A dreadful year for environmentalists

August 27, 2010 by Peter · Leave a Comment 

This has been a dreadful year for environmentalists — and for the environment.

Climate deniers are winning the public opinion battle, even though evidence of warming is piling up astonishingly and alarmingly fast.

A historic oil spill that could have spurred major action has been excised from the national psyche with fairy tales. Meanwhile:

Thousands of fish have turned up dead at the mouth of Mississippi River, prompting authorities to check whether oil was the cause of mass death, local media reports said Monday. The fish were found Sunday floating on the surface of the water and collected in booms that had been deployed to contain oil that leaked from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Times-Picayune reported. “By our estimates there were thousands, and I’m talking about 5,000 to 15,000 dead fish,” St Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro was quoted as saying in a statement. He said crabs, sting rays, eel, drum, speckled trout and red fish were among the species that turned up dead.

And now this:

The Obama Administration has decided to side with polluters when it comes to the Clean Air Act (CAA), providing a brief to the Court arguing that Federal administrative and regulatory action obviates any standing for states or private entities to use CAA “nuisance” provisions to act in protection of their citizens’ or their own interests.

Over the past century, nuisance law provisions have proved a powerful tool for dealing with polluters who, for whichever set of reasons, are falling outside serious governmental action to curb the damage their “externalities” are causing others.

The Obama team’s action is almost incomprehensible. As Joe Romm notes

“As with the decision to embrace offshore drilling, we’ll no doubt eventually learn that this decision — which lies somewhere on the scale between between unproductive and counter-productive — was made without serious input from those in the administration who represent science or the environment. … I couldn’t find anyone who thinks this moves makes much sense. NRDC’s David Donger told the WSJ, “We are appalled.”

More from the NYT:

Matt Pawa, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the case, said he and his colleagues expected the White House to stay out of the matter. During a meeting with more than 30 administration lawyers at the solicitor general’s office on June 24, it seemed they had “a lot of friends in the room,” he said.

“We feel stabbed in the back,” Pawa said. “This was really a dastardly move by an administration that said it was a friend of the environment. With friends like this, who needs enemies?”

Top attorneys at environmental advocacy groups are buzzing about the brief, sources say. Some feel betrayed by a White House that has generally been more amenable to environmental regulation than its predecessor.

“This reads as if it were cut and pasted from the Bush administration’s briefing in Massachusetts,” said David Bookbinder, who served as the Sierra Club’s chief climate counsel until his resignation in May.

With the right ascendant, and with Democrats in full election panic mode, I fear this dreadful year for environmentalists — and for the environment — will only get worse.

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