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Environmentalists send their wish list to Obama

Twenty-eight green groups compile 359 pages of suggestions, hoping for a green revival post-Bush.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / December 10, 2008

A wind turbine blade is unveiled during the opening of the Vestas blade factory in Windsor, Colo., Wednesday, March 5, 2008. The authors of the "Transition to Green" report argue that clean energy and new jobs can go hand in hand.

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey


The toxic lead-tainted earth that crunches under Rebecca Jim’s feet when the environmental activist visits Tar Creek in northeast Oklahoma reminds her that in the United States today, the “polluter doesn’t pay.”

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Lead and zinc mining over a century turned Tar Creek orange, poisoned residents, and made it the nation’s first Superfund toxic cleanup site in 1983. But a quarter century later, the federal cleanup fund is broke and the 40-square-mile area dubbed the “worst toxic waste site in the nation” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still a mess.

High on the Christmas wish list for Ms. Jim and other environmentalists is fixing Tar Creek by restoring the Superfund with fees on polluting companies. Such funding would also help clean up some 1,200 other languishing sites nationwide – and that’s just the beginning.

An enormous environmental tally awaits the incoming Obama administration. After an eight-year pitched battle with the Bush administration, environmentalists see a golden opportunity
to begin making progress on issues ranging from climate change and water pollution to mountaintop-removal coal mining and energy efficiency in autos and buildings.

The massive environmental mountain awaiting Mr. Obama’s administration is chronicled in a 359-page wish list of hundreds of problems the environmental community is eager to start addressing once President Bush leaves town.

High on the list is retightening regulations made lax in myriad ways or even gutted during the Bush years to favor industry, these greens say.

“We’re emerging from the dark ages of pollution to a president that understands climate change and how to use green jobs as a way to build the economy of the future,” says Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth. “It’s a message for the 21st century. In that context, the environmental community has put forward an exciting agenda.”

Remarkable for its specificity and breadth, the “Transition to Green” report by 28 environmental groups offers the Obama team a road map for policy changes across 95 core issues and 29 federal agencies – from the EPA and the Interior Department to the Department of Homeland Security.

Proposals fit four broad categories:

Energy and jobs. Economic vitality, clean energy, and climate solutions go hand in hand, the report says. Investing in clean energy, if done right, will generate millions of jobs.

Environmental justice. Instead of locating waste dumps and dirty power plants in low-income communities, a shift should bring hybrid cars and solar panel construction jobs to such neighborhoods.
Science-based decisionmaking. In­­stead of political ideology, federal agencies should set their agenda using scientific consensus.