Despite a stern tongue lashing from the New York Times editorial page on Monday, the Senate version of the Interior appropriations bill continues to provide a comfy roosting spot for a handful of anti-environmental riders.

Some of the offending items got sliced off when the Senate reinstated Rule 16, the sensible old regulation requiring that senators refrain from attaching non-germane legislative items to must-pass spending bills. (Perish the thought!)

Shorn from the bill were items that would have, among other things, forbidden the federal government from introducing grizzly bears in Montana and Idaho without consent from the states’ governors; delayed any changes in federal oil royalty rules until 2000; and given the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management sole discretion in deciding whether to conduct wildlife population surveys before making land management decisions.

Even those items, however, may live to ride another day as their sponsors, by various reports, are scrambling to come up with crafty modifications to make their pet amendments comply with Rule 16.

The Interior spending bill, which may go to the Senate floor as early as today (though predictions about this bill’s movement are notoriously slippery), still contains a raft of other riders. According to a summary prepared by Defenders of Wildlife, some of these riders would:

  • Require the BLM to renew and extend livestock grazing permits in the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area in Washington state for at least 20 years (Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash.)
  • Renew certain other expiring grazing permits (Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.)
  • Limit funds for any new national forest plan revisions not already underway
  • Potentially allow money from the roads and trails fund to be used for timber sales
  • Weaken the 1872 Mining Law by exempting existing mining operations from the limits on the level of toxic mining waste that can be dumped on federal land (Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho)
  • Delay the acquisition of land in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area by requiring a new land valuation process

We hear that enviros have lined up a number of sympathetic senators to offer amendments opposing several of these riders. Sens. Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), and Max Cleland (D-Ga.) are reportedly prepared to offer an amendment to oppose the wildlife populations survey rider. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) may offer an amendment to oppose the Domenici grazing permit provision. Others may step up as well. Should be a bloody battle.

Sky Miles

No word yet on how much the Environmental Working Group actually spent on a splashy full-page ad in the New York Times last week (see Muckraker, 07.28.99) touting its study on the nefarious effects of the herbicide atrazine.

We speculated (with some knowledgeable help) that the ad might have cost in the $100,000 range. Some sources now tell us that figure is too low.

But it probably isn’t as high as the number EWG Pres. Ken Cook gave us in an email: “We paid a million dollars for the ad … but we charged it and got the miles.” We think he was kidding. But if not, EWG staffers should be crowding into Cook’s office right now to find out what exotic locale they will be jetting off to with that motherload of miles.

Corn-u-copia of News

In the Pander Bear department, Bill Bradley broke his national media silence on NBC’s Meet the Press this past Sunday and was hit squarely with a Tim Russert uppercut on ethanol subsidies. Bradley abhorred ethanol as a senator, Russert contended, but now trots around Iowa saying how important it is to keep up federal subsidies for the corn-based fuel additive.

Bradley’s response: “But now I’m running for president. I have to see the whole country. I can’t just see my state. And I’ve spent the last seven months on the road in America. I’ve spent a lot of that in Iowa. I’ve talked to lots of Iowa farmers, and these are people who work seven days a week. These are people that are salt of the Earth. They’re hard-working. They play by the rules. They look out for their neighbors.” And they have the power to make or break Bradley’s bid.

… In a shocking (hardly) development, the Senate has passed its version of a bill exempting “sensitive” data from the worst-case-scenario disaster reports that chemical storage facilities were supposed to have filed with the EPA by June 21. You may recall that we reported on this issue shortly before the deadline, as legislators scrambled to come up with a bill to allay FBI concerns that the disaster scenario reports could essentially provide a road map for terrorists. Both the Senate bill, and a version passed earlier by the House, would exempt such sensitive data for a year. The bill now awaits Pres. Clinton‘s signature.

… A number of green groups are lining up to oppose a Global Free Logging Agreement which was on a list of agenda items submitted by the Clinton administration for the meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle later this year. It promises to be a hot issue. Stay tuned for more.

Muckraker Mailbag!

Time for a new feature in which you, Dear Reader, set Muckraker straight when you think we have made an egregious error, displayed a stunning lapse in judgement, or simply missed the forest for the trees.

Last week, we put together a brief item on some brewings in the special election to fill the House seat of the late Rep. George Brown (D), particularly concerns that Democrats might not be able to clear the field for Brown’s widow, Marta Brown. We were told that Marta is considered as enviro-friendly as her late husband.

Not so fast, wrote one enviro who asked to remain anonymous. This person argued that Marta Brown holds different environmental views from her late husband on issues ranging from the Endangered Species Act to the use of public lands. Marta Brown should not, this activist wrote, be considered a solid green vote.