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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

November 6, 1992

Air Date: November 6, 1992


Election Wrap-Up

Steve, Reporter Laura Knoy and veteran environment beat reporter Phil Shabecoff survey the likely new environmental policymakers in Washington and the results from races around the country where environmental issues were in the forefront. (11:24)

The Clinton Watershed

Steve talks about the likely shifts in environmental policy and the outlook for the next four years with Sierra Club President Tony Ruckle and Ken Lay, President of the Enron Corporation and a member of President Bush's Commission on Environmental Quality. (06:59)

What Might Have Been / John Carroll

Commentator and adman John Carroll reviews missed opportunities on the campaign trail. (02:38)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: George Hardeen, Alexis Muellner, Laura Knoy
GUESTS: Phillip Shabecoff, Tony Ruckle, Kenneth Lay, John Carroll

( Theme music intro)

CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.

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CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood. It's transition time in Washington, and there's talk of entering a new era that links the environment, the economy, and national policy.

SHABECOFF: The Bush Administration viewed environmental protection as essentially an obstacle to economic growth and job creation. The Clinton-Gore Administration apparently will take a diametrically opposite view. They regard environmental protection, protection of natural resources, as essential to economic growth, job creation, and to industrial policy.

CURWOOD: Also, who might head the EPA, become Secretary of the Interior, or take the other top environmental jobs in the new administration. . . and how the environment fared at the ballot box with candidates and ballot questions, this week on Living on Earth. First, the news.

Environmental News

NUNLEY: I'm Jan Nunley, with this week's environmental news.

Water rights in the western United States will be dramatically changed by a new law. Originally President Bush opposed the measure, siding with California farmers who stand to lose almost twenty percent of their irrigation water to cities and wildlife protection. But the law also covers seventeen other states . . . and in the end the President bowed to pressure from them. From Tuba City, Arizona, George Hardeen reports.

HARDEEN: For years, environmentalists have charged that the Federal Bureau of Reclamation was damaging the stream-side ecology of the Colorado River as it flows through the Grand Canyon. Widely-fluctuating water releases from the Glen Canyon Dam are needed to produce valuable peaking-power electricity. But with the river level rising and falling as much as 13 feet a day, it's also caused about half of the Grand Canyon's beaches and wildlife habitat to erode. Now the law will require the Interior Secretary to set water-release limits to protect the environment. But the battle isn't over yet. It's expected that public power interests will sue to block implementation of the law, charging it will illegally raise the price of electricity. For Living on Earth, I'm George Hardeen in Tuba City, Arizona.

NUNLEY: tensions between Hungary and Czechoslovakia over a dam on the Danube River may ease, now that the Czech government has accepted the European Community's offer to arbitrate the dispute. The Gabcikovo dam is a one-point-seven billion dollar hydroelectric project started in 1977. Hungarian environmentalists forced their new government to pull out of the project in 1989 . . . saying the dam would endanger drinking water for five million people and turn the Danube's wetlands into wasteland. The project could also shift the border between the two countries. Slovak engineers dispute those claims . . . saying they need more hydro-electric power for their new country when Czechoslovakia splits in January.

United Nations diplomats are forming the Sustainable Development Commission, called for at last June's Earth Summit in Rio. The commission will implement treaties on climate change and biodiversity, and an extensive plan for ecologically sound development worldwide. Malaysia's ambassador to the UN, Razali Ismail, is leading the group creating the commission.

ISMAIL: We have to be careful not to create high expectations. We have to make member states feel confident about bringing things to the commission. There shouldn't be any coercive aspects about the function of the commission.

NUNLEY: Southern countries are said to be worried about the commission dictating their rate of economic development. . . . and northern countries fear the high cost of environmental clean-up and new technologies.

Tougher emissions control testing will soon be required in almost 200 urban areas . . .including more sophisticated tailpipe inspections and under-the-hood checks for gasoline vapor leaks. The EPA says one in every five cars would need repairs of faulty emissions control equipment . . . Costing 30 to 120 dollars per car.

This is Living on Earth.

Mexico says it won't renegotiate the free trade pact with the new Clinton Administration . . . despite the president-elect's concerns over environmental and labor provisions of the treaty. Mexican trade minister Jaime Serra Puche says the wording of the North American Free Trade Agreement has already been signed by the US, Canada and Mexico . . . and can only be voted up or down by the countries' legislatures. The US and Mexico are scheduled to iron out lingering concerns at a meeting next March.

All the animals in the Sarejevo zoo have died, despite rescue efforts by the World Society for the Protection of Animals. The attempt was part of a project to save zoo creatures and livestock in Bosnia . . . and it has been criticized for helping animals instead of suffering people. But Neil Trent of the rescue mission says even in war, human and animal welfare are closely linked.

TRENT: If we stop the rabies getting into the dog population, we'll be helping the people. If we get the agricultural animals treated with antibiotics so they can be productive to that family or that community, helping the animals will help the people. :14

NUNLEY: Trent adds that Bosnia is largely agricultural, and farm animals will play an important role in rebuilding the economy.

At one time, large flocks of whooping cranes darkened North American skies . . . but today only 250 of the birds survive, mostly in captivity. From Miami, Alexis Muellner reports on a project to reintroduce whooping cranes into the Florida wilderness.

MUELLNER: Whooping cranes haven't been seen in the grassy Florida marshlands in almost 70 years. Populations of the tall white long-necked bids shrunk to only eleven in the 1940's. But next month, a dozen of the rare cranes, bred in captivity, will be placed in a transitional "wilderness pen" and brought to a wildlife refuge south of Orlando. After six weeks of getting used to their new habitat, they'll be free to roam, although scientists will have to keep feeding them for some time to come. Disease and an unfamiliarity with the urban landscape will also pose challenges to the whooping cranes. But if all goes well, at least 20 birds will be released every year in the decade long project. For Living on Earth, I'm Alexis Muellner in Miami.

NUNLEY: That's this week's environmental news, I'm Jan Nunley.

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Election Wrap-Up

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

Rarely in the US do we see the kind of political shift that's now underway in Washington. After 12 years in power, conservative Republicans are cleaning out their desks in the White House, and the transition team for President-elect Bill Clinton is laying the foundation for a decidedly more liberal Democratic administration. Now, one of those areas in which we can expect major changes is environmental policy. We'll look into our crystal ball from several perspectives this week. First, we turn to Phillip Shabecoff in Washington. He's covered the environment beat for years, including a long stint in the Washington bureau of the New York Times. Currently he's publisher of Greenwire, a daily electronic digest of environmental news. Phil, how will President-elect Clinton change America's relationship to the environment, do you think?

SHABECOFF: I think there'll be a very big difference between the way a Clinton Administration and a Bush Administration deal with environmental matters. The Bush Administration viewed environmental protection as essentially an obstacle to economic growth and job creation. The Clinton-Gore Administration apparently will take a diametrically-opposite view. They regard environmental protection, protection of natural resources, as essential to economic growth, job creation, and to industrial policy.

CURWOOD: Who do you think the President-elect will bring with him? Who, for instance, are the candidates to take over from Bill Reilly of the EPA?

SHABECOFF: There are a number of names floating around right now. They include Bruce Babbitt, who is the former governor of Arizona, is now chairman of the League of Conservation Voters; Gus Speth, who is president of the World Resources Institute, a respected environmental policy think-tank here in Washington; Madeline Kunin, former governor of Vermont, who has also been very active and outspoken on environmental issues; Tom Jorling, head of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the former assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Carter Administration; and Peter Berle, who's head of the National Audubon Society, and used to be head of the New York State DEC.

CURWOOD: Now what about the EPA itself -- there's talk of upgrading it to a Cabinet position. Do you think that'll happen, and does it matter if it does?

SHABECOFF: First of all, yes, I do think it will happen. It nearly happened during the Bush Administration -- Bush did recommend that the EPA be upgraded to Cabinet level. I think Governor Clinton -- President-elect Clinton will support it, and I think both Houses will pass it. And I think it's a good idea; I think first of all it will give the head of the Environmental Protection Agency a voice equal to all others on the President's Cabinet, and maybe even more important in dealing with environmental issues in the international arena, a Cabinet-level officer will be able to sit on an equal footing with other environmental ministers around the world.

CURWOOD: Now what about the other Cabinet portfolios which have a lot of influence over environmental policy -- I'm thinking of the Secretary of the Interior, that position oversees the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife, and much of the Federal lands and water projects. And of course there's Energy as well. Who's being talked about for those positions?

SHABECOFF: My understanding is that Tim Wirth of Colorado, who's stepping down this year, a Senator from Colorado, has been offered either Energy or Interior, and from what I've heard he is leaning toward Interior. As far as the Energy Department, if Wirth doesn't take it, there is a number of members of Congress who lost their seats who've been very active in environmental issues who might be offered Cabinet posts or sub-Cabinet posts in the environment, including Les AuCoin of Oregon, Jim Johns of Indiana, Wayne Owens of Utah -- all those are very able environmental legislators and may very well find themselves in a Clinton Administration.

CURWOOD: I'm wondering if there's going to be any kind of litmus test for environmental appointments, that people who get these jobs might have to have a certain point of view.

SHABECOFF: I don't think there's going to be any rigid litmus test. I think , however, that anybody who receives a key environmental position in a Clinton Administration is going to have to be somebody who takes the view that protection of the environment and economic growth and job creation are in fact compatible.

CURWOOD: So we won't see anybody who is a crusading environmentalist, who says, 'the Earth first'?

SHABECOFF: No wild-eyed tree-huggers.

CURWOOD: Now Vice President-elect Gore has said every department in the government should take the environment into account when making decisions. Do you think that there's going to be a new environmental ethic that's going to filter throughout the Federal administration now?

SHABECOFF: I think that they will try to integrate environmental concerns into the policies of all the agencies. Whether they will be able to do so or not remains to be seen. Their first priority has to be meeting the economic and job-creation commitments of the campaign. If they can do that and integrate the environmental concerns, they will do so. But their first priority is going to have to be the economy.

CURWOOD: Phil, I'd like to ask you to stay on the line with us for a couple of minutes. In the meantime, we're going to turn now to Laura Knoy in Washington., who will run down some of the other significant races around the country dealing with the environment.

Laura, how did the environment do in this election?

KNOY: Well, Steve, the environment played a role in at least a dozen Congressional and Senate races, and in 33 ballot questions in 17 states. Overall, Jim Maddy of the League of Conservation Voters calls the election a net plus for the environment, but not a big one. Maddy says while the Senate gains two pro-environmental votes, the House results were a wash.

MADDY: I don't think there's any gain in the House. There are some very very good people who won, some good people competing in open seats and some challengers who we supported strongly and who won. But we lost some heroes in the House. They didn't lose because of their support for environmental protection, I don't believe, but they lost nonetheless and we've really lost some leaders in the House.

KNOY: Maddy says among those defeated leaders are Democrat Jim Johns of Indiana, who pushed to save old-growth forests; Pennsylvania Democrat Peter Kostmayer; Democrat Jim Cox of Illinois, and New York Republican Bill Greene. Maddy is glad Montana Democrat Pat Williams won his race, and he's very pleased Gerry Studds of Massachusetts won re-election. Maddy says Studds has a good environmental voting record, and is in line to chair a key environmental committee, Merchant Marine and Fisheries. And Maddy's encouraged by some of the new faces in the House. He says Leslie Byrne, Virginia's first female member of Congress, has been a vigorous environmental activist at the state level. And Maddy adds that freshmen from Arizona, Utah and Washington State are all committed environmentalists. Maddy calls the Oregon senate race the biggest disappointment of the elections. Incumbent Republican Bob Packwood beat Democratic representative Les AuCoin.

MADDY: If you watched their television advertising back and forth over the last month, they made a referendum out of the old-growth forest, ancient forest, spotted owl, log exports, all of those things were aired thoroughly, not just in their debate performances but in their paid media, and AuCoin took the position most favorable to the environmental community and lost.

KNOY: Maddy says there was more bad news in New York, where incumbent Republican Alphonse D'Amato barely beat Democrat Robert Abrams. And in North Carolina, where Democrat incumbent Terry Sanford was defeated. On the plus side, according to Maddy, are the victories of Democrats Patty Murray in Washington State, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein in California, and Ben Nighthorse Campbell in Colorado. More conservative environmental analysts also see good news in the election results. John Shanahan of the Heritage Foundation says, with the economy as the voters' first concern, candidates took moderate positions on environmental regulation.

SHANAHAN: Nobody was coming out, it seemed to me, too much across the nation, as being 'I am an extremist on environmental issues,' because they understood the tenor of the entire national campaign, which is what filters down to people no matter what state they're in, is that economy counts and that's what we have to worry about. And anytime you can be attacked for being quote unquote 'an extremist on the environment,' that means you're vulnerable.

KNOY: And Shanahan says economic worries also led to the defeat of several major environmental ballot initiatives. Massachusetts voters rejected a recycling proposal, and a tax on toxic chemicals. In Ohio, a toxics right-to-know measure failed. Shanahan says these proposals were defeated because they were extreme. He says while they were of questionable environmental benefit, there was no question they would have increased business costs, which firms would then pass on to consumers. Several other initiatives also failed, including an attempt to close a nuclear power plant in Oregon, and an effort in Arizona to set up a land trust. Roy Morgan, director of Americans for the Environment, says ballot measures lost where there was organized corporate opposition. Morgan says in Massachusetts and Ohio, business groups outspent initiative supporters by margins of ten, twenty, even 100 to one.

MORGAN: The companies that signed into the campaign to defeat them and made the contributions read like a corporate 500 -- very big corporate interests were threatened in those three states by those three initiatives.

KNOY: Overall, about half of this year's 33 environmental ballot proposals succeeded. Most were non-controversial issues, like preserving open space, creating parks, and one Colorado initiative that bans black-bear hunting in the spring, while females are raising cubs. One final note on environmental issues and the elections: In California, Maine and Arkansas, Green Party candidates won a total of at least nine local seats on city and councils, commissions and boards. I'm Laura Knoy in Washington. Back to you, Steve.

CURWOOD: Thanks, Laura. Let's turn back now to Phil Shabecoff, publisher of the environmental news service Greenwire. Phil, how important was the environment in this election?

SHABECOFF: Well, according to the polls, it was not a primary issue for very many voters. But I think a lot of voters, considering the whole panoply of issues facing them, are very much concerned about the environment, and while they didn't vote primarily on that basis, it weighed heavily in their decisions.

CURWOOD: Related to that -- women were much more interested in the Clinton candidacy than men as a whole, and women are, the polls tell us, more interested in environmental protection than men. Does this shift in the body politic portend anything for you?

SHABECOFF: I think what is interesting about women's participation in the environment is that it happens a great deal at the local level. If you look at grassroots organizations that fight such things as toxic waste dumps, they tend to be women, who live very close to the problems of their children facing these issues. Now some women leaders are being elevated to positions in the Senate, more in the House of Representatives, and I think yes, that does signal a more intimate concern with environmental issues at all levels and at all issues in Congress.

CURWOOD: Thank you very much.

SHABECOFF: Thank you, Steve.

CURWOOD: Phil Shabecoff is publisher of Greenwire, and author of the forthcoming book Fearscreen Fire: A History of the American Environmental Movement.

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The Clinton Watershed

CURWOOD: Joining me now are two people who've watched the development of environmental policy very closely over much of the last dozen years. Tony Ruckle is president of the Sierra Club, and he joins us from member station KCFR in Denver, and Ken Lay is the chairman and chief executive officer of Enron Corporation, which produces and distributes oil and natural gas. Mr. Lay is also a member of President Bush's Commission on Environmental Quality, and he's in the studios of KUHF in Houston. Gentlemen, thanks for joining me. Hello.

LAY: Hello, happy to be with you, Steve.

CURWOOD: Now let me start with you, Tony Ruckle. You could say it's been twelve rather long years out in the cold for environmental groups in Washington. How do you feel about the return of the Democrats to the White House?

RUCKLE: Well, we're elated. I don't know that it's so much defined as Democrats versus Republicans; I think we're elated that a new Administration will be coming in with a commitment to environmental questions and solving environmental problems, and that's really the most important aspect of this. I'd like to characterize it, Steve, as really what we environmentalists generally seek is a hearing, we like an environmental consciousness, and thirdly, and maybe this is what was lacking most, was a commitment to protect or improve the nation's environment. We think we'll have this now. We look forward to a good four years.

CURWOOD: Can the -- business, on the other hand, has had a strong voice in environmental policy over the past dozen years, are you afraid that you might now lose that influence?

LAY: Well, Steve, I think in fact most responsible business leaders today understand that the environment is a very, very critical part of how we do business, how we must do business. And I guess I would disagree a little bit with probably the tone of your question, and maybe even Tony's response. I think a lot of progress has been made in the environmental area in the last twelve years, and particularly the last four years. Of course during the Bush Administration we had passage of the Clean Air Act amendments, which is one of the most comprehensive environmental quality bills ever enacted in Washington. Certainly over the last decade we've seen the percent of gross domestic product going toward environmental cleanup increase, and I think that's going to continue. I suppose our main concern as business leaders is that we in fact do weigh the costs and the benefits of various environmental regulations, and make sure that we are doing things that make good environmental and economic sense. Governor Clinton has said that his number one priority, of course, is to get the economy moving, to do things to stimulate creation of jobs and make the nation more competitive, so I think in fact environmental groups will have more access, but again I hope in fact there is a very careful weighing of the costs and benefits of the various regulations or other matters that the environmental community might want to see.

CURWOOD: I want to ask you both -- during the campaign, Clinton and Gore stressed that economic health would improve along with the environmental health. Do you think that this is a realistic view? Let me start with you, Tony Ruckle.

RUCKLE: Well, I'm glad you asked that question. They emphasized throughout the campaign that the technological innovations and progress that will be necessary to handle our pollution problems, not only on the national scale but on the truly global scale, is an enormous economic opportunity. I really seriously question this jobs-vs.-environment choice that the Bush Administration argued so vehemently. I don't think it's there.

LAY: I would totally agree with Tony. I think in fact having a clean environment and having a more efficient environment are not necessarily contradictory. But again I come back, we need wise environmental policies. There are certainly some ways that you can impose enormous costs on society and on the economy that in fact will not be justified, and I think that we've got to be very careful about that.

CURWOOD: Well, now, let's look ahead for a moment, gentlemen. Now, based on what you both know about the incoming Administration, and of course we don't really know who the specific names and faces that are going to be in a Clinton Administration that'll fill things in -- although we certainly know that Vice President-elect Gore will have a big role in this -- but based on what you do know, what are your highest hopes for environmental policy under President Clinton? Let me start with you, please, Ken Lay.

LAY: I think clearly one area that we're going to see more emphasis on with the Clinton and Gore team will be in this whole area of global warming and carbon dioxide emissions. There's going to be a stronger push for limits and even reductions on carbon dioxide emissions in this new Administration. From the standpoint of my industry, I think the natural gas industry has a very positive role to play in that, and I expect we're going to see a fairly aggressive stance taken on that by the new Administration.

CURWOOD: Let me turn to you, Tony Ruckle -- what are your highest hopes for the environment in a Clinton Administration?

RUCKLE: Well, one of them, obviously, is that progressive businessmen like Ken Lay also have a voice in what happens in the new Administration. We have an agenda, of course, and it's in fact built up over twelve years, although obviously some of the things I will mention are of more recent focus, but next year we have reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act coming up. I expect this to be a very difficult, hard-fought battle. Preservation and protection of wilderness areas around the country have been stymied, almost non-existent over twelve years. We have California desert lands, correction of forestry practices, particularly in old-growth forests, protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I could go on, but I, let me let my colleague have something to say, or you ask another question.

LAY: Well, and Steve, before we leave this, I'll tell you one of my expectations, and that is that we will see a lot more activity on global warming gases. But I guess if I was to give you my hope, it is that we could continue at least some of what started the last few years of more cooperation, more working together between business and environmental groups. But secondly, that where possible we continue to rely primarily on market forces and on incentives and disincentives to achieve our environmental goals, versus returning to kind of the command-control procedure that we almost entirely relied on fifteen or twenty years ago.

CURWOOD: Thank you both. Tony Ruckle is president of the Sierra Club, he joined us from Denver; and Kenneth Lay is chief executive officer of Enron Corporation, in Houston. Thank you both for joining us.

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(Music sting out)

What Might Have Been

CURWOOD: With the benefit of what President Bush recently called "90-90 hindsight," commentator John Carroll says every candidate managed to miss the environmental boat during the campaign.

CARROLL: The environment wasn't exactly the strong suit of this year's crop of Presidential candidates, but then again, nothing was, really. Even so, if they had just put the proper spin on their records, they could have made organically-grown hay while the sun was shining through the ozone holes. As it was, they wound up missing more opportunities than Mike Dukakis in a tall man's shop. George Bush, for instance, should have jumped on a report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in mid-October. The EPA announced that air quality in 41 cities across the country had improved enough to meet Federal smog standards. The agency attributed the improvement in part to the cool weather conditions in 1991, and reduced industrial activity. That was the cue for President Lip Service to come forward and say, "I did that. I'm the one who reduced industrial activity and I can do it again, if you'll just give me four more years. And the next time the Sierra Club accuses me of gutting the Clean Air Act, you just tell them to go jump in an empty factory." That's one way to get the spotted-owl crowd off your back. We're talking about a whole new kind of negative advertising here, and as a special bonus, it hasn't even been discredited by the vast army of clock-watching pundits yet.

Bill Clinton could have used this technique as well. Instead of defending his spotty performance on forest preservation or the pollution of Arkansas' water supply, he could have focused on the problem of global warming. "My state ranks 47th in the nation in average income," he could have said. "We don't have enough money to turn the heat on. How are we going to contribute to global warming?" You have to admit, it's pretty hard to attack that sort of logic.

Ross Perot, for his part, doesn't have much of an environmental record at all, except for some night maneuver development of wetlands in the Dallas area. But he could have scored some big points if he had revealed the countless death threats he'd received from the United Hairstylists of America. While they were busy scheming against the Bantam Billionaire and his family, significant numbers of non-recyclable hairspray cans have stayed on their shelves, and out of the nation's landfills. Chalk one up for the little guy.

By adopting this revolutionary approach, the next group of Presidential candidates could effectively make the most -- or least -- of their environmental records. Whichever comes first.

CURWOOD: John Carroll is head of Carroll Creative in Boston, and a commentator for Living on Earth.

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(Music up and under)

And for this week, that's Living on Earth.

If you have any questions or comments about Living on Earth, give us a call on our listener comment line at 617-868-7454. Or you can write to us at Living on Earth. . . Box 639. . . Cambridge, Massachusetts. . . 02238. Transcripts and tapes are available for ten dollars.

Our program is edited and produced by Peter Thomson. Deborah Stavro directs the program. The coordinating producer is George Homsy. . . and we had help from Kim Motylewski, Lucia Small, and Colleen Singer. Our engineer is Laurie Azaria. Living on Earth is a project of the World Media Foundation, in co-operation with the Public Media Foundation and WBUR, Boston. Our theme music was composed by Michael Aharon. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer.

(Theme music up and under funding credits)


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