Native Groups Take On Mining Interests

nafacAfter a protracted battle against a uranium processing company, the activist group Native Americans for a Clean Environment (NACE) played an instrumental role in shutting down the eastern Oklahoma facility last November. Sequoyah Fuels, which processed uranium for bombs and nuclear reactors, had been cited for over 15,000 violations of state and federal law over its 21-year history. Among other irregularities, the company disposed of thousands of tons of toxic and radioactive waste by calling it fertilizer, and a number of frogs with extra legs (one had nine) have been spotted near the facility. The final straw came when Sequoyah Fuels had an accident releasing a large cloud of nitrogen dioxide that caused about 30 area residents to be hospitalized.

Sequoyah Fuels may have been the most harmful employer in Vian and nearby Tahlequah, Oklahoma, but it was also one of the largest. And NACE’s Julie Moss is well aware of that fact. Sequoyah Fuels employed a number of Native Americans in a county that is 30 percent Cherokee.

“In the Cherokee Nation, unemployment and poverty levels are routinely two to three times higher than for nearby whites,” Moss says. “I think we have a responsibility to do something about that. ”

This fall NACE is embarking on an economic conversion pilot project to change those statistics and serve as a model for other Native American communities and reservations. One aspect of the project will be attracting ecologically safe and green businesses to the area. Another is self-empowerment of residents. NACE hopes to start a peer group lending program where money is lent to a group of people instead of just one person; they all co-sign the loan, divide the money and are collectively responsible for paying it back. A program like this would work smoothly because of the strong tradition of solidarity in Native American communities, Moss says.

“A lot of our view or context is outside of the mainstream thinking. The dependency cycle and colonialism leaves us on the outside and unable to participate in mainstream economics,” Moss says. “What we need is to build bridges between the mainstream and where our people are.”

NACE is one of a growing number of indigenous activist groups seeking innovative ways to build these bridges. As the United Nations largely unheralded “Indigenous Peoples International Year” draws to a close, Environmental Action takes a look at the conflicts between economic development and environmental protection in the Americas.

In the United States alone, there are more than 500 Native American tribes and communities, with a population of about 2 million, or .6 percent of the total population. In Canada native peoples make up 4 percent of the population. Numbers of indigenous people vary greatly by country in Central America. In Costa Rica, they comprise I percent of the population, but four main tribes in Guatemala make up half of the country’s population. The same is true of South America, home to 15 million indigenous people; indigenous people make up. 1 percent of the population in Argentina and 40 percent in Peru.

The thousands of culturally distinct bands of indigenous peoples in the Americas have one thing in common: their inherent wealth – the land and the life it supports – has been parceled out, sold wholesale and marginalized to a point where it can no longer provide for its first inhabitants. In some cases indigenous people have successfully fought back, but elsewhere they are being forced from even the small areas of land allotted to them. For example:

The massive James Bay hydroelectric electric project in Quebec could eventually include 600 dams, blocking 11 rivers and creating a watershed area three times as large as New York state. Already the first phase of Hydro Quebec has flooded thousands of acres that were home to Cree and Inuit people and spread mercury contamination to fish. The next phase isn’t flowing as smoothly as developers hoped: Cree, Inuits and environmentalists are contesting in court the second phase of the project. And last year New York decided to withdraw from a contract worth $12.5 billion to buy electricity over the next two decades.

Two years ago, North America’s northern most indigenous people – the Gwich’in – waged a successful battle against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a centerpiece of President Bush’s energy strategy. The Gwich’in’s culture, religion, nutrition and economy are all tied to the 200,000-member caribou herd that migrates through the refuge. During the debates over the energy bill, two members of the Gwich’in tribe testified before Congress.

In Ecuador, 900 Waorani may lose the last reaches of their forest homeland to oil companies. Nine oil companies have already been granted access to the Waorani’s land by the Ecuadoran government. Initially, Waorani were promised jobs to clear forests, but as pollution and land loss eroded their economic base, no major oil companies have hired them. In the last few years, palm oil plantations have begun operations in the country as well, affecting the 35,000 Quichua people as pesticides drift into nearby rivers, contaminating fish.

In Brazil, 50,000 gold prospectors have poured into land historically belonging to the Yanomami Indians. Miners have cleared forests, destroyed soil, diverted rivers and polluted them with mercury. In August, miners murdered at least 40 Yanomami, a sharp escalation of the violence by gold prospectors who say the indigeneous people are inhibiting their mining efforts.

It’s nearly impossible to calculate just what has been and is being lost in economic terms as a result of the marginalization of indigenous peoples. In the United States, where statistics are most readily available, Native Americans have an unemployment rate of 45 percent, and only 25 percent of the population made over $7,000 in 1989, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). On some reservations, the unemployment rate can reach up to 85 percent.

But BIA spokesperson Carl Shaw scoffs at the unemployment figures. “I don’t believe them. They’re way too high,” he says candidly. “If you come to Washington and say unemployment is 1 percent or 5 percent, who’s going to listen? But if you say 60 percent or 35 percent, everyone jumps up and says we’ve got to do something.”

That’s just the sort of attitude Chris Peters, executive director of the Seventh Generation Fund, a group that gives grants to Native American activists, hates. While he concurs that some income doesn’t get counted because of subsistence hunting and fishing and home businesses, he says reservations still house the poorest people in this country. And they are looking for more than a government handout.

“On Indian reservations the Euro-American capitalism economic model has failed. It was based on resource and labor exploitation and that model just doesn’t work any more,” Peters explains.

What’s needed is seed money to get businesses off. the ground or bolster an on-going small business, says Sandra Abrams, a program manager with the First Nations Fund, which, in a similar program to Seventh Generation, awards grants to indigenous economic projects.

Both Abrams and Peters advocate small community businesses that work in harmony with the land. The Seventh Generation Fund has given grants of $1,000 to $9,000 for such projects as the Columbia River Defense Project. The project was established to protect the fishing rights of native people and the environmental integrity of the river against contamination by the Hanford nuclear facilities in Washington. Seventh Generation also gave a grant to the group Dine CARE (Citizens Against Ruining our Environment). The group successfully defeated a proposed toxic waste incinerator for the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and now serves as a model for other native environmental organizations.

In contrast to the long-term, micro-enterprise models advocated by Seventh Generation and First Nations, far more lucrative – and many times more dangerous – deals have been proposed for reservations in recent years. Seventeen tribes have or are considering siting a temporary nuclear waste site – termed monitored retrievable storage, or Mrs – on their reservations in exchange for millions of dollars. And private waste companies have promised big money for landfills, hazardous waste incinerators and mining operations. In addition, because reservations are sovereign entitities and not subject to state laws, ten so far have been enticed to build gambling casinos.

But NACE’s Moss views both gambling and waste proposals as economic quick fixes. “It’s almost the exact thing the U.S. is doing in the Third World, going to the desperately poor who are going to find all that money pretty hard to refuse. Especially with the MRS’s, ifs insidiously sinister and cold-blooded to do that without presenting the dangers.”

And in Central and South America, the story is much the same: marauding entrepreneurs and mega-corporations taking and polluting land that for thousands of years belonged to indigenous people. To explore the similarities of the problems of indigenous people in North, South and Central America, a conference sponsored by the Continental Community of Indigenous Nations is scheduled for October in Mexico. Land rights, development and the environment will be featured.

“The struggle over Indian lands in the United States last century and the first part of this one is the same as what is happening all over the world now,” says Jacob Scherr, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Fund. “Indigenous people are sitting on top of oil and gold and trees, exactly what big companies covet, and they’re being exploited.”

Seventh Generation’s Chris Peters also points to the parallels between exploitation above and below the equator. A prophecy, he says, talks of a day when indigenous people in North and South America will join forces to protect the land and their heritage.

Waste On Reservations? Just Say No!

worIn the last century, the U.S. Calvary deliberately gave Indians blankets infested with small pox. Today, the Department of Energy (DOE) is trying to foist off nuclear waste to reservations.

For Grace Thorpe, president of the National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans, little has changed in the intervening years. Thorpe first read in a newspaper about her tribe, Oklahoma’s Sac and Fox Nation, applying to DOE to consider her reservation for nuclear waste storage. After going door to door with petitions and bringing the issue to a tribal vote, Thorpe and other activists squelched plans to bring nuclear waste to her reservation.

Although Thorpe’s tribe elected not to accept nuclear waste, DOE is continuing to peddle its monitored retrievable storage (MRS) program to Native Americans, offering what could amount to millions of dollars in exchange for “temporary” storage of the deadliest waste known in the history of the world. Nineteen tribes and four counties have applied for $ 100,000 in grant money to study the feasibility of building facilities to house spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors. The waste would be stored in the MRS for 30 to 40 years before being shipped to a proposed permanent repository in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The waste comes from the 109 nuclear plants across the country, which are running out of space to store it themselves. As a subsidy for the nuclear industry, the federal government will assume ownership of the waste.

But DOE’s iver-elongating estimates of how long it will take to complete the Yucca Mountain facility call into question just how long the waste would remain in the MRS. The Yucca Mountain project, located on traditional Western Shoshone lands, is already 22 years behind schedule and the site has not been definitely confirmed because of strong political opposition. Studies indicate that several geologic factors make Yucca Mountain unsuitable for a national repository, including 34 earthquake faults running through the region.

Not surprisingly, no county government in the United States has elected to move forward with considering an MRS despite the promise of big money. But seven of the tribes are now embarking on the second phase of studying their land for an MRS facility, for which they’ll receive $200,000. If a tribe decides to go to the next and more binding phase in which a site is actually identified, it will receive $3 million. And if a final MRS site is approved, tribes can receive millions more per year.

The Office of the Nuclear Waste Negotiator, charged with finding a “temporary” home for the nation’s nuclear waste, has a quick retort when asked if the program is racist, saying that it would be discriminatory not to accept applications from the poorer jurisdictions. Last year, David Leroy, the nuclear negotiator, told a meeting of the National Congress of American Indians that because of their reverence for the land and respect for Mother Earth, they were best suited to care for nuclear waste.

Some call the acceptance of federal money for the storage of nuclear waste economic blackmail. “The badly needed services, such as hospitals, roads, schools and jobs the DOE promises to provide for having an MRS are services that are supposed to be given Indian tribes in accordance with treaties and agreements between Indian tribes and the U.S. government. These treaties were made in exchange for land cessions in the last part of the 19th and early 20th century,” says Lila Bird, a Pueblo working with the Water Information Network in Albuquerque and with the National Environmental Coalition of Native Americans. “Why compromise our sovereignty and give control of our land to the DOE which pretends to be able to control nuclear waste?”

The MRS issue has driven a wedge into native cultures, widening the existing gap between tribe members brought by the invasion of non-Indians upon native lands and cultures. When developing an economy, many tribal leaders lean toward chasing smokestacks of big corporate enterprise instead of more sustainable enterprise. In the case of the Mescalero Apaches in New Mexico, those who oppose the tribal chairman of 38 years, Wendell Chino, in pursuing an MRS have lost jobs and suffered intimidation. The Mescaleros are the farthest along of any tribe in the MRS process, having just applied for the third and last phase, for an award $2.8 million. If the MRS is sited there, the tribe would receive tens of millions of dollars a year.

According to one tribal member, the tribal vote, mandated by Congress to take place at this stage in the game, won’t stop the program. She fears that because Chino appoints the election board and the counting is done in private the election will be fraudulent. The tribal member, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussion, wants to pressure Chino to count the vote in public.

But not all tribes that take MRS money have visions of wealth. By contrast to the Mescaleros, the Prairie Island Mdewatankan Sioux in Minnesota took MRS funds to apply political pressure on the state government. They hoped that a study done on their land, less than half a mile from the Northern States Power Company’s twin nuclear reactors, would show that the waste storage facility under consideration at the utility on the sandy flood plains of the Mississippi would be unsafe. The tribe withdrew its own MRS application early this summer when the Minnesota Appeals Court ruled Northern States Power must get state legislative approval before building a storage facility.

It is encouraging that less than half of the original tribes that signed up to study their lands for an MRS are still pursuing nuclear waste storage, says activist Grace Thorpe. “I got involved because I didn’t like the idea of our tribe associating even with the words ‘nuclear waste,’” she says. “We were the first tribe to withdraw from the MRS process, and I expect that is setting an example for others to follow.”

Defining Recycled Paper: Is It Clear?

drpicThe battle over how recycled paper is defined may determine the fate of community recycling programs.

“What’s in a name?” Juliet asked. In the realm of recycled paper, the simple answer may be confusion. From the terms “wastepaper” to “recovered paper” to the very definition of “consumer,” recycling terminology is being scrutinized and analyzed, molded and marketed, by both paper industry executives and environmentalists. And the results are likely to shape the direction of office and neighborhood recycling programs for years .

At the heart of the battle over standards for recycled paper is how much – if any – paper collected from consumers will be required in paper to call it “recycled.”

This postconsumer paper is the lifeblood of community recycling programs. The greater the demand by companies making recycled paper, the more postconsumer paper will be worth to collect.

For example, in the late 1980s, as large numbers of recycling programs fired up across the county, a postconsumer newsprint glut developed. Rather than selling used newspapers collected in their recycling programs, many communities ended up paying to have them hauled away. Loathe to landfill or incinerate the collected material, states started passing legislation mandating that newsprint in the state contain a certain percentage of recycled newspapers.

At the forefront of today’s debate are standards for recycled printing and writing paper – the kind of paper this magazine is printed on or that goes in the office copier. In fact, printing and writing paper is the single largest component of wastes landfilled and incinerated, making up nearly 15 percent of the nation’s garbage stream. Last year alone, half a million more tons of office paper was collected for recycling than was actually recycled.

As with newspapers, the answer to the printing and writing paper dilemma lies in requiring that postconsumer waste be used in making recycled paper. But that may be easier said than done.

Both environmentalists and the paper industry are appealing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for standarized definitions for government agencies to use when buying a wide range of recycled paper. And the White House got into the act on Earth Day when it pledged to come up with procurement guidelines on printing and writing paper this summer. Although standards adopted by the EPA and the White House will only apply to federal agencies, it’s likely that state and local governments and private industry will follow the standards when they buy paper.

On one side in the debate, a coalition of environmentalists and progressive recycled paper companies called the Paper Definitions Working Group, headed by EAF, is promoting strong postconsumer content standards for recycled paper. On the other side stands the American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA), which represents 52 paper companies and advocates a standard that undercuts the incentive to use paper collected from community programs. Instead, the paper companies want to continue to count as recycled the excess or scrap paper generated inside their paper mills, although the paper has never reached the marketplace.

“Most consumers have no idea when they buy paper labeled recycled that it might not contain a shred of paper collected from community recycling. Right now, labels that are used are misleading and confusing,” says EAF’s solid waste campaign coordinator Resa Dimino.

Coincidentally, the paper industry also realizes that the public is confused. “Our customers want recycled paper, but they are confused about what it is,” Lee Andrews, chair of AFPA’s printing and writing paper division, said at a March EPA public forum soliciting input on paper definitions, which Dimino also addressed. “They are looking to the industry to take a leadership role now to bring clarity to a confused marketplace and direction to federal and state policy makers.”

But rather than clarifying the issue, AFPA clouds the standards by proposing a murky and subjective definition that allows paper companies off the hook in using postconsumer paper, says Jobe Morrision, vice president of Cross Pointe Paper Corporation, one of a handful of recycled paper manufacturers that have rejected AFPA’s proposal.

AFPA calls for using a minimum of 50 percent recovered paper, which can come from mill scrap, or a minimum of 10 percent “postconsumer/processed recovered” paper, which means the paper must contain contaminants. Morrison reads this definition to mean that a company can handily escape using any real recycled paper and still appear “environmental” to the general public. The definition is close to EPA’s current one, which calls for 50 percent “wastepaper” content, with no requirements for postconsumer material.

Some paper companies have even called into question the meaning of “consumer,” arguing that the end product of their work is rolls of paper stock so their consumers are the companies that convert the rolls into products like envelopes.

“The AFPA standards are a piece of cake literally. Any mill can do that, so there will be no impact on the solid waste problem,” Morrison says.

By contrast, the Paper Definitions Working Group’s standards propose using 35 percent pre- or postconsumer recycled fiber coupled with 15 percent postconsumer fiber in uncoated printing and writing paper. This means the paper would be required to derive at least 15 percent of its content from community and office recycling programs.

What does AFPA have to gain from its definition? For starters, their members can avoid investing in expensive new equipment for processing postconsumer paper. And they don’t have to add another layer of cost by going through paper brokers to buy postconsumer paper.

In addition, using postconsumer paper ruins the mills’ big profit margin by undercutting the need for virgin pulp. Because the timber and paper industries are so closely related, many of the same companies that cut down trees have much to gain from fueling the need for more trees, explains Dimino.

“Some papermakers have invested $30 to $60 million in technology needed to process postconsumer paper,” Dimino says. “The AFPA proposal would, in effect, penalize those firms that have already invested in recycling technologies, while rewarding firms that are roadblocks to change.”

And what does AFPA say in defense of their definition? Nothing that they’ll tell Environmental Action Magazine. After repeated phone calls to AFPA’s administrator in charge of their printing and writing division, a vice president and numerous public relations staff people at the New York and Washington offices, not one person called back. AFPA’s lack of response is ironic in light of its 50-page document outlining a $300,000 public relations plan chock full recommendations for garnering press support of their standard.

In addition to working the press, the AFPA plan also calls for a speaker’s bureau, a video tape on recycling and solid waste, an audio tape “designed for auto or personal tape deck listening … in a news magazine format,” an 800-number phone “hotline” for paper sales representatives and posters.

Meanwhile, Cross Pointe, a member of AFPA, has lobbied the industry organization for tougher standards. When AFPA wouldn’t budge, Cross Pointe withdrew its support for the proposal.

Morrison says he is optimistic that consumer demand will drive tough recycled standards. “There are amazingly strong feelings about this issue in the general population,” he says. “Consumer environmental commitment is high right now, but it needs to extend to pressing for postconsumer content in the paper they buy.”

Recycled Paper Made Simple

Untangling consumer confusion over recycled paper could be as easy as ABC. This spring EAF and Conservatree, a San Francisco-based recycled paper broker, drafted a new ranking and labeling system to make a paper’s actual recycled content clear to customers.

The new ranking system grades recycled paper by its total recycled and postconsumer content. For example, printing and writing paper would rank an “A” if it contained 70 percent percent total recycled fiber, including 30 percent postconsumer fiber. It would be labeled “B” if it contained 60 percent total recycled fiber with 20 percent postconsumer fiber and would be labeled “C” if it contained 50 percent recycled fiber, including 10 percent postconsumer fiber.

The agenda is termed the Mobro Principles after New York’s infamous wandering garbage barge. It also calls for encouraging private sector and government agencies to set up procurement systems that use the new ranking system.

Incinerator Terminator?

itThe Waste Technologies Inc. (WTI) hazardous waste incinerator rises off the banks of the Ohio River, its bulky profile dominating the gray Ohio Valley skyline. The incinerator, built just 400 feet from houses and a quarter mile from an elementary school, has in some ways come to symbolize the administration’s tangled grappling with balancing environmental protection and economic recovery. Despite a string of campaign trail promises to stop the $160 million incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio from even conducting a test bum, the administration has done nothing to stop its operation, which began in March.

“We view this issue as a litmus test for the administration, a test that goes beyond environmental policy to the way it sets priorities for the nation itself,” says Terri Swearingen, who lives across the river from the incinerator and has helped lead a grassroots effort against it. “Clinton ran a campaign based on putting people first, on making change. Well, all I know is residents of the Ohio Valley certainly haven’t been put first.”

The incinerator can legally emit 9,400 pounds of lead and 2,400 pounds of mercury a year, substances that can wreak havoc with children’s developing nervous systems. But the incinerator failed its March test bum, emitting four times more mercury than allowed. Still, EPA issued a permit for commercial operation. In addition, an EPA memo leaked to Greenpeace in February revealed EPA suppressed research showing that dioxin contamination in local beef and milk would be 1,000 times higher than inhaling air near the facility. This means that dioxin concentrated in the food chain could cause 1,300 cancers per million people, a figure 130 times higher than EPA’s risk assessment standard of 10 excess cancers per million.

“If I were to write a novel or a horror movie or some fictional account of the worst place to put an incinerator, it would be in a valley surrounded by hills, on a flood plain, next to an elementary school. But in this case, ifs all real,” says Herbert Needleman, M.D., whose pioneering work in lead poisoning spurred the tightening of exposure limits.

Still, the lure of jobs for economically depressed East Liverpool is hard to resist. The small town was known for years as America’s pottery capital, and lead used in glazing has settled over the town’s hills. Now the pottery industry, along with many others, has died, leaving the town impoverished and polluted. WTI claims the incinerator brings more than 100 jobs to the community and millions in revenue to the local tax base.

Since taking office, the Clinton administration has virtually ignored the issue, resisting numerous pleas by activists for meetings to discuss WTI. After Bush’s parting gift of giving the green light for the test bum just two weeks before he left office in January, administration officials essentially shrugged their shoulders saying there was nothing more they could do. In her first weeks as EPA administrator, Carol Browner recused herself from the issue, citing conflict of interest because her husband worked for Citizen Action, a group opposing the incinerator.

So activists, reasoning if Clinton and Gore wouldn’t go to the incinerator, decided they’d take the incinerator to Washington. In a May protest organized by Greenpeace, activists rolled a replica of WTI incinerator on a 24-foot truck past the White House. As the fake incinerator belched smoke, tapes of Gore’s promise last year to stop WTI roared over loudspeakers. About 50 protesters handcuffed themselves together and linked themselves to the truck. Four Ohio Valley citizens were connected to the truck through steel conduits anchored to several thousand pounds of concrete. Police and firefighters spent more than four hours taking apart the truck to free the protesters, who were all arrested.

The next day, EPA announced an 18-month moratorium on new hazardous waste incinerators and a review of allowable levels of dioxin and heavy metals, such as lead. Many of the proposals were made in a petition detailing the weaknesses in federal hazardous waste law submitted by activists.

But the victory was clouded because WTI will remain open because it already has a permit, which won’t be up for review until 1995.

The irony isn’t lost on Swearingen: “The EPA is finally listening to what we’ve been saying about health and safety problems for years. But if they’re so concerned all of a sudden about the rest of the nation, how can they ignore us? Ifs like a slap in the face.”

And although the new attention to the nation’s 184 hazardous waste incinerators is a good sign, there are large loopholes in the new plan. For example, some of the most polluting incinerators used for Superfund cleanup won’t be subject to the moratorium. And EPA has authority only in four states to stop new incinerator permits; in the rest, the states themselves issue the permits.

US Energy Policy – Getting Better?

usepAttempting to assuage concerns of both the environmental community and the energy industry, the Clinton administration has proposed a mixed bag of an energy policy. Clinton’s “Vision of Change for America,” released following his State of the Union address in February, outlines a shift in emphasis away from oil, coal and nuclear power toward efficiency and renewable energy sources. But since February, Clinton’s clean energy strategy has been whittled away by compromises with powerful business interests.

President Clinton comes into office as U.S. energy policy stands on the threshold. This administration can permanently break from the wasteful, polluting policies of the past. The opportunity exists to reverse the costly policies of the last 12 years. Many important decisions are in the hands of the Clinton administration, dealing with everything from nuclear waste and power to energy taxation to implementation of last falls’ Energy Policy Act, containing some of the most sweeping changes to energy regulation in over a decade.

Environmentalists generally have applauded Clinton’s turn toward a more sustainable energy strategy while protesting many of the Clinton plan’s specifics. The new administration’s most notable divergence from Bush administration energy policy came on Earth Day when the president – overriding the objections of his secretaries of energy and treasury, who argued the costs of such a commitment would be too high for industry – pledged “to take the lead in addressing the challenge of global warming that could make our planet and its climate less hospitable and more hostile to human life.” Clinton committed the U.S. to “reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases to their 1990 levels by the year 2000″ – a commitment shunned by President Bush. He also promised a cost-effective national strategy by August to fulfill this pledge.

Six weeks later, however, environmentalists expressed their “deep concern” about the direction the global warming strategy is headed. At a congressional hearing, administration officials articulated a plan that would focus on methods to trade greenhouse gas emissions with other countries, called “joint implementation” programs, instead of reducing emissions inside the United States. “Emissions reductions from joint implementation cannot be counted toward achieving your commitment to return U.S. emissions to their 1990 levels by the year 2000,” a coalition of environmental groups, including Environmental Action, wrote in a letter to Clinton after the hearing. “The more effective approach is emissions reduction programs that will achieve actual, continuing emissions savings here in the United States.”

Clinton’s most visible energy initiative, and the most controversial element of his economic package, is a broad-based energy tax. Like most elements of the Clinton economic plan, it has fallen victim to the compromises that have come to symbolize the new administration. Environmentalists rallied behind the originally proposed tax based on the heat content of all fuels (the BTU tax), while acknowledging that its direct impact on energy use would be minimal. “The energy tax is the first piece of a longer term strategy that will totally revamp energy policy,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists of Clinton’s original BTU tax proposal. But the BTU tax faced stiff political opposition, and the administration yielded to its Senate opponents in June.

To help him arrive at decisions on the many pending controversial issues, Clinton has appointed members of the mainstream environmental community as well as many former industry officials to cabinet positions. For example, Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary’s previous employer was Northern States Power Co., which has been characterized as one of the nation’s most aggressively pro-nuclear utilities, while Dan Reicher, Clinton’s appointment for special assistant for environmental restoration and waste management, comes to government from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Environmentalists are optimistic about the appointment of Sue Tierney, formerly secretary of the environment for Massachusetts, to the post of assistant secretary for international and domestic energy policy.

However, at press time, Clinton had yet to nominate anyone for the important post of assistant secretary for conservation and renewables.

Clinton has appointed four new members to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This agency will implement the changes in the National Energy Policy Act that affect the electric utility industry. EA’s energy lobbyist Leon Lowery, who played a key role in working to get these changes through Congress, characterized the new appointments as “moderate.” “We hope to be able to work with the new commission to implement the Energy Policy Act in a pro-environment, pro-consumer, pro-competitive manner,” says Lowery.

However, “Not a single one of the nominees has a background in natural resources or hydropower, ecology or water issues,” says Matthew Huntington of American Rivers. Given the range of environmental consequences of dam operations, “we thought it was high time to appoint one or more commissioners who had actual understanding of these issues,” he says.

The Clinton administration’s position on nuclear energy reflects the ambivalence that has characterized its first months in office. In his State of the Union Address, Clinton declared, “We’re eliminating programs that are no longer needed, such as nuclear power research and development.” But when the president’s proposed budget for the Department of Energy was released, it included full funding for the Advanced Light Water Reactor, a variation of current nuclear technology on which the nuclear industry has placed its hopes for the future. “Clinton definitely backed away on his statement,” says Bill Magavern, director of Public Citizen’s energy project. This reversal led the U.S. Council on Energy Awareness, a nuclear industry trade group, to proclaim in its May newsletter, “Nuclear R&D Supported in DOE Budget,” adding that the Clinton administration is betting most of its money on programs that promise near-term results and quick payback.” To his credit, Clinton did cut overall funding for nuclear power research and development almost in half from last year’s levels – from $345.4 million to $182.2 million, a level anti-nuclear activists could only dream of before the election.

Still, the Clinton administration has also repackaged the Bush administration’s Advanced Liquid Metal Reactor (ALMR) program as the “Actinide Recycle Program.” The research and development program is an updated version of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor program that Congress terminated in 1983 for economic, environmental and nuclear proliferation reasons. “The change implies that the ALMR has become a waste disposal technology; but caring a pig a horse won’t make it so,” explain newly elected Rep. Sam Coppersmith (D-AZ) and Rep. Martin Hoke (R-OH) in an editorial against funding the program published by the Safe Energy Communications Council. Taxpayers have already paid more than $8 billion on breeder reactor programs. Citing reasons of “economic efficiency, affordability, safety and environmental effects,” a coalition of public interest groups has asked the administration to follow its earlier promise to eliminate funding for the program.

Clinton has also proposed a $20 million increase for nuclear fusion research and development. The increase would bring total funding for fusion to $360 million for fiscal year 1994-a level about 50 percent greater than proposed funding for all of DOE’s renewable energy research.

Enviromnentalists are united in their support for Clinton’s 1994 budget request for energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, which proposes to increase funding by one-third above current levels. This change best reflects what Secretary O’Leary considers “dramatically changed priorities.” For the first time since President Jimmy Carter’s 1981 budget request, funding for research on energy efficiency and renewable energy and conservation assistance would exceed $1 billion, according to the Environmental and Energy Study institute. Many of these spending increases result from last year’s energy legislation, which established new programs for renewables and energy efficiency.

And yet taxpayer subsidies for nonrenewable energy resources remain intact. For example, the Clinton budget proposal for fossil fuel research and development is $80 million more than Bush’s FY93 budget proposal. But the new administration’s funding proposal is five percent less than current spending levels, and emphasis is shifted away from coal and oil toward natural gas, reflecting another Clinton/Gore preference.

President Clinton’s energy policy is clearly a step forward. His commitment to reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is admirable. Just as clear, however, is Clinton’s willingness to compromise, as evidenced in his two-step regarding nuclear power R&D funding. in the coming months the powerful energy industry will continue to apply pressure to secure concessions and influence policy. Particularly vulnerable will be the proposed increase in funds for conservation and renewables in the DOE’s budget, which Congress will carefully scrutinize as it attempts to reduce the FY94 budget. It will be up to the environmental and public interest community to help the president maintain his stance on these issues.