Amanda Little

Amanda Little, Grist's former Muckraker columnist, is author of Power Trip: The Story of America's Love Affair with Energy. She teaches investigative journalism at Vanderbilt University and her articles on energy and the environment have appeared in publications including Vanity Fair and The New York Times Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter: @littletrip.

USDA’s Mark Rey drags feet on releasing info about forest policymaking

Mark Rey. Photo: USFS. According to lawyers from Defenders of Wildlife, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, seems to be pulling some moves out of the Dick Cheney playbook — the very same tricks of evasion and secrecy that have jeopardized the vice president’s reputation in the fiasco surrounding his energy task force. Rey and his department have been dragging their feet in response to requests for public release of documents regarding the Bush administration’s proposed overhaul of forest-management practices. Critics suspect the documents might confirm that logging-industry executives wielded undue influence over the process. The …

Bush’s mercury proposal draws heat from both sides of the aisle

The Capitol is heating up over mercury. Photo: NIH. A handful of Beltway wags are contending that mercury is the new arsenic, the latest symbol of official disregard for environmental health. Their claim is lent credence by an ongoing flurry of controversies surrounding the Bush administration’s plan for dealing with the toxic pollutant. A revealing article published in the Los Angeles Times two weeks ago intensified the commotion. According to reporters Tom Hamburger and Alan C. Miller, five career U.S. EPA employees charge that President Bush‘s political appointees railroaded the administration’s much-criticized mercury plan through by neglecting technical studies and …

Federal agencies at odds over salvage-logging proposal in Oregon

Siskiyou-hoo! Photo: BLM. A U.S. Forest Service proposal to conduct a massive salvage-logging operation in Oregon’s Siskiyou National Forest has come up against a surprising critic — the U.S. EPA. While the Bush administration has advertised the plan as a necessary measure to protect the future health of the forest — which was hit by the Biscuit fire, the largest wildfire in the nation in 2002 — an EPA environmental impact statement released last week said the plan could cause severe environmental harm and violate the Clean Water Act. The Forest Service’s draft outlines seven salvage-logging alternatives, with particular emphasis …

Bush plan to overhaul CAFE standards is a mixed bag

Clean up the bus, gus. Photo: NREL. The Bush administration has taken to singing the clean-car gospel lately, but it’s not quite hitting all the notes. Last month, U.S. EPA chief Mike Leavitt joined Detroit kingpins in a splashy D.C. conference to trumpet the arrival of new vehicles and fuels that reduce sulfur emissions — a notable achievement, but what Leavitt was passing off as a Bush administration success was in fact an initiative launched under President Clinton. Days later, Leavitt announced additional funding for the Clean School Bus USA program — some $60 million to replace pre-1991 school buses …

With feds slow to tackle mercury pollution, state leaders step up

The Mercury Mutiny is gaining force on the state level, galvanizing some unlikely rebels. Eastern states including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York were the first to jump into the fray, launching local efforts to reduce mercury pollution in response to the Bush administration’s widely criticized plan for dealing with mercury. Then last week, a new regional effort was announced by a coalition of state legislators from six Midwestern states — Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin — many of which have economies reliant on King Coal, a major culprit in mercury emissions. Coal it like you …

EPA attempts to defuse MTBE issue in New Hampshire

Folks who paid close attention to the speeches of New Hampshire primary victor John Kerry in recent weeks would have noticed an emphasis on MTBE — a gasoline additive that makes fuel burn more efficiently and cleanly, but is suspected to be carcinogenic* and widely known to contaminate groundwater. To outsiders, this may have seemed like a strange environmental issue to spotlight — why not focus on global warming, say, or species extinction? New Hampshire wants its rivers to flow MTBE-free. Photo: U.S. DOT. But MTBE is an issue with considerable political resonance — not only inside the Beltway, where …

Industry flacks learn how to snooker the public with their not-so-eco-friendly messages

This morning, some 50 people powwowed in the chandeliered Ticonderoga conference room of the Hyatt Regency hotel on Capitol Hill for a conference entitled “Environmental Issues 2004: How to Get Results in an Election Year.” There weren’t more than a handful of environmentalists in attendance — perhaps because the conference was hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers, known to be one of the most anti-environment industry groups in the country. The great attraction of the affair (which cost up to $150 a head) was its keynote speaker — not an industry kingpin, not a bigwig GOP pollster like Frank …

Whitman highlights Republican rift on environment

Whitman has her say. On Monday, former U.S. EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman published an uncharacteristically opinionated commentary in the New York Times lamenting the Bush administration’s disregard for moderate Republican viewpoints. Though gently worded, the op-ed stands as the closest thing Whitman has made to a confession that she abandoned her post over an ideological clash with her superiors — not because of homesickness, as she claimed in her resignation letter. More important, Whitman identified the fault line of radicalism that has begun to rupture the GOP — a growing chasm dividing moderate and right-wing Republicans over a broad …

Environmental enforcers get out while the getting’s good (and everything else is bad)

When John Suarez, the U.S. EPA’s top enforcement official, resigned on Monday to take a job at a Wal-Mart division, he assured his colleagues and President Bush that the EPA has “been able to provide more compliance assistance to industry than ever before.” The operative wording here, of course, is “assistance to industry,” seeing as Suarez played a key role in the notorious decision by the Bush administration to scrap lawsuits against dozens of coal-burning utilities for past dirty-air infringements under the New Source Review provision of the Clean Air Act — one of the biggest and most controversial enforcement …

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