Larry Craig’s environmental legacy was dismal, but his successor’s might be better
In keeping with the classy GOP tradition — out with the gay and in with the new — Sen. Larry Craig is now history. But, expanding on Tom’s post, it’s worth keeping in mind that his brown legacy extends well past his much-lampooned arrest in an airport toilet.
The New West Network has a fairly encyclopedic rundown of the many ways in which Larry Craig obstructed legislation that was friendly to the environment and advanced measures detrimental to it. Some highlights: Craig supported offshore drilling, supported drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, obstructed appropriations to, among other programs, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, promoted the transportation of nuclear weapons to Yucca Mountain for storage therein, deappropriated funds intended to count the dwindling population of salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers, trounced efforts to raise public land grazing fees, and attempted to deregulate big timber. It’s quite a record — all the more worth mentioning because some of the names being tossed around as potential replacements present such an enormous opportunity for improvement.
Idaho Gov. “Butch” Otter (R) will appoint Craig’s successor, and one possibility is Otter’s own successor, former Idaho Gov. James Risch (R). Risch was appointed to the governorship from his position as lieutenant governor after Dirk Kempthorne resigned to become interior secretary in May of 2006. In an op-ed that ran in the Idaho Statesman this past January, Lee Flinn and Matt Bullard of Conservation Voters for Idaho offered thanks to Risch for his positive leadership on environmental issues:
With Gov. Jim Risch’s seven-month term complete, he can reflect on diverse achievements. One area that stands out is his commitment to protecting Idaho’s clean air, water and the natural places that make our state a special place to live. Risch took strong positions supporting these shared conservation values and demonstrated that protecting our quality of life is not a partisan issue.
On the other hand, there’s also the possibility that Kempthorne himself — who served a single term in the U.S. Senate from 1992 to 1998 — will return to Capitol Hill on behalf of the people of Idaho. His noteworthy achievement in the past year has been to be a terrible secretary of the interior, and his environmental record over the course of his congressional career earned him a solid 1 percent rating on the League of Conservation Voters’ National Environmental Scorecard.