American Rivers warns Bush, 'Sacrificing the environment won't solve the energy crisis'

The president of the American Rivers association issued a public statement today criticizing President George W. Bush's remarks about the energy crisis.

Jan. 25, 2001—President George W. Bush in his first week in Washington has warned of a "huge energy crisis," threatened to explore the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drill for oil and gas, rejected calls to remove dams to save Pacific salmon, and told CNN, "If there's any environmental regulations that's preventing California from having a 100 percent max output at their plants, as I understand there may be, then we need to relax those regulations."

By early February, the president's allies in Congress plan to introduce legislation to make use of the Arctic Refuge - among other measures that would give up too much, to get too little energy, too late, the association said.

In response, American Rivers President Rebecca R. Wodder today issued the following statement:

"President Bush has wasted no time in declaring that the 'energy crisis' warrants a rollback in environmental regulations. This is hasty, unwise, and unnecessary, and it's not what the American people voted for on Election Day.

"The short-term energy problems that California is experiencing are the fault of poor management and maintenance by the utility corporations themselves, combined with a failed state deregulation scheme. The new president should not try to blame those problems on citizens who want their environment protected, or imagine that rolling back environmental protections will solve them."

On removing dams to save salmon, she said:

"In particular, American Rivers rejects the notion that America has to give up on saving the legendary wild salmon of the Snake River just to close a short-term gap between energy supply and demand. Although the President has claimed that, 'I don't notice anybody talking anymore about breaching the dams to save the salmon now that there's a huge energy crisis,' the two are not linked. The existing energy shortage will be resolved in the next few years, whereas the removal of the Snake River dams will not occur for at least five years. The weight of scientific evidence indicates that the Snake River's wild salmon will go extinct without dam breaching. And as recently as last month, tens of thousands of Northwest residents successfully appealed to the White House to set dam removal in motion in five years, if needed to save the salmon.

"Demand can and will be reduced immediately through conservation. Efficiency measures can follow; we still waste two out of every three energy dollars in this country. And within 2-3 years, new generating plants with pollution-limiting technology will be online to handle future needs. Driving wild salmon into extinction for eternity is not worth a tiny fraction of one percent of our nation's energy needs, which is all it would take to remove four Snake River dams that are killing salmon, and to operate all the rest of the nation's hydroelectric dams in an environmentally sound manner. Finding such win-win solutions is the goal of the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, which American Rivers is proud to support."

On the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, she said:

"We also reject the claim that it is necessary to invade one of our country's most pristine environmental sanctuaries with drilling rigs, waste dumps, roads, pipelines, and other facilities that would permanently scar the land, fragment wildlife habitat, and clog its rivers, for the sake of a few months' worth of energy, 10 years or more from now. Ruining the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for a few months' supply of oil that far in the future will in no way benefit California's present and future needs for electricity.

"President Bush has stated twice in the past week that he will review 'all federal lands' for oil and gas exploration, without any mention of excluding national parks, monuments, wilderness areas, other wild public lands, or wild and scenic river corridors from the review. That would turn on its head decades of precedents on protecting our most sensitive federal lands."

On solving the "energy crisis", she said:

"Will we sacrifice the last best places and the last of wild species to avoid acting responsibly for a few more years?

"What will it take for us, as a nation, to get serious about renewable energy and conservation?

"What will it take to get far-sighted leadership from our elected officials that will put us on a path to a sustainable future?

"So far, the Bush administration's solutions to the short-term energy shortage in California seem to be to dam, dig, drill, and burn our way out. This will not only fail to help those who are now suffering from rolling blackouts, it will endanger the health of our citizens and leave future generations with a legacy of destruction and extinction.

"We don't have to give up environmental protection for economic progress. Instead, we need solutions that are sustainable and forward-thinking:

* "We must ensure that we use best practices and state-of-the-art technologies in our current energy production methods;

* "We must further develop and support alternative technologies, including wind power, fuel cells, and decentralized energy production;

* "And we must aggressively support energy efficiency and conservation programs that will allow us to enjoy a better standard of living while using half of the energy, as people already do in Japan and Europe.

* "This is the best path out of the current energy shortfall, not slashing environmental protections we'll need long after this current crisis has passed."

For more information visit the association's web site at http://www.americanrivers.org/.

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