal to amend the Clean Air Act will weaken current standards and delay health initiatives. The “Clear Skies” initiative sets new sulfur dioxide, mercury and nitrogen oxide emission standards. Sadly, these standards are actually weaker than existing law. If passed, the “Clear Skies” initiative would allow 50 percent more sulfur into the air and triple the amount of toxic mercury released.

At the cost of public health, industrialists such as manufacturing facilities and power and chemical plants will benefit most from the initiative. Even more disheartening is that the initiative will not only allow for more pollution but force those currently bombarded by it to suffer further. Some argue that sacrificing or crippling lives is entirely worth extending the life of an industrial facility. This is not only an immoral position but a shortsighted one as well.

Coleman and the Artic National Wildlife Refuge

Coleman pledged not to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge but might rescind his position by voting for a $60 billion-plus spending bill that includes a luring $800 million in loans for the Iron Range.

The bill contains a myriad of strategic subsidies and flat-out bribes – it offers ethanol subsidies, tax breaks to energy companies, $1 billion to build an Idaho nuclear reactor and a $20 billion subsidy to the energy industry to build a 3,500-mile pipeline from Alaska to the lower 48 states. While opening the wildlife refuge for drilling is not on the docket yet, with the inclusion of the pipeline deal, Alaska Republicans and energy executives are salivating over the good chance of it slipping in.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling is a high-risk government investment that would subsidize private energy interests and destroy “America’s Serengeti.” An $800 million bribe to Coleman is not principled leadership; it is amoral haggling. Coleman should keep his promise – Minnesotans thought they elected a leader, not a two-faced businessman.