The Friends of the Earth Political Action Committee long has been
a critic of the Clinton-Gore administration. Last September, we
endorsed Bill Bradley over Al Gore in the Democratic primaries because
we believed Bradley had a superior environmental record. Today,
with Bradley out of the race, three choices for president face us:
Gore, George W. Bush or Ralph Nader.
Nader is closest to us on many environmental policy issues, particularly
globalization and genetically engineered food, but it is clear that
he will not win the election. Third parties can influence policies
but seldom, if ever, get a chance to govern. The vote in this presidential
race is about governance, about who is going to set the budget,
fill cabinet and agency posts, appoint members to the judiciary
and deal with national and global environmental problems. And that
person will be either Gore or Bush. On five major criteria, a grand
canyon of difference separates these two candidates.
Vice presidential selections: The choice of running mates
offers insight into the priorities and values of both candidates,
and indicates the kinds of people they are likely to appoint to
agency and judicial posts. Bush picked Dick Cheney, a former congressman
with close ties to polluters, a man who possessed one of the worst
environmental voting records in Congress--his lifetime average score
from the League of Conservation Voters is just 13 percent. Gore
selected Joseph Lieberman, a senator with one of the top environmental
records--scoring 100 percent 8 of 11 times on the League of Conservation
Voters' scorecard--and a recipient of the "Friend of the Earth"
Appointments to agency positions: The presidential appointments
to the EPA, Department of Interior and other cabinet posts help
set in motion long-term policy. For example, Ronald Reagan's first
EPA administrator Ann Gorsuch Burford managed to cripple enforcement
of pollution laws by repeatedly physically relocating the enforcement
department in different parts of the EPA building. It's hard to
enforce our nation's pollution laws when all you're doing is packing
and unpacking boxes. As Texas governor, Bush has appointed representatives
of the oil, chemical and real estate businesses to run the Texas
pollution control agency. Conversely, Gore is committed to appointing
capable and committed individuals to head important environmental
agencies. The future credibility of our bedrock environmental legislation
depends on the quality of these appointments.
Judicial appointments: The appointments a president makes
to the the various levels of the federal court system are critical
to ensure implementation of environmental laws. We are still living
with some deleterious decisions made by Reagan appointees, and we
can expect more of the same under Bush. Gore has committed himself
to appointing individuals who will work to safeguard the environment
in our legal system.
Budget priorities: President Reagan's infamous Secretary
of Interior James Watt said, "We won't change any environmental
laws, we'll just do it through the budget." George W. Bush has not
expressed any interest in increasing spending for environmental
protection. On the contrary, his record in Texas demonstrates that
the environment is not a priority for him at all. Gore has pledged
an effort to fill the "environmental budget deficit" with an additional
$15 billion each year.
Positions on key issues: Given the failure of Congress to
move ahead with important land protection measures, the Clinton-Gore
administration has made real progress in protecting significant
natural areas for conservation purposes, using the presidential
designation of national monuments, a crucial conservation tool that
dates back to President Theodore Roosevelt. Bush and Cheney have
said they want to take another look at these land conservation efforts
and possibly reverse these important actions. Bush has also supported
increased logging in our national forests.
Texas leads the nation in toxic industrial air pollution, toxic
waste in groundwater and expired water pollution permits. When Bush
came into office in 1995, he cancelled the auto emissions testing
program in Houston. Now Houston has surpassed Los Angeles as the
city with the greatest smog problem. By contrast, the Clinton-Gore
administration has adopted the strictest auto emission standards
ever for cars, and strengthened clean air standards for soot and
There's more: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a pristine
treasure of remarkable wildlife. Gore opposes drilling in the refuge.
True to their alliance with big oil, Bush and Cheney want to open
the refuge to oil drilling. Gore also played a crucial role in negotiating
the Kyoto Agreement on climate change. Only recently has Bush admitted
that global warming might be a serious problem. However, Bush remains
opposed to this agreement.
The Bush-Cheney "all oil" ticket is a dangerous duo for the planet.
We need more than a head-in-the-sand approach to serious global
environmental problems such as climate change, tropical deforestation
and massive species extinction. And Al Gore provides that.
Brent Blackwelder is president of Friends of the Earth
and the Friends of the Earth Political Action Committee.
Read David Brower's response, "Ralph
Nader: We Can Do Better."