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Shape Up or Ship Out

Texas Ship-Inspection Company Implicated in Prestige Tanker Disaster Negligence on the part of the Texas-based American Bureau of Shipping -- a company that conducts safety inspections of ships -- could be to blame for the notorious Prestige tanker disaster, which spilled millions of gallons of oil off the coast of Spain 15 months ago and affected or destroyed the livelihoods of some 100,000 fishers and other Spaniards. So say two lawsuits pending against ABS, which seek a combined total of $1 billion in damages from the company. Though numerous problems had been found with the ship over the years and …

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Nativity Scene

Native Peoples Speak Up for Their Lands Indigenous peoples are rallying for their lands and their rights this week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where a major U.N. convention on biodiversity is taking place. Representatives of native peoples are demanding the right to reject development projects on their ancestral lands, saying that multinational companies should not be able to plunder these areas for profit. Indigenous groups are also speaking out against governments that force natives off their homelands in order to create national parks and nature preserves, and criticizing pharmaceutical companies that try to patent generations-old medicinal and agricultural practices. An …

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Ballast Off!

Invasive Species in Ballast Water Messing With World's Oceans Ships that carry ballast water -- used to balance and stabilize the vessels -- also carry thousands of aquatic species across the globe to foreign habitats, where they can have environmentally catastrophic effects. Recognizing this as one of the top four environmental problems facing the world's oceans (along with pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction), 100 countries are expected to sign a U.N. treaty this week calling for regulation of ballast-water use in vessels around the world. Ballast water "can transfer pathogens and other micro-organisms and invasive species that have the capacity …

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When Irresistible Cuts Meet Immovable Pork

Senate Republicans Flailing as They Try to Push Through Energy Bill Senate Republicans are having a bad week. A proposal to push the energy bill through Congress by attaching it to the more popular and pressing transportation bill was roundly rejected yesterday. President Bush told Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Monday that he wants costs cut substantially on both the energy bill and the transportation bill, a move many observers say is a response to election-year concerns over the budget deficit. Congressional leaders managed to pare down the energy bill's costs by more than half (from $31 billion …

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The Gas Is Always Greener …

American Cars Conspicuously Absent from List of 2004's Greenest Vehicles An annual ranking of the year's "greenest" and "meanest" automobiles released today found America's Big Three auto manufacturers absent from the former list -- and well-represented on the latter. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, widely considered a top source for info on eco-friendly passenger vehicles, gave the 2004 Honda Civic GX sedan (powered by compressed natural gas) its highest score, followed by gas-electric hybrids from Honda and Toyota. Volkswagen's diesel-powered Touareg SUV got pegged with the group's "meanest" designation. "The absence of the Big Three [from the "greenest" …

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Built Ford? Tough.

Environmental Groups Target Bill Ford, Jr. Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford, Jr., once a darling of the eco-friendly set, has come under attack by a coalition of environmental groups led by California-based Bluewater Network. In full-page national newspaper ads that began appearing Wednesday, the group lambasted Ford, Jr., for reneging on his July 2000 pledge to increase the fuel economy of the company's SUVs by 25 percent over five years. Last year, Ford execs announced that the goal would not be met due to inclement business conditions and technological challenges. Since then, the company has refused to make any …

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Nano, Nano

A new paint set to go on sale in Europe in March promises to absorb the most noxious gases from automobile exhaust. Invented by British company Millennium Chemicals, Ecopaint contains spherical nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and calcium carbonate, suspended in a base of polysiloxane (a silicon-based polymer). Hey, wake up, the good part is coming! The base is sufficiently porous to allow nitrogen oxides to permeate it and attach to the nanoparticles, which convert the NOx to relatively harmless nitric acid. The paint is expected to last five years in a heavily polluted city before becoming discolored. The nonoparticles are …

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Greensylvania

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) unveiled a $22 billion state budget yesterday with numerous eco-friendly provisions that promise to protect green space, return abandoned mine sites to productive use, improve state parks, and revitalize aging city centers, asserting that such measures would spur economic development. Enviros hailed the budget, saying it would make Pennsylvania the top state in energy and environmental policy, but Republicans in the state legislature grumbled that it sent the wrong message to business. "He's a tax-and-spend liberal," said Rep. Jerry Birmelin (R). Despite the complaint, Rendell's "Growing Greener II" initiative would be paid for not with …

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Sore Like an Eagle

The greatest threat to the bald eagle is no longer pesticides, but development and suburban sprawl, say environmental scientists. The bald eagle has starred in one of the most successful species-restoration stories in U.S. history; thanks to the banning of DDT in 1972 and the careful efforts of environmental advocates, the eagle has soared back from the brink of extinction. Still, bald eagle populations have generally risen fastest in states with the lowest rates of population growth. The growth in numbers of vacation and second homes has put pressure on the birds throughout the Northeast. "Loss of habitat is the …

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Oily Residue

Judge Imposes $4.5 Billion in Damages in Exxon Valdez Case A federal judge in Alaska on Wednesday imposed $4.5 billion in punitive damages on ExxonMobil Corp. for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill in Prince William Sound. The judgment marks the third time the case has been through federal court; on two previous occasions, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the award excessive and sent it back for review. Exxon expects to appeal yet again. It's been almost 15 years since the tanker, piloted by a relapsed alcoholic who faced only misdemeanor charges, ran aground on a …