Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Environmental President
I remember when Dubya was elected, I was primarily scared for the fate of our natural resources and the environment. This war in Iraq and the war on terra switched my focus. Unfortunately, everything is tied together. While it is important to be aware of all the bullshit his gang has created in the world, we need to be especially diligent in the attention we pay to the problems that are being created under the radar screen here at home.

Bush Administration Secrecy Imperils Environment and Public Health
The Bush administration is applying new levels of secrecy to public information, using the excuse of "national security risks" to undercut the public's right to know about contamination of the environment, transport of hazardous materials, pipeline routes, and more—putting public health at risk and chilling community activism.

"We've had national security exemptions for a long time under the Freedom of Information Act, and the ability to classify information if needed under other laws, and for good reason," Paul Orum, director of the non-partisan Working Group on Community Right-to-Know, tells BushGreenwatch. "Now, secrecy is creeping forward into other areas, and in subtle ways."

According to the Working Group, over six thousand public documents have been removed from the web sites of over a dozen government agencies since the fall of 2001.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for example, has removed parts of formerly-public Risk Management Plans from the web, documents that helped communities identify nearby chemical hazards. The Department of Energy has taken down environmental impact statements related to nuclear power plants, and hazardous materials transport information. The Department of Transportation removed from its web site much of the national pipeline mapping data that allowed communities to find hazardous pipeline routes.

President Bush has also issued executive orders that broaden the authority of agencies to withhold information from the public. May 2002's Executive Order 12958 gave the EPA Administrator authority to designate documents "Secret" or "Confidential," two of the three highest possible security classifications. It also allows the Administrator to delegate classification authority to senior EPA officials. Once classified, a person can gain access to information only when an agency head or their designee reviews the request, the person signs a non-disclosure agreement, and the person can establish a "need-to-know" to the satisfaction of agency officials.

The Bush administration has also reduced the public's access to unclassified information. 2002's Homeland Security Act allows agencies to withhold "sensitive but unclassified" information from the public. Information can be restricted with no review, even if public under other laws.

"The Bush administration is hostile to the idea that citizens need to watchdog the government, " says Orum.