Expansion of gas wells in Rocky Mountain states will degrade the air at several national parks.And yet with Christie Whitman's recently released book, she'd have us all believe, "without irony, that Mr. Bush is a closet environmentalist, forced to hide his inner tree hugger for fear of riling Republican extremists."
GILLETTE, Wyo. — When he turned Mt. Rushmore into his granite canvas, sculptor Gutzon Borglum wrote that the faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln would remain visible, Lord willing, "until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away."
Borglum's vision endures in the Black Hills of South Dakota about 130 miles from here, but for nearly a month every year, it may soon become harder to see the famous faces through the man-made haze generated by the addition of 50,000 gas wells in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana.
It is just one of several ways in which the largest expansion of natural gas drilling approved by the federal government is expected to degrade air quality in the region that today has the clearest skies in the lower 48 states.
The federal Bureau of Land Management, under pressure from the White House to fast-track energy production, approved the drilling plan two years ago without incorporating any requirements to reduce the resulting air pollution.
Government scientists expect that the drilling expansion, combined with a planned increase in coal mining and oil drilling in the northern Great Plains, will nearly double smog-forming emissions and greatly increase particulate matter pollution in a thinly populated region that has produced less than 3% of the amount of unhealthful air found in Los Angeles.
The BLM moved forward with the project despite its own air quality analysis, which concluded that the pollution would cloud views at more than a dozen national parks and monuments, exceed federal air quality standards in several communities and cause acid rain to fall on mountain lakes, where it could harm fish and wildlife.
The Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service expressed similar concerns to the BLM.
The agency was told to expect particle-laden dust clouds and smog-forming exhaust from what amounted to a new industrial zone of gas wells, compressor stations and service roads spanning more than 30 million acres.
"From our review, it appears this project may be inconsistent with the Clean Air Act," Forest Service officials wrote in a 2002 letter to the BLM. The letter stated that the Forest Service was particularly concerned about the effects of pollution and acid rain on several popular wilderness recreation areas.
"It was one of the worst pieces of work I have seen in a long time, and it made me mad," said John Molenar, an air pollution consultant who has worked for the National Park Service. He was hired by a Wyoming environmental group, the Powder River Basin Resource Council, to review the gas project.
"Let's be honest about the consequences," Molenar said. "There will be an observable brown cloud at some times of the year that people will get mad about." (LA Times)
Poor, poor GW, hostage to his own party. Oh yeah, I feel so sorry for him, he's completely powerless, bullied by some bad apples -- yet he's actually a virtuous, well-intended fellow. If true, then he's the most pathetic U.S. President ever, not just the worst.