Environmentalists said they are bracing for the Bush White House to dismantle more environmental protection rules from the Clinton Administration, ranging from caps on mercury emissions to limits on manure from factory farms.
Bush last week suspended tighter standards for gold and silver mining waste and for arsenic in drinking water.
He also reversed a campaign promise to limit the amount of carbon dioxide emissions form power plants, viewed by many scientists as a major cause of global warming.
Bush defended his decision by saying it was necessary to keep U.S. power plants operating at full tilt to provide enough energy.
Any hopes of a moderate approach by the Bush Administration to environmental issues have been dashed, according to some green groups.
"President Bush''s attack on our fish, forest and wildlife is like taking a jack hammer to the Sistine Chapel," said Brian Vincent, California organizer for American Lands.
The Bush Administration''s moves on environment and energy issues are likely to trigger some of the most contentious battles in Congress this year.
Democrats in Congress have joined with their environmental supporters in denouncing the decisions, claiming the energy and mining special interests who supported Bush''s presidency are now rewriting the rules for protecting the environment.
On Thursday, Senate Democrats said Bush had "declared war" on the environment and demanded top agency officials to turn over memos and documents showing why the administration was reversing some environmental rules.
"The decisions to try to rescind the arsenic rule and suspend mining regulation threaten to roll us right back to the Stone Age," said Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, ranking Democrat on the Senate committee that oversee government regulatory affairs.
Another area of concern is the president''s campaign promise to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.
The 19-million acre refuge, on Alaska''s northeast coast, is home to polar bears, caribou and other wildlife.
The National Resources Defense Council said it believes other last-minute Clinton actions in the following areas are under attack by the new White House:
- Protection for wild forests.
- Appliance efficiency improvements.
- Air quality in national parks.
- Protection for wetlands.
- Limits on ocean discharges.
- Restrictions on snowmobiles in national parks.
- Endangered species protections.
- Reducing factory farm pollution.
Republican sources say that the green groups aren''t fairly assessing the Bush Administration, noting the fact that EPA has left in place a rule issued by the outgoing Clinton Administration to clean up diesel engines and fuel.
They said this past week also saw EPA agree to maintain a court settlement by the Clinton Administration to assess the impact of crop pesticides on children.
by Virginia Sutcliffe