Profile: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
December 11, 2002
“The science is open and shut that this kind of logging in the back country poses great risks, and can even make fires worse. These are the projects where environmental review is most needed and where informed public input and oversight is most critical.”
[CBS News, 11/27/2002]
December 16, 2002
“The final rule puts polluters first. The Bush EPA gave agribusiness increased protection from liability for polluting our waterways. It’s a sweet deal for factory farm polluters, but it stinks for the rest of us.”
[Natural Resources Defense Council, 12/16/2002]
“The Bush administration is painting this new proposal as an inconsequential change that won’t harm the environment. But it’s part of a systematic effort to weaken environmental protections so that timber companies can cut more and larger trees in our national forests without the public even knowing what’s going on. While the agency has in the past had some ability to exempt small projects, the proposal would greatly expand their use and, added to other proposed exemptions, would mean that most of the logging projects the Forest Service conducts would be authorized in a head-in-the-sand, don’t-tell-the-public fashion.”
[Natural Resources Defense Council, 12/16/2002]
March 10, 2003
“Everybody recognizes these kinds of construction activities cause serious water pollution, but the Bush administration is excusing one sector of industry—their friends in the oil and gas industry. You not only have the problems of erosion, but you have the potential for toxic pollution.”
[Associated Press, 1/28/2003]
July 11, 2003
“If the administration gets its way, thousands of streams, wetlands and other waters would no longer be protected by the law, allowing industry to dredge, fill or dump waste into them without a permit and without notifying the public.”
[Natural Resources Defense Council, 7/11/2003]
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) was a participant or observer in the following events:
The number of beach closings and health safety advisories increases 51 percent over the year 2002 at US oceans and Great Lakes, according to an annual survey conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). In fact, 2003 is the worst year ever recorded by the organization since it began monitoring US shorelines fourteen years ago. Eighty-eight percent of the closings are due to high levels of bacteria indicative of human and animal waste. “We know that the high bacteria levels that cause most closings and advisories come from two sources—inadequately treated sewage and contaminated stormwater,” says Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s Clean Water Project. “We have a major water system breakdown across the country, and local, state and federal authorities need to wake up and fix it.” [Environmental News Network, 8/6/2004 Sources: NRDC Annual Report - Testing the Waters 2004]
Map of Iraqi oil fields included in released documents. [Source: Judicial Watch]The conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch releases documents recently turned over by the US Commerce Department through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The documents show some of the activities of the secretive energy task force chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001). Cheney and the White House successfully blocked Congress from learning even the most basic information about the task force’s activities (see February 22, 2002). The Commerce Department documents include maps of Iraqi oil fields and oil infrastructure, and other charts showing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and a document entitled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” Other maps and documents show detailed information about oil fields and infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. All of the documents are dated March 2001. Judicial Watch has sought these documents under FOIA since April 2001, and only secured them after a federal judge ordered their release in March 2002. (The Judicial Watch lawsuit was consolidated with a similar suit from the Natural Resources Defense Council.) Why the government waited over a year to release the documents, even after a court order compelling them to do so, is unclear. “These documents show the importance of the Energy Task Force and why its operations should be open to the public,” says Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton. “This was not about national security. This was about an undersecretary talking to a lobbyist.” [Judicial Watch, 7/17/2003; Judicial Watch, 7/17/2003; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 14-15] Authors Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein call the Iraqi oil field documents “stunning,” and ask: “Why were the vice president and a group of oilmen poring over maps of Iraq long before there was any pretext to invade the country? Iraq’s oil was technically embargoed and under UN control—why make plans for divvying up oil reserves?” Dubose and Bernstein believe that Cheney may have been planning for US control of Iraq long before the Bush administration’s public push for war with that nation. Fitton is not so sure, but says worriedly: “We don’t know because we weren’t given the context. We have no way of knowing what they were deliberating.” [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 14-15] Judicial Watch, with other public interest groups such as the Sierra Club, will continue to seek information about the Cheney task force (see December 15, 2003 and April 27, 2004).
The Environmental Protection Agency posts a notice in the Federal Register announcing that it will continue studying the 51 drinking water contaminants included in its 1998 Contaminant Candidate List. [Environmental Protection Agency, 4/2/2004] But the announcement seems to suggest that the EPA is continuing to ignore recommendations embodied in three National Research Council reports—Setting Priorities for Drinking Water Contaminants (1999), Identifying Future Drinking Water Contaminants (1999), and Classifying Drinking Water Contaminants for Regulatory Consideration (2001)—which suggested, among other things, that the agency use the latest gene-mapping technology to screen for a more comprehensive list of contaminants, including waterborne pathogens, chemical agents, disinfection byproducts, radioactive substances and biological compounds. The Natural Resources Defense Council and other health and environmental groups have urged the agency to follow the Council’s recommendations in order to protect the public against the numerous contaminants that have been shown to be detrimental to human health but which are not currently regulated. [Water Science and Technology Board Newsletter, 5/2001 ; Natural Resources Defense Council, 12/31/2005]
Four leading environmental groups—the NRDC, the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and the National Wildlife Federation—conduct a joint expert study. The report, largely based on Army Corps of Engineers documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, shows that the Bush administration’s policies have allowed developers to drain thousands of acres of wetlands. The loss of wetlands on the Gulf Coast could have a catastophic effect since coastal wetlands weaken hurricanes before they make landfall thereby lessening the impact of such storms on populated inland regions. The report also says the policies have opened America’s waterways to massive amounts of industrial discharge. [Natural Resource Defense Council et al., 8/12/2004 ]
“There’s no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it comes to wetlands protection,” one of the report’s authors says. The study is dismissed by the chairman of the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, who describes it as “highly questionable,” and claims, “Everybody loves what we’re doing.”
[Washington Post, 8/12/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/1/2005; Chicago Tribune, 9/1/2005]
The White House finally releases a list of officials and organizations who met with Vice President Cheney’s energy task force (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001) in 2001. Cheney and the White House have successfully battled for six years to keep virtually all details of the task force secret (see May 10, 2005), and many other documents and files pertaining to the task force remain secret. The list of participants confirms what many have always suspected—that oil, gas, and energy executives and lobbyists were virtually the only ones to have any input in the task force’s policy deliberations. Many of the participants were also heavy donors to the Bush-Cheney campaign, and to the Republican Party in general.
Secrecy - Some participants say they were never sure why the White House fought so hard to keep the information about the task force secret. “I never knew why they fought so hard to keep it secret,” says Charles A. Samuels, a lawyer for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. “I am sure the vast majority of the meetings were very policy-oriented meetings—exactly what should take place.” Others say that their meetings with the task force were routine.
API Input - American Petroleum Institute president Red Cavaney says that when he met with the task force, he and his fellow API officials discussed position papers the organization had given to the Bush-Cheney campaign and to newly elected members of Congress. “We’re in the business of routinely providing advocacy materials,” Cavaney says. “Speaking for myself, I had zero hand in authoring or sitting with anyone from that task force and changing anything.” But Cavaney is seriously downplaying API’s influence (see March 20, 2001).
"Ridiculous" - Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who has been a driving force behind the effort to reveal the inner workings of the task force to the public, says it is it is “ridiculous” that it has taken six years to see who attended the meetings. He describes the energy task force as an early indicator of “how secretively Vice President Cheney wanted to act.” As to the makeup of the participants, Waxman is not surprised to see the dominance of energy industry groups in the meetings. “Six years later, we see we lost an opportunity to become less dependent on importing oil, on using fossil fuels, which have been a threat to our national security and the well-being of the planet,” he says. Climate expert David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council says: “Cheney had his finger on a critical issue. He just pushed it in the wrong direction.” [Washington Post, 7/18/2007]
Entity Tags: National Energy Policy Development Group, Bush administration (43), Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, American Petroleum Institute, Charles A. Samuels, Henry A. Waxman, Natural Resources Defense Council, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, David Hawkins, Red Cavaney
Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Civil Liberties
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