Environmental groups and state pollution regulators are up in arms over an administration proposal to give selected factory-style livestock operations a two- year immunity from air quality and toxic waste clean-up laws if they participate in a 11 million dollar research program.
Critics of the plan are not only annoyed by the proposal, but are upset by the secrecy that has shrouded its development.
This week environmental organizations are also upset by a separate White House initiative that would remove protections that were accorded to public lands via the courts.
Environmental groups accuse the Bush administration of bypassing Congress and reshaping public land policy by quietly settling a series of lawsuits filed by industry groups.
In recent months, the administration has announced plans to remove wilderness protection for millions of acres in Utah … agreed to review protections for endangered species such as salmon and the northern spotted owl … and softened rules permitting logging on federal lands.
None of the decisions were subject to public comment or congressional approval.
In March, several environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit, claiming the Bush administration and the timber industry have been holding secret talks to undermine the Northwest Forest Plan. Administration officials denied the charge. They countered that during the 1990s, the Clinton administration encouraged lawsuits from environmentalists to block logging, prevent road-building and halt development projects.
Environmentalists, in turn, deny that claim.
Critics label the Bush administration tactics as "sue and settle" and suggest it is using the settlements as an end-run around Congress. Previously, lawmakers have blocked some of the Bush agenda, notably the effort to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
Supporters say the White House is merely trying to put some balance into how federal lands are managed. They also say that no litigation against the government should be regarded as "friendly."