Officials at the Republican governors association have been talking a lot lately about Montana Gov. Marc Racicot (pronounced Roscoe, as in Rosco P. Coltrane of Dukes of Hazzard fame), touting him as a hot candidate for media interviews. Racicot is not exactly a household name and generally doesn’t stir much excitement in the bellies of the national media, but when selling Racicot as a go-to guy, flaks quickly mention his relationship with Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the front-runner in the Republican presidential race.

This has led us, and others, to wonder whether Racicot might be in line for a cabinet post, probably as Interior Secretary, in a Dubya administration. Adding further fuel to the Racicot fire is the fact that he happens to be term-limited and unable to run for reelection next year, meaning he will be in the job market in 2001 when a new administration will come together.

We ran the Racicot rumor by a number of enviros, particularly those who have worked up close and personal with him in Montana, and got this response: ugh.

We had been under the impression that the Montana gov was something of a Third Way devotee, eager to carve new middle paths between environmentalists on one side and business interests on the other. Not so, according to Montana greens.

“He has an amazing appearance of being open and interested and engaged and has this wonderful ability to convey a willingness to really find common ground and talk things through and all doors are open. Unfortunately, a lot of folks fall for it,” says Christine Philips of the Sierra Club‘s Montana office.

The main issue Philips and others point to as an example of Racicot’s anti-enviro bent is bison management policy.

Ranchers in Montana don’t look kindly on bison that stray out of Yellowstone National Park during winter months to forage. The ranchers fear that bison will infect their cattle with brucellosis, a disease that causes cows to abort their calves. There is no evidence that bison from Yellowstone have ever passed the disease to cattle, but concern runs so high that two years ago the government rounded up and killed 1,100 bison outside Yellowstone.

Since then, winters have been mild enough to keep most bison in the park and off grazing land, and a temporary compromise on the issue forged recently between Montana and the federal government will have all bison who stray out of the park rounded up and those testing positive for brucellosis killed.

Not much of a compromise at all, according to enviros, who complain that Racicot caved to the cattle industry and thumbed his nose at alternatives offered by the Forest Service to change the way cattle are brought onto lands adjacent to the park as well as efforts by other federal agencies to balance cattle interests with bison protection.

Jon Catton of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition says that even though a final solution is in the works to solve the problem once and for all, the head of Montana’s Department of Livestock circulated an op-ed recently saying that because this winter may be particularly harsh, the roaming animals may need to be slaughtered en masse once again.

“Racicot has just hung back in the shadows on this issue, allowing pronouncements that do not take stock of the flexibility that federal agencies have shown and the progress that has been made that protects cattle,” Catton says. “The only time that Racicot does step out of the shadow is to blame the federal government for being a multi-headed monster.”

Now the question is whether he would like to be a part of that multi-headed monster …

Veepstakes

Speaking of Republican governors, we hear there may be some serious jockeying going on among their ranks to land a number-two slot on a possible Bush presidential ticket. This jockeying could conceivably inure to the benefit of enviros as Bush looks to pluck a running mate with a good enviro record to balance his own not-terribly-green record, which has drawn loud criticism from enviros and is sure to be seized on by the Democratic nominee as a campaign issue.

We’ve heard this jockeying has been especially intense of late between New York Gov. George Pataki, who styles himself a clean-air champion, and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, both of whom are likely to occupy top slots on any veep shortlist.

Apparently, when Ridge was working on an electricity deregulation bill for Pennsylvania, he asked the head of the state’s Public Utility Commission how the proposal on the table would compare to other states in environmental protection. When told it would place the Keystone State second only to New York, Ridge apparently said it wasn’t good enough and needed reworking to best New York, as it eventually did.

All this has some enviros thinking they can wring better deals from other governors if they can raise enough of a ruckus to get voters, who in public opinion surveys almost always strongly favor environmental protections, to pay attention to the green records of all the candidates floated for VP. Stay tuned on this one as other names pop up.

Press Release of the Month

Our friends at Ozone Action passed along a priceless press release sent out late last month by the Western Fuels Association. We invite you, dear readers, to take a swing at an English language translation. Best entries will, as always, appear in this space. The release begins:

A number of environmental organizations, almost all of which as renewable energy suppliers have no interest in automobiles and tailpipe emissions in the transportation sector, yesterday petitioned U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. “This petition by the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) is nothing more than a thinly-veiled invitation for EPA to assert authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under provisions of the Clean Air Act, no matter what the source of emissions,” says Western Fuels Association general manager and chief executive officer Fred Palmer. “If EPA succeeds in regulating carbon dioxide in motor vehicle emissions, eventually they will be in the business of regulating every aspect of the U.S. economy because every sector and all Americans relay [sic] on fossil fuels. In this context, the Federal government will regulate all of the people some of the time.”

Another choice excerpt:

Palmer goes on to note that Western Fuels has contended for a decade that the climate change issue is the CO2 issue.

And one last gem of a quote from our friend Palmer:

“… carbon dioxide itself must be defended as the benign building block of nature that it is. More CO2 in the air means a more robust biosphere with increased agricultural production, increased forest growth, and a veritable greening of planet Earth. At the same time, anticipated temperature changes will be quite modest, according to scientific observations. Positive environmental externalities from more CO2 in the air swamp any conceivable negatives. Therefore, no rational regulatory body can conclude that more CO2 in the air presents a threat to human health and welfare.”

And there you have it.