ADLER v. O’REILLY
Jonathan H. Adler discusses the Bush Administration’s Environmental Record
on “The O’Reilly Factor”
O'REILLY: In the "Factor Follow-Up" segment tonight, is President Bush anti-environment? Are some American conservatives not interested in pollution control? If you believe the Democrats, that's true, and they point to the following. President Bush wanted to elevate the arsenic standards in the water. He has lessened the emissions control policies in some fossil fuel plants. He has just this week cut federal money to clean up Superfund pollution sites. So what the heck is going on here?
Joining us now from Cleveland is Jonathan Adler, assistant professor of environmental law at Case Western Reserve University. Now, professor, I mean, I have in my hand here, it looks like a clear record that the Bush Administration basically says, Hey, you know, we're not that interested in pollution control here. We want big companies to make money, and, you know, the environment be damned. Is that wrong?
ADLER: I think it's definitely wrong. We all breathe the same air, we all drink the same water. But the Bush administration recognizes that in a lot of cases, federal regulation is part of the problem.
To take one of the examples you mentioned, the emission -- what's called new source review requirements for utilities. The Bush Administration recognized that existing regulations keep older, dirtier power plants online for longer periods of time and discourage utilities from modernizing and cleaning up those plants.
O'REILLY: What you're saying is that because the Bush Administration felt that the pollution control standards are so stringent that the companies wouldn't invest in the new plants?
ADLER: Well, it's not just stringency. Under the existing regulations, old plants are grand-fathered in. They're exempt from a lot of the more stringent regulations. And the way they've become subject to the regs is by modernizing the plant and upgrading the plant.
O'REILLY: All right. So they don't want to be subjected to it?
ADLER: They don't want to be subjected to it, but there are a lot of things utilities will do...
O'REILLY: Right. So they keep it dirty.
ADLER: They keep it dirty because the regulations encourage them to do that.
O'REILLY: All right. But by doing away with the regulations, how does that improve the problem? You see?
ADLER: They're not doing away with the regulations. What they're doing is -- they're doing two things. The first thing they're doing is they're saying they're going to make it easier for companies to upgrade older facilities and make those facilities more efficient and less polluting. The second thing they want to do is they want to move away from a regulatory system that grandfathers older facilities, grandfathers the dirty facilities, and towards a system that's focused on actual emissions, focused on actual pollution in the air.
O'REILLY: I'll take your word for that one. But, look, in 2001, April, OK, the Bush Administration proposed a 300 million -- $500 million cut in the EPA's budget. Congress said forget it, you're not going to do that. That doesn't look good. I know he wants to save money, I know they want to get spending under control, and I'm for that. But it doesn't look good environmentally. May, 2001, the EPA suspends a Clinton Administration rule that set a lower standard for arsenic, OK. Now, after months of evaluation, the agency reversed itself on that, and Bush had to eat crow on that. Come on. I mean, the perception is that the Bush administration doesn't really care about the quality of the water and the quality of the air. Maybe that's not the reality, but it's certainly the perception.
ADLER: I agree it's the perception and I would agree with you that the Bush Administration has done a very poor job in explaining the environmental rationale for many of its activities.
O'REILLY: They don't explain it. They don't say a word. They do this stuff.
ADLER: I agree with that.
O'REILLY: And, I mean, it tees me off. We call and say, what is this Superfund thing? I mean, I want these sites cleaned up. I think you do and every American does. And you're cutting it down? I mean, come on.
ADLER: They actually -- well, that's another example of the misinformation. If you look closely at those news stories, they didn't cut the budget. They merely didn't give regional offices what regional offices asked for. Only in Washington, D.C. is not giving someone what they asked for a cut. The overall Superfund budget is actually increasing. But more importantly, if we want these sites cleaned up, we have to move away from what is largely a failed federal program and give more authority to states because the states are on the vanguard of cleaning up...
O'REILLY: All right. So, basically, the Bush administration wants to put the authority for clean-up in the hands of the states and get the federal government out of it?
ADLER: I think the Bush administration is moving in that direction. I don't think they're moving quickly enough, but the Bush administration is recognizing that clean-up is . . .
O'REILLY: All right. One more question. But that's what got us in trouble in the first place, that there are many states, because, obviously, they want factories, and, in essence, says, you know, hell, go pollute the Hudson River, go pollute the Long Island Sound, go pollute, you know, the border thing in California because we want the economy to grow. It's why we got in trouble in the first place.
ADLER: Well, actually, Bill, I would have to disagree with you on that. First of all, 30, 40 years ago, the federal government, the same federal government that environmentalists say will protect us now, was funding rampant environmental destruction. One of the best examples is the Everglades, where the federal government subsidized the destruction of that national treasure. And now, we're spending money again to clean it up.
O'REILLY: And it didn't work. Something to think about. We appreciate your time very much.