It is no secret that the Bush Administration has been struggling to find room in the compassionate conservative agenda for the environment. The challenge to protect, preserve and improve the environment is always difficult in a sluggish economy, but even more so when what people value most-freedom and security-is threatened. Being an outdoors person himself, it is undeniable that President Bush, like his father, holds environmental protection in deep regard. Unfortunately, the current White House Administration can't seem to get the ball rolling with a clear environmental agenda.

Early on, the President's Administration inherited a two-year long Supreme Court battle that began during the Clinton Administration regarding the EPA's legislative authority to write rules and regulations. The Supreme Court found in favor of the EPA; however, the Bush Administration was criticized for not outwardly supporting the decision or the newly appointed director of the EPA, Christine Todd Whitman. Shortly thereafter, the Bush Administration stumbled over the arsenic standard as part of the Safe Drinking Water Act revisions, with the detrimental result of the public perceiving the Administration to be anti-environmental. Additionally, the strategy for responding to California's blackouts was just as misdirected. The Administration initially blamed overbearing environmental regulations as the main culprit only to be faced with the Enron situation, which unveiled failed de-regulation policy and misapplied energy management strategies as the primary cause for the energy shortages. Even today, the Administration struggles with energy policies that provide clear guidance on how the EPA should revamp the New Source Review program to make it environmentally and fiscally sound.

On the international stage, we seemed unprepared when attempting to influence other national leaders on potential problems with the Kyoto Protocol. Unfortunately, the Administration's decision to pull away from Kyoto Protocol placed the international environmental monkey on America's back, which we have been unable to shake. This, amongst other perceived social program concerns, set-up Colin Powell for a humbling experience in September 2002. During his speech at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Africa, he was jeered and heckled so loudly that he had to stop talking several times to allow time for the crowd to settle in order to finish his speech.

The latest gaffe comes by way of a legal settlement between EPA and the Sierra Club regarding national air toxic limitations for industrial source categories, known as Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards. The EPA failed to issue all the MACT standards by the deadline of May 15, 2002. To avoid the overwhelming confusion that would be created by a "MACT hammer," which means that emission limits are set on a case by case basis rather than a source category, the EPA published a final rule on April 5, 2002 attempting to extend their own deadline to May 2004. The Sierra Club sued and won, contending that the two-year extension was unjustified under the Clean Air Act.

The Sierra Club settlement accelerated the timeframe for filing MACT applications for all but four source categories from the May 2004 deadline. Under the settlement agreement, 18 source categories face a May 15, 2003 deadline. An October 30, 2003 deadline applies to 35 categories, an April 28, 2004 deadline applies to six categories and an August 13, 2005 for four categories. All total, approximately 80,000 industrial facilities will be affected ranging from surface coating, refractory and iron and steel manufacturing, printing and coating, miscellaneous organic chemical manufacturing, industrial boilers and process heaters, and others.

As with past Administrations, it can be challenging and politically perilous to articulate environmental goals. It appears that this Administration is missing what many national and international studies have profoundly indicated and what President Bush and his father are proponents of-that is the continued movement toward a broader and more general ecocentric (environmentally centered) value system that is fiscally sound. The unfortunate outcome has been an unclear message and strategy from the White House. This is almost always demoralizing, because it often leads to erroneous policies and poor planning resulting in unpredictable financial impacts for businesses and tax payers because the rules are not determined by the experts, but by the judicial system. Perhaps this Administration hasn't had enough time amidst the national security and economic initiatives to adequately address the issue. Paradoxically, this has done something that this Administration appears to be dead-set against-misapplying resources without a foreseeable return.

More information on the MACT standards and a complete list of the source categories impacted by the ruling visit :