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Meanwhile, Christie Whitman, Bushs administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, insists that Bush is a pro-environmental president and that the budget "indicates a strong commitment to the environment."
In a speech before the National Wildlife Federation on April 6, Whitman urged patience from the environmental community and blamed critics of Bushs early environmental attacks for exaggerating the impact of "one or two decisions that people might disagree with."
Whitman, who herself has been publicly embarrassed by the administrations decisions on global warming, is emerging as Bush's point person for defending his rapid-fire attacks on environmental standards. Whitmans call for patience comes one week after The Washington Post reported that the Bush administration felt "stung by the furious reaction to its early decisions on the environment" and planned to counter environmental criticisms. [WP, March 31, 2001]
Bush's environmental decisions included rolling back limits on arsenic in drinking water, pulling the U.S. out of the Kyoto Protocol, promoting new oil and mineral extraction from public lands and cutting funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. The cuts in the energy programs were especially puzzling because the moves conflict with the administrations stated desire to promote energy independence and confront a "national energy crisis."
Last week, the Bush administration also proposed dropping testing for salmonella in ground beef for the federal school-lunch program, but quickly reversed that decision the same day fearing a public backlash.
Whitman, who joined the Bush administration as a widely respected political moderate, may find her two roles as the nations top environmental defender and a loyal administration defender difficult to balance. Criticism of Bushs early environmental policies has not just come from the environmental community. A number of moderate Republicans are publicly questioning the Bush administrations environmental attacks, too.
At a luncheon with members of the Sierra Clubs National Advisory Committee on April 3, Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., asked the audience to reach out to Republicans and help them stand strong against the Bush administrations environmental policies. "I cant tell you how important it is to support Republican members when they do the right thing on the environment," Shays said.
The New York Times reported that Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., son of former Republican environmental champion John Chafee who died in 1999, described the Bush administrations early environmental decisions as payback to his conservative base. "There's a realization that some of the Western senators and more conservative elements of the party are calling some important shots," Chafee said. [NYT, April 4, 2001]
Yet, even as Whitman urges patience and Republican moderates grow restless, The Washington Post reported that the administration is working behind the scenes with conservative Republicans in Congress to overturn other environmental regulations. These include weakening standards for energy efficiency in air conditioners and overturning restrictions on snowmobile use in national parks. [WP, April 8, 2001]
In another sign of how difficult Whitmans balancing act might be, the EPA chief struggled to find positive things to say about the Bush administrations early environmental record. She sighted one example the administrations decision not to overturn a Clinton administration rule reducing air pollution from buses and big trucks.page 3: Bush's Dirty Record