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Air Devils

Draft Air Rule Could Be a Gift to Polluting Industries Thousands of old, highly polluting power plants and other industrial facilities could get a free pass under a draft air-pollution rule that the Bush administration is expected to put in place before the end of the month. The rule, which represents a big win for oil, coal, and electric companies, would allow old plants to make significant upgrades without having to install new anti-pollution equipment. The result: Polluters would save millions or even billions of dollars while continuing to pump out hundreds of thousands of tons of air contaminants. New …

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Global Warming, I Presume?

Lake Tanganyika Under Threat from Climate Change The ecology of Lake Tanganyika -- Africa's second-largest body of water and site of the famed encounter between Henry Stanley and David Livingstone -- is under siege due to global climate change, according to studies by two independent teams of scientists. The scientists have found that rising air temperatures have reduced the lake's nutrient load and increased its water temperature, resulting in decreasing fish stocks. Local fishing yields have fallen by over one-third in the last three decades, with further declines predicted. That's an economic and health catastrophe for area residents, who have …

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Voluntary Service

Canada Unveils $1B Plan to Address Climate Change Canada is stepping up to the plate to tackle climate change -- or at least emerging from the dugout. Prime Minister Jean Chretien yesterday unveiled a nearly $1 billion package aimed at helping the nation lower its emissions of greenhouse gases. The plan includes incentives for individuals and businesses to make their homes and buildings more energy-efficient, subsidies for the fuel-cell and ethanol industries, and money to assist provinces and aboriginal communities in launching emission-reduction initiatives. Still, Canada has lots more to do in order to meet its commitments under the Kyoto …

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Hot Topic

Heat Wave in Europe Leads to Nuke Plant Worries The withering heat wave in Europe, which is believed to have led to dozens if not hundreds of deaths, is now causing problems at nuclear facilities and other power plants. Government authorities in France and Germany have announced that they are relaxing rules to let plants pump warmer-than-usual water from their cooling systems back into rivers. Environmentalists are crying foul, arguing that even a temporary rise in river temperatures could lead to fish kills and ecological damage. The French government is also considering electricity rationing after engineers warned that they can …

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Zuni tribe member Pablo Padilla talks about beating back a strip mine

Earlier this week, Native Americans and environmentalists won a surprising victory when a power company abandoned plans to build a highly controversial coal mine in New Mexico. Zuni Salt Lake. Photo: Zuni Salt Lake Coalition. For 20 years, the Salt River Project, an Arizona-based utility company, had sought to build an 18,000-acre strip mine near a salt lake in Western New Mexico. The Zuni Pueblo, other tribes, and environmentalists fought the plan, saying the mine would disrupt sacred Zuni burial sites and damage Zuni Salt Lake, a focal point of spiritual life for many tribes. The tribes and their allies …

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Flexible Fools

Automakers Can Dodge Fuel-Economy Rules with Flex-Fuel Vehicles U.S. automakers are dramatically boosting production of "flexible-fuel" cars and trucks that can run on either gasoline or E85, a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gas that results in lower greenhouse gas emissions -- but this trend is more likely to harm the environment than help it. Owners of flex-fuel vehicles almost always fill them up with gasoline because E85 is so hard to find -- it's sold at fewer than 150 of the estimated 176,000 gas stations in the U.S. Still, car manufacturers get credits toward meeting federal …

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Reservoir Dogged

Four elderly Pehuenche Indian women have thrown a big wrench into plans for a $570 million hydroelectric dam in southern Chile. Arguing that the hydro project would flood sacred land and destroy their traditional way of life, the four have refused to sell 103 acres they own along the Bio Bio River, land that would be submerged if the dam were finished. The Chilean government and the Endesa power company insist that the hydro project, which is 90 percent complete, is needed to meet Chile's energy needs and stimulate economic growth, but Indians and environmentalists have battled the project in …

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Grace Under Pressure

Michelle Nijhuis reviews Libby, Montana by Andrea Peacock

It's never been easy to make a living in Libby, Mont. Citizens in this town of 12,000, tucked into the dense, damp conifer forests of northwestern Montana, have long scraped by on seasonal logging jobs and other sporadic work. So in the 1920s, when local entrepreneur Edward Alley discovered that a nearby vermiculite deposit yielded an efficient, lightweight insulation and fireproofing material, Libbyites were thrilled. Mine site in Libby, Mont. Photo: CDC. For decades, the mine -- dubbed Zonolite, like the brand-name insulation it produced -- offered the best jobs in town. Townspeople bragged that their local product had "a …

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New clean-energy coalitions talk up national security and the economy

Two ambitious clean-energy coalitions made headlines this month, sweeping out from under the rug vital and far-reaching environmental issues that the Bush administration has steadfastly ignored. The Energy Future Coalition, boasting endorsements from heavies on both sides of the party line as well as from high-profile industry and environmental interests, called for a one-third reduction in U.S. oil consumption and a one-third reduction in carbon dioxide emissions over the next 25 years. At the same time (though in a completely unrelated effort), the Apollo Alliance, a labor-environmental coalition endorsed by a dozen influential unions, called for a 10-year, $300 billion …

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Clear Skies Looking Dirty

One of President Bush's most ambitious environmental proposals is in jeopardy -- the goal of cutting mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants 46 percent by 2010. Many in the utility industry are complaining that such a requirement, which is part of Bush's "Clear Skies" legislation, would cost far more than expected and could force some coal-fired plants to switch to cleaner-burning natural gas. Republicans from the Midwest, home to many of the nation's dirtiest coal-burning power plants, are insisting that the mercury provision in the bill be rewritten -- and the administration seems content to go with the flow rather …