George W. Bush on Environment

President of the United States, Former Republican Governor (TX)


For mountaintop mining in WV; for more water flows in MO

Mountaintop mining was an important issue in West Virginia. It was critical to keeping WV coal competitive and West Virginians employed. We were for it; Gore wholeheartedly opposed it. IA and MO farmers, meanwhile, were concerned about efforts to withhol water flowing into the Missouri River. They depended on the water flows to ship their crops on barges. Gore, however, was held hostage to Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), who preferred to keep the water penned up in reservoirs in his state. Gore said nothing; we spoke out in favor. New Mexicans were worried that environmentalists would shut down development in the state in order to save the Rio Grande minnow--a concern Bush shared and Gore seemed unaware of. And communities in the Pacific Northwest were all spun up by calls from environmentalists to destroy the region's dams, a source of jobs and inexpensive green power. We wanted the dams preserved. Banging away on these issue was vital to our efforts, even though they were never picked up by the national media
Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.159 , Mar 9, 2010

Katrina shocked America into acknowledging social divides

The election of George Bush and the events of September 11, 2001, closed the door on any serious public discussion at the national level about race. It took Katrina to shock Americans (though sadly not their national leaders) into acknowledging the extreme social divides in the country, while the massive demonstrations by Hispanics in 2006 underscored the need for just and comprehensive immigration reform.
Source: Trustbuilding, by Rob Corcoran, p.123 , Mar 4, 2010

OpEd: Saved 10 lives per year by ending arsenic restrictions

50 parts per billion of arsenic in drinking water [was] the standard since 1942. But just days before Clinton left office, the EPA suddenly issued a new rule that would lower the standard to 10 parts per billion over a 5 year period.

In order to comply with the new rule, small towns in western states, where arsenic naturally occurs, would be forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new water plants. The liberal Brookings Institution and the conservative American Enterprise Institute produced a joint study showing that rather than saving lives, the new standard would actually cost about 10 lives annually. Money spent on new water-treatment plants is money that is not being spent on ambulances, cancer research, and healthy food.

[By repealing the rule, those 10 lives would be saved]. But the facts were irrelevant when the word "arsenic" allowed liberals to scream that Bush was poisoning us.

Source: Guilty, by Ann Coulter, p.205-206 , Nov 10, 2009

Katrina flyover image interpreted as detached & powerless

After Katrina, we boarded Air Force for the flyover Karl Rove had insisted on. From a technical standpoint, the flyover proceeded beautifully. As Air Force One neared New Orleans, it descended to a lower altitude.

In all, we spent about 35 minutes flying at about 2,500 feet over New Orleans and the Mississippi coastal cities. The mood in the cabin was somber. All of us, including the president, were struck by just how devastating the storm had been.

Newscasts that night included pictures of Bush gazing out the window. One commentator said, "It was the most damaging photos of his presidency. The president appeared detached and powerless, unable even to comprehend how he might use the government to help his own people."

Bush was certainly moved by the devastation he witnessed during the flyover, but it's impossible to truly feel the agony of those below from the luxury and comfort of Air Force One. Real empathy can only happen when meeting victims face-to-face.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p.281-282 , May 28, 2008

Proposed different measures to improve the environment

Q: What specifically has your administration done to improve the condition of our nation’s air and water supply?

A: Off-road diesel engines, we a reached an agreement to reduce pollution from off-road diesel engines by 90%. I’ve got a plan to increase the wetlands by 3 million. We’ve got an aggressive brownfield program to refurbish inner-city sore spots to useful pieces of property. I proposed to the Congress a Clear Skies Initiative to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by 70%. I fought for a strong title in the farm bill for the conservation reserve program to set aside millions of acres of land for - to help improve wildlife and the habitat. We proposed and passed a healthy forest bill to protect old stands of trees and at the same time, make sure our forests aren’t vulnerable to the forest fires that have destroyed acres after acres in the West. I proposed a hydrogen-generated automobile. We’re spending a billion dollars to come up with the technologies to do that.

Source: Second Bush-Kerry Debate, in St. Louis MO , Oct 8, 2004

Clear Skies Initiative improves air quality now

The Clear Skies Initiative would bring cleaner air to Americans faster, more reliably, and more cost-effectively than under current law. It would save Americans as much as $1 billion annually in compliance costs, while improving air quality and protecting the reliability and affordability of electricity for consumers. Clear Skies would cut pollution further, faster, cheaper - and with more certainty - eliminating the need for expensive and uncertain litigation as a means of achieving clean air.
Source: 2004 Presidential website, georgewbush.com , Aug 30, 2003

Restrict wetland development, but not arsenic or CO2

Bush faces a choice of either embracing Clinton’s pro-green agenda [of several executive orders Clinton signed in his final weeks in office] or being labeled anti-environment by detractors and the press. Based on the coverage of the past few weeks, you’d have to say the Clinton strategy worked. But now, Bush has clearly stopped playing along.

The EPA did accept a Clinton rule restricting development in wetlands and said that it would keep new energy-efficiency requirements for washing machines and water heaters. But last month, Bush blocked implementation of a tighter limit on the amount of arsenic in water, suspended new cleanup requirements for mining companies, abandoned US participation in the Kyoto global warming treaty and renounced a campaign promise to restrict carbon dioxide emissions.

Source: Howard Kurtz, Washington Post on 2002 election , Apr 18, 2001

More lead emission reporting requirements

The Bush administration announced yesterday it will require thousands more manufacturers to disclose their releases of toxic lead into the environment, upholding a stricter lead-reporting regulation issued in the waning days of the Clinton presidency, despite the vehement objections of business groups. The decision requires manufacturing and processing plants to report the emission of lead or lead compounds if they total 100 pounds a year, a much tougher standard than the current 10,000 pounds. The new standard will expand the reporting requirement to an estimated 3,600 more businesses.

In announcing his decision on lead, Bush said he “will continue to support and promote efforts based on sound science to clean our air, water & land.. Lead is a persistent and highly toxic substance that can cause a range of environmental and health problems. Lead has an especially harmful impact on the health of children and infants. And it is found too often in some of America’s older, poorer communities.”

Source: Mike Allen, Washington Post, p A1 on 2000 election , Apr 18, 2001

1999: Modernize model of "mandate, regulate and litigate"

Gov. Bush committed to a new era of environmental protection. Bush was the second Republican presidential candidate to truly approach his campaign with a specific environmental agenda--the first being his father only 12 years earlier. The younger Bush asserted that the 30-year-old model of "mandate, regulate and litigate" needed to be modernized. Bush explained that the system encouraged Americans to do the bare minimum to protect the environment and failed to reward advances, innovations, or results.
Source: Cameron Lynch in W&M Env. Law Review, vol. 26 #1, p.234 , Jan 1, 2001

Weaken Clean Air; no comment on Clean Water

ForestsOpposes ban on logging in roadless areas of national forests; supports Tropical Forest Conservation ActSupports protection of 40 million acres of roadless national forests from logging
Air PollutionLobbied to weaken Clean Air Act enforcementNew clean air standards approved under Clinton/Gore
Water PollutionBush’s position papers contain no mention of clean waterBacks federal regulations on factory-farm runoff; worked to strengthen Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act
Brownfield CleanupSupports “more flexibility” in cleanup regulations; supports liability protection for re-developersSupports existing cleanup regulations; under Clinton/Gore, three times as many toxic waste sites cleaned up as in previous 12 years
Source: Boston Globe on 2000 race, p. A28 , Nov 3, 2000

Incentives for private land stewardship & conservation

    To provide resources for conservation and encourage more Americans to take an active role in protecting natural resources and wildlife, Governor Bush proposed:
  1. Fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provide 50% for state and local conservation efforts.
  2. Provide matching grants for states to establish a Landowner Incentive Program to help private landowners protect rare species while engaging in traditional land management practices, and establish a Private Stewardship Grant Program to provide funding for private conservation initiatives.
  3. Establish the President’s Awards for Private Stewardship to recognize and honor the best examples of private conservation.
  4. Create a tax incentive to provide capital gains tax relief for private landowners who voluntarily sell their land for conservation purposes.
  5. Eliminate the estate tax. This will make it easier for private landowners to pass their land intact to the next generation.
Source: P.R. for Sand Harbor speech, part of “Renewing America” , Jun 1, 2000

Conservation partnerships to protect lands & watersheds

Since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, there has been a consensus that Americans have a common interest in protecting our natural lands & watersheds. It is our duty to use the lands well, and sometimes not to use them at all. It is our responsibility as citizens, but more than that it is our calling as stewards of the earth.

The federal government has a crucial role to play in conservation-particularly in managing our national forests, our park system, wilderness areas, and national wildlife refuges. But problems arise when leaders reject partnership, and rely solely on the power of Washington-on regulations, penalties, and dictation from afar.

It’s time to build conservation partnerships between the federal government and state governments, local communities and private landowners. In all these efforts, we see the future of conservation. What is the federal role? To provide the scientific and financial resources to help states, local communities and private landowners preserve land and wildlife.

Source: Sand Harbor speech, part of “Renewing America’s Purpose” , Jun 1, 2000

$60M for private stewardship; tax break on conservation land

I will seek to fully fund the Land & Water Conservation Fund-to its authorized level of $900 million. Half of those funds [should] be devoted to state & local conservation. I will ask that $50 million be used to help states set up Landowner Incentive Programs, similar to ours in Texas. And $10 million for a Private Stewardship Program-making grants available to individuals and groups engaged in private conservation. I will establish the President’s Awards for Private Stewardship, to recognize outstanding examples of private stewardship, and to publicize innovative techniques in natural resource management. I will seek an additional tax incentive to encourage private conservation. Incentives already exist in the tax code, but only if the land is given away. Many private landowners want their property to be conserved, but are in no position to give it away. Under my proposal, the seller would receive a 50% break on his or her capital gain if the land is sold for conservation purposes.
Source: Sand Harbor speech, part of “Renewing America’s Purpose” , Jun 1, 2000

Superfund failing: too costly; too litigious; too complex

    The federal Superfund statute was passed by Congress in 1980 to ensure that the worst contaminated sites in the country would be promptly cleaned up. However, Superfund has failed in its mission:
  1. It has proven both expensive and inefficient. Of the 1,231 Superfund sites, only 595 have been cleaned up as of June 30, 1999. Moreover, while Superfund was expected to cost $5 billion and complete all cleanups in less than five years, actual Superfund spending has exceeded $30 billion and the current average length of cleanups is eight years.
  2. Superfund has promoted costly litigation: 36% of the $11 billion spent by the private sector on Superfund in the first ten years of the program went not to clean up contaminated sites, but to pay consultants’ and lawyers’ fees and other litigation costs
  3. Superfund has actually had a chilling effect on brownfield cleanup, because a brownfield can be subjected at any time to Superfund and its complex regulations and liability scheme.
Source: Press Release, part of “Renewing America’s Purpose” , Apr 3, 2000

Keep drilling; keep dams; keep private property

Source: GeorgeWBush.com: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ , Apr 2, 2000

George W. Bush on Brownfields + Parks

$6.5B to erase national parks' repair backlog

Bush's strong environmental record goes on and on: it includes his "Healthy Forest" initiative, which improved more than 27 million acres of federal forest, the $6.5 billion he spent to erase the national parks' maintenance and repairs backlog, his initiative to restore 3 million acres of wetlands, his brownfields legislation that in just two years doubled the number of grants to clean up environmentally damaged industrial sites, and his creation of the world's largest marine preserve.
Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.243 , Nov 2, 2010

Proposes $211M to cleaning up brownfields

President Bush is committed to accelerating the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated, underutilized industrial sites. The revitalization of brownfields serves to improve the environment, protect public health, create jobs, & revitalize communities. The President’s FY04 budget proposal provides $211 million - almost 130 percent more than when President Bush took office - for EPA’s brownfields cleanup program.
Source: 2004 Presidential website, georgewbush.com , Aug 30, 2003

$450M annually for wildlife and open spaces

Source: Blueprint for the Middle Class , Sep 17, 2000

$4.9B to repair “crumbling” national parks

Bush said too many federal dollars were spent acquiring land and not maintaining existing properties. “Under this administration, the parks are in worse shape than ever before. For eight years, this administration has talked of environmentalism while our national parks are crumbling.” He pledged to push Congress to spend about $4.9 billion more to pay for a backlog of repairs on deteriorating highways and tourist attractions and to purify polluted streams in national parks.
Source: AP story in NY Times on 2000 election , Sep 13, 2000

Reinvest in Conservation Fund; repair parks & refuges

Source: GeorgeWBush.com: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ , Apr 2, 2000

George W. Bush on Federal Role

Katrina: Posse Comitatus Act prevents feds from sending help

Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D, LA) reached the president [regarding Hurricane Katrina in Sept 2005. "I just asked him for help," she later said, including 40,000 troops. But Blanco couldn't say what she needed troops for, which would dictate the kind of units we would dispatch. Did she need engineering, medical, or other specialized support? If she just needed bodies to hand out water & deliver MREs, she had thousands of Louisiana National Guard units.

It seemed her big concern was public safety: she wanted the US military to restore order. But that was illegal. Since the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, the military cannot be used for law enforcement & only the president can command the US military, not state or local officials. Blanco didn't seem to get this.

Because we weren't getting clear information or specific requests from Blanco, our strong preference was to "federalize" the event. FEMA director Mike Brown asked Blanco to federalize the effort on Tuesday, the day after Katrina hit. She declined.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.446-447 , Mar 9, 2010

Katrina response overshadowed by FEMA botch-job perception

On Sep. 2, Bush's visit to the flood zone did little to improve public perceptions of the administration's handling of Katrina. In fact, as far as most Americans are concerned, it produced only two noteworthy moments, both of them embarrassments.

The first was his off-key focus on the heavily damaged vacation home of Republican Senator Trent Lott. Surrounded as he was by the devastated homes of thousands of Mississippians, the remarks seemed ill timed at best, callous at worst.

The second clinker: Bush singled out the beleaguered Michael Brown for praise, using a line that has become infamous: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job!" Even Brown looked embarrassed, and no wonder; most Americans had already concluded that the FEMA director was in over his head. Brown ultimately resigned. For Bush to commend him publicly suggested either that the president's well-known belief in personal loyalty was overwhelming his judgment or that he still didn't realize how bad things were on the Gulf Coast.

Source: What Happened, by Scott McClellan, p.288-290 , May 28, 2008

Good stewardship is personal responsibility and public value

President Bush believes that good stewardship of the environment is not just a personal responsibility, it is a public value. Americans are united in the belief that it is important to preserve our natural heritage and safeguard the land around us. The President believes that the federal government has an important role to play in protecting our environment. The President favors common-sense approaches to improving the environment while protecting the quality of American life.
Source: 2004 Presidential website, georgewbush.com , Aug 30, 2003

Natural resources & environment funding in FY04 highest ever

At $44.9 billion, the President’s FY04 environment and natural resources budget request is the highest ever. The Budget funds the nation’s priorities of protecting our drinking water, reducing pollution, cleaning up industrial waste sites, protecting our national parks and refuges, and helping farmers conserve on private lands as well.
Source: 2004 Presidential website, georgewbush.com , Aug 30, 2003

1999: Superfund cleanup is inefficient and cumbersome

More than just defend his stances on environmental issues, Bush actually went so far as to attack his opponent regarding environmental issues. Bush challenged the Vice President's Superfund cleanup program as inefficient and cumbersome and used his home state of Texas, as well as heavily industrial Pennsylvania as examples of state control where environmental monitoring was successful. While Bush appeared to seek to strengthen environmental policy, he also managed to stay somewhat true to a traditional Republican model of government by vowing to return significant authority to states and local communities. Bush promised that new market-based incentives would be developed in order to meet and exceed America's environmental standards. Finally, Bush promised that the federal government--the nation's largest polluter--would comply with and exceed all environmental standards it would implement. Critics attacked Bush's platform as weak, more centered toward industry, and not expansive enough.
Source: Cameron Lynch in W&M Env. Law Review, vol. 26 #1, p.234-235 , Jan 1, 2001

Federal standards+local collaboration; no command & control

GORE [to Bush]: He’s right that I’m not in favor of energy taxes. I am in favor of tax cuts to encourage and give incentives for the quicker development of these new kinds of technologies and let me say again, Detroit is raring to go on that. We differ on whether or not pollution controls ought to be voluntary. I don’t think you can get results that way.

BUSH: I don’t believe in command and control out of Washington, D.C. I believe Washington ought to set standards, but we ought to be collaborative at the local levels.

Q: Would the federal government still have some new regulations to pass?

BUSH: Sure, absolutely, so long as they’re based upon science and they’re reasonable, so long as people have input.

GORE: I’m not for command and control techniques either. I’m for working with the groups, not just with industry but also with the citizens groups and local communities to control sprawl in ways that the local communities themselves come up with.

Source: (X-ref Gore) Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University , Oct 11, 2000

Replace mandate/regulate/litigate with decentralized efforts

Source: The Economist, “Issues 2000” special , Sep 30, 2000

Can’t sue our way to clean air & water--work with industry

Bush yesterday announced his first environmental initiative: to quicken the cleanup and redevelopment of polluted industrial sites known as brownfields. Bush said that under his plan, state and local governments would work with private industry to develop new environmental standards, rather than battling them in the courtroom. “The government cannot sue its way to clean air and water,” Bush said.
Source: Audrey Hudson, Washington Times, p. A4 , Apr 4, 2000

Keep fed enviro role but give money & flexibility to states

Bush unveiled proposals yesterday prescribing flexible standards and technology as the best antidote for pollution and blight. “Prosperity will mean little if we leave to future generations a world of polluted air, toxic lakes and rivers, and vanished forests,” Bush said.
He pledged, if elected, to eliminate red tape and give states the money and regulatory flexibility to clean up hundreds of similar sites on an accelerated schedule. “The solution is not to eliminate the federal role in protecting the environment,“ he said, ”the solution is reform--reform that sets high standards.“
Bush argued that rigid, complex regulations can be obstacles to cleaner cities. ”[Texas] didn’t wait for Al Gore to wave his magic wand to clean up our environment,“ he said. ”We cleaned it up ourself, and out state’s the better for it.“
Source: Washington Post, p. A6 on 2000 election , Apr 4, 2000

Base enviro decisions on science & market-driven solutions

Source: GeorgeWBush.com: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ , Apr 2, 2000

  • Click here for 12 older quotations from George W. Bush on Environment.
  • Click here for definitions & background information on Environment.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by George W. Bush.
  • Click here for AmericansElect.org quiz by George W. Bush.
Other past presidents on Environment: George W. Bush on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

Political Parties:
Republican Party
Democratic Party
Libertarian Party
Green Party
Reform Party
Natural Law Party
Tea Party
Constitution Party
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022