Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 17, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

SNOWMOBILES....President Bush's attempt to pander to the powerful snowmobile lobby has apparently failed:

On the eve of the opening of snowmobile season at Yellowstone National Park, a federal judge Tuesday ordered the park to scrap a Bush administration plan to expand snowmobile use there and called for a re-imposition of a Clinton-era policy phasing out the machines.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, in a strongly worded 48-page brief, ruled that overturning the Clinton ban, which was never allowed to take effect, was "arbitrary and capricious" and ran contrary to the National Park Service's scientific analysis of the effects on air quality and wildlife.

....In the District of Columbia court ruling, Sullivan wrote that the rationale offered for the policy change was "weak at best" and said that "the decision to overturn the ban was completely politically driven and result oriented."

"Completely politically driven"? Say it ain't so!

But seriously, I have a couple of questions about this:

  • What interest group were they responding to? The Times notes that in public hearings sentiment was 99-1 in favor of banning snowmobiles, and I can't imagine that snowmobile manufacturers have all that much clout. So what was the point?

  • What's wrong with being politically driven? Seriously. Surely the Bush administration is allowed to make politically driven rules if it wants to?

The sad part of this is that it will probably just accelerate the Bush administration's contempt for any science that undermines their preferred policy directions. The EPA's scientists apparently concluded that a snowmobile ban was necessary to protect the park, and the lesson for the Bushies is never to allow scientists to say things like this again, regardless of whether they're true. Just gets in the way, after all. I imagine that political vetting of EPA's scientific studies will be quietly increased after this incident, and not for the first time.

Kevin Drum 8:53 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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