It’s no small secret that Dick Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s-you-know-what about the environment. Now it seems Dick’s got some other trouble brewing for himself, as the House Natural Resources Committee announced on Thursday that it “will hold hearings into Vice President Dick Cheney’s involvement in Klamath River water management that many think led to the die-off of more than 70,000 salmon four years ago.”
“It certainly appears that this administration will stop at nothing to achieve political gain from natural resources disasters,” said Rep. Nick J. Rahall, the West Virginia Democrat who heads the panel.
Three dozen House Democrats from Oregon and California asked for the hearing in a letter to Rahall after the Washington Post reported on details of Cheney’s intervention.
The WaPo reported on Wednesday, in their ongoing series on Dick Cheney:
In Oregon, a battleground state that the Bush-Cheney ticket had lost by less than half of 1 percent, drought-stricken farmers and ranchers were about to be cut off from the irrigation water that kept their cropland and pastures green. Federal biologists said the Endangered Species Act left the government no choice: The survival of two imperiled species of fish was at stake.
Law and science seemed to be on the side of the fish. Then the vice president stepped in.
First Cheney looked for a way around the law, aides said. Next he set in motion a process to challenge the science protecting the fish, according to a former Oregon congressman who lobbied for the farmers.
Because of Cheney’s intervention, the government reversed itself and let the water flow in time to save the 2002 growing season, declaring that there was no threat to the fish. What followed was the largest fish kill the West had ever seen, with tens of thousands of salmon rotting on the banks of the Klamath River.
Characteristically, Cheney left no tracks.
The Klamath case is one of many in which the vice president took on a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business.