By Ashley Phillips
Green Right Now
When President Barack Obama was sworn into office just one year ago, he promised hope to a country in the midst of economic, environmental, and political turmoil. Environmentally, however, the Obama administration that promised “change” has fallen a few cents short, according to the environmental group, The Center for Biological Diversity.
The administration’s actions (and inaction) are speaking louder than its words, in the view of the center’s Obama Administration First-Year Report Card. Obama’s overall grade: a “C” in protecting (and failing to protect) the environment.
The report cites multiple contradictory environmental actions from this past year. While the administration has reinstated the Clinton-era Road-less Rule that protects millions of federal acres from development, it allowed the logging of road-less areas in Alaska to proceed. Also, while the current administration continued to grant permits and leases for fossil fuel exploration and extraction, it has also offered several tax credits and subsidies for improving energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
The Center for Biological Diversity faults the administration in five areas:
Endangered Species – C
- Only two new species were protected as endangered (fewest since the Reagan administration)
- Weakened protection for gray wolves and polar bears
Energy – C
- For authorizations of mountain removal
- New coal-mining leases
- Approved offshore oil exploration
Climate – C-
- Failed to enact legislation regarding U.S. emission targets
- Proposed GHG emission targets far below necessary levels at Copenhagen
Public Lands – B+
- Authorized logging in Alaskan road-less areas
- Continual issuing of oil and gas and coal-mining leases
Oceans – B-
- Offshore oil drilling off the Alaskan coast
- Reduced protection for endangered sea turtles near Hawaii
The Obama administration has taken positive environmental steps that are praiseworthy, according to the center’s report card. Notably:
- Officials issued a finding under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, setting the stage for stricter regulation/
- It began addressing ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act.
- It did away with the Bush administration’s weak rules on national forest management and is developing new regulations.
- It proposed removal of 1 million acres of land around the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.
Others might add to that list, remembering that the Obama Administration immediately pushed for and won higher fuel efficiency standards for cars.
But then that was one project, and as the Center for Biological Diversity reminds us, they all count.
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