“George W. Bush is well on his way to compiling the worst environmental record in the history of our nation.” — (non-partisan) League of Conservation voters, who gave Bush an “F” in his 2003 Presidential environmental report card.

Welcome to another election year, ladies and gentleman. In a matter of weeks, primetime TV will be held hostage by all manner of smear campaigns, baby-kissing and political promises — and that’s just the cell phone ads. And while we’re well aware that surfers aren’t the most political creatures on the planet, we figured it was time to look at how George W. Bush performed over the last few years in the main arena every waterman, woman and child can agree on — a healthy and accessible ocean.

Surfers may think the quote above is from a bunch of blue-hairs who care more about birds than barrels (which they do). But the LCV has done exhaustive research on various presidents’ environmental records based on a few simple things: his predecessor’s environmental record; his environmental campaign promises; his environmental advisors; and the overall political context: what was, and is, politically possible. And after tallying all the factors, they gave George an “F.” (For the record: Dubya did squeak out a low D after his first year in office, but when he failed to live up to various environmental promises, he got knocked down a notch.)

In case anyone thought there wasn’t a problem with our beaches, here’s some math for you: the USA saw 13,000 beach closure days in 2002. That same year, tourist expenditures in the coastal states reached $104 billion dollars. It doesn’t take a mathematician to recognize how that kind of equation can’t last for tourism to thrive.

But what’s more important than putting dollars into beaches is keeping the crap off of them. As Surfrider’s environmental director Chad Nelson sums up, “Surfers all want pretty much the same thing — and it’s not exactly complicated, either: we want clean water to surf in; we don’t want oil wells offshore; and we want some say in the things that affect our coast — and the Bush administration is trying to undermine all those things.”

Indeed, Bush’s proposed 2005 federal budget calls for a seven percent reduction in funding for the US Environmental Protection Agency — which wasn’t exactly giant to begin with. Plus — cutting $492 million of federal funds that were earmarked for sewage treatment and reducing polluted runoff. And The EPA itself is necessarily pristine, either. At the Bush Administration’s pressuring, they just proposed the brilliant idea of allowing cities and towns to pump untreated sewage into rivers, lakes and beaches during periods of heavy rain, suggesting it could “blend” with treated sewage before being pumped into the water As if urban runoff wasn’t bad enough during heavy rains without the additional Fra-poo-cino.

Bush also spent much of 2002 attempting to wrestle coastal power away from the state of California, claiming that the Federal government should be in control of offshore oil drilling leases, despite the fact that the majority of Californian opposed drilling. Meanwhile, he got busy striking deals to buy back oil and gas leases in Florida — where his brother, Governor Jeb Bush, was up for re-election.

Coincidence? Many people thought not. “President Bush should stop playing favorites. What’s good enough for Florida’s pristine beaches is certainly good enough for California’s coast,” said Lisa Speer, National Resources Defense Council policy analyst and an expert on offshore drilling issues.

Fortunately, as of last spring, the Bush administration finally relented and lost a court battle, which banned the extension of any leases for offshore oil drilling in California. But it’s not over yet: he’s still attempting to change the Costal Zone Management Act to bar States from making decisions on projects that could affect their coastlines.

This is on attempt to inject partisan politics into the pollution debate. The fact is, Left or Right, Pinko or Freeman, decisions that affect our coastlines are decisions that affect us. Simple. And over the last three and a half years, George W. Bush has decided more than once that a healthy and accessible ocean is not that important. Vote wisely. Marcus Sanders

More information: League of Conservation Voters
Surfrider Foundation
> National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)