Oh What a Difference a President Makes

04/17/2009 05:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

We're not even 85 days into the Obama Administration and yet the signs of environmental change are all around us. The EPA announced today its formal determination under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gases are pollutants that endanger public health and welfare. This is only the latest in a string of announcements that show just how quickly Obama is moving to undue much of the environmental damage done by the Bush Administration. So far he's:

Included in his budget a strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions dramatically by 2050;
Committed $13 billion to high speed rail;
Included almost $50 billion in direct money and tax incentives for energy efficiency, a smart transmission grid and renewable energy in the stimulus bill;
Begun the process of regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act by finding that carbon dioxide and other global warming gases are pollutants that endanger public health and welfare;
Announced a process to consider whether to use the Clean Water Act to regulate ocean acidification -- caused by changes in the marine pH from increased greenhouse gas emissions;
Cracked down on mountaintop removal mining, which involves blasting the tops off mountains to get at coal and ends up filling streams with nasty detritus;
Announced that California will in all likelihood get its waiver to implement tough new standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars;
Signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, which designates two million acres of wilderness off limits to development and extends federal wild and scenic river protection to a huge number of new stretches of river;
Decided to reconsider a Bush Administration decision not to phase out cancer causing dry cleaning chemicals;
Reversed last minute Bush Adminstration efforts to gut the Endangered Species Act ;

Of course not all of these accomplishments have resulted in actual change: enacting a plan to reduce carbon emissions dramatically is far from certain and there's been some criticism of Obama for turning cautious on the issue. And some of the announcements are only announcements for future action, not actual legislative or regulatory accomplishments. But it's hard to read the list so far and not marvel at the change from eight years of Bush.