Cheney Defends Bush Environmental Policies

VP pledges to pursue oil and gas drilling in an Arctic wildlife refuge and advocates nuclear power.

Published: 09-Apr-2001

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney shrugged off criticism of the Bush administration's environmental policies on Sunday, defending its stance on global warming, pledging to pursue oil and gas drilling in an Arctic wildlife refuge and advocating nuclear power.

Democrats and environmental groups have attacked the administration over a series of decisions in recent months to suspend or ease environmental protection rules unpopular with the mining, oil, timber and other industries.

Chief among these was President Bush's reversal in March of a campaign pledge to limit carbon dioxide emissions by electric power plants, effectively abandoning the 1997 Kyoto treaty aimed at fighting global warming.

But Cheney said it was clear the treaty would never have been ratified by the U.S. Senate and the administration was committed to finding another approach to the problem.

"Kyoto was a dead proposition before we ever arrived in Washington," Cheney said on ABC's "This Week." "All we did was to make it clear that the U.S. would not be bound by it."

"We're reviewing all the evidence and all the science on it and we're going to have a good, solid aggressive program to deal with the questions surrounding greenhouse emissions," he added on NBC's "Meet the Press."

ARCTIC DRILLING PLANS "NOT DEAD"

Cheney also denied the administration's plans to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling were foundering in the face of growing opposition on Capitol Hill, including among key Republicans.

"No, I don't think it's dead at all," he told "Meet the Press," saying drilling would disturb just 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of the 19-million-acre (7.7-million-hectare) reserve.

"The notion that, somehow, developing the resources in ANWR requires some sort of vast despoiling of the environment up there is just garbage," he said.

The administration argues the United States is facing an energy crisis and needs to increase its energy production. In addition to opening new areas to drilling, it is also considering building new nuclear power plants for the first time in almost two decades, Cheney said.

"The president hasn't made a decision yet but certainly his instructions to me are this is one of the areas he wants us to look at," he said on the NBC program.

"We need to build 65 new power plants a year in this country for the next 20 years," Cheney added. "My own view is that some of those ought to be nuclear and that's the environmentally sound way to go."

Showing flashes of annoyance over the criticism the new administration has faced on the environment, Cheney said many of the rules it had sought to roll back were "dumped out by the Clinton administration, along with pardons and other things that Bill Clinton dumped at the last minute."

"I think I am a pretty good environmentalist, though the Sierra Club might not agree with that," he told NBC.

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