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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Clinton Rules

Air Date: Week of

With President Clinton's term coming to an end, a number of rules and regulations are being brought forward for finalization. LA Times reporter Elizabeth Shogren talks with Steve Curwood about how they may effect the environment.


CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. One thing that seems for sure about the current questions about who will live in the White House: Bill Clinton will be moving out in several weeks. And while the clock runs down on the Clinton presidency, a flurry of last minute plays is being called using rules and regulations that could have lasting impact on the nation's environment. Joining me now to assess all this is Los Angeles Times' Washington Bureau reporter Elizabeth Shogren. Hi, there, Elizabeth.


CURWOOD: Tell me, which one of these rules would have the most impact, do you think?

SHOGREN: Well, I think the one that most people would feel is one that would restrict the amount of sulfur in diesel fuel.

CURWOOD: What's important about this?

SHOGREN: Well, what's important is these fumes are very toxic, and they've been linked to cancer and to asthma and to other problems for urban dwellers. And what this measure would do is, it would restrict by about 97 percent the sulfur in diesel fuel, which would then clean up these emissions from these trucks and buses that are in the urban areas and hopefully improve health. Both the EPA and environmental groups have marked it as one of the biggest and most important efforts to clean up air pollution.

CURWOOD: What else is high on the list here, do you think?

SHOGREN: Well, another one that's really important to environmentalists is called the Roadless Initiative for National Forests. And it would prevent the development of roads and commercial logging in the areas of national forests which do not currently have roads.

CURWOOD: I though the Clinton administration just about closed this one out. I guess I have that wrong.

SHOGREN: Well, it is expected to be done very soon. They had support for it from the President. They proposed this measure. But like the rest of the regulations coming down the pike, there is a long process that goes between them being proposed to them actually being finalized. And that's when the public and the interest groups can comment on the regulations before the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted.

CURWOOD: And, Elizabeth, I hear that there's talk about the President designating the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a national monument. That he's under a lot of pressure from environmental activists to do that. What are the odds of that happening, and why would that be, from their perspective, a good thing?

SHOGREN: Well, even the Alaskan delegation in Congress, which opposes this move by President Clinton, thinks it's quite certain to happen. And what this would do is it would give additional protections to this swath of wildlife, making it much harder to drill oil there, which many people think a very big threat now that the Bush administration looks like it might be taking over, or at least there's a possibility of that. Bush and Cheney, his vice president designee, have indicated that they would like to have oil drilling in this region.

CURWOOD: Let me just ask you this: how difficult is it for another president to undo these sorts of things?

SHOGREN: It's not something that they can do with a signature. It's something that they would have to work on for a long time. Each of these regulations has been developed through a long rulemaking process, which is specified and can't be avoided. And so, they would have to go through, again, the same kind of rulemaking process to cancel them out.

CURWOOD: Well, I want to thank you for taking this time with us today. Elizabeth Shogren is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

SHOGREN: Thank you.



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