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Bill McKibben sends dispatches from a conference on winning the climate-change fight

Tuesday, 25 Jan 2005 MIDDLEBURY, Vt. A crisp, cold, blue-sky New England day, fresh snow on the ground, and everything right with the world. Except that last night, as I was preparing to attend a three-day conference on climate change here in Middlebury, Vt., yet another disturbing report on global warming drifted across the net. This one comes from the International Climate Change Taskforce, co-chaired by Stephen Byers, a Tony Blair confidant from the U.K., and Olympia Snowe, the Republican senator from Maine. In one sense, it's nothing new: yet another document from moderate world leaders calling for urgent action …

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EPA offers air-pollution immunity to factory farms

On Friday, in the shadow of the splashy presidential inauguration jamboree, the Bush EPA offered factory farms a tempting tradeoff: more than two years of immunity from the Clean Air Act and certain toxic-discharge standards in exchange for participating in a data-collection program that would monitor air emissions from their facilities. Factory farms may be getting off easy, but not so the chickens. Photo: Farm Sanctuary. EPA enforcement honcho Thomas Skinner hailed the agreement in a statement as "a huge step forward" in the effort to reduce factory-farm emissions, while environmentalists say the deal stinks as bad as the mountains …

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Executive Disorder

Industry unhappy with Bush's back-up air-pollution plan President Bush's Clear Skies legislation has stalled out in Congress, unable to muster support even from a sufficient number of Republicans. To compensate, Bush is planning to implement some of the bill's provisions by issuing executive orders -- for instance, an order establishing a mercury-emissions trading program. But the electric-utility industry, the very constituent that enviros say the bill is most friendly to, is not happy about the strategy. They say a regulatory rather than legislative approach opens the door to multiple lawsuits, and they complain that the executive orders would establish inconsistent …

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Ex-FBI agent charges feds with radioactive coverup at Rocky Flats

The plotline sounds as absurd as a made-for-TV movie: An FBI agent exposes deadly contamination at an old nuclear-weapons plant, but the federal government conceals the findings. Years later, Congress votes to convert the tract into a wildlife refuge and open it to school field trips and public recreation. The site becomes a poster child for eco-friendly nuclear-waste disposal -- with a dangerous radioactive secret lurking below the surface. An aerial view of Rocky Flats. Photo: Los Alamos National Laboratory. Fact, of course, can be stranger than fiction -- even bad Sunday-night-on-CBS fiction -- and former FBI agent Jon Lipsky …

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You’re Fired Up

Former Berkeley professor fights biotech industry Former University of California at Berkeley professor and one-time biotech supporter Ignacio Chapela is fighting against what he alleges are huge sums of money being used by the biotech industry to influence research at U.S. universities. After what he says was a coordinated PR push by the industry, the science journal Nature abandoned support for his research into GM crop contamination in Mexico, which it had previously published. After that, Chapela objected strenuously when his university was offered $50 million by GM giant Novartis. For that, and for the Nature kerfuffle, Chapela was essentially …

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Bush judicial nominees could shake the foundations of environmental law

William G. Myers III is George W. Bush's choice for a lifetime position on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court's jurisdiction covers three-quarters of all federal lands, in nine Western states where contentious battles rage over energy, mining, timber, and grazing. Which way will the scales of justice tip? Unlike most judicial nominees, Myers has never been a judge. Instead, his qualifications include decades as a paid lobbyist and lawyer to the coal and cattle industries. In his recent position as the Bush Interior Department's chief attorney, Myers tried to give away valuable federal lands to a …

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Ford: “Tough”

Two California drivers fight Ford to keep their electric vehicles An around-the-clock protest began Friday in Sacramento, Calif., to save two electric vehicles from being repossessed and scrapped by their maker. The electricity-powered Ford Ranger pickup trucks were two of many produced by Ford Motor Co. during a new-vehicle pilot program in 1999 and then leased to drivers. Lessees David Raboy and William Korthof say they're ready to purchase the vehicles, which cost very little to maintain, require no gasoline, and have no direct emissions. But Ford is ready to (ahem) pull the plug on these EV Rangers because, according …

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The Axis of Intransigence

U.S. pushes to remove global-warming references from disaster talks The U.S. delegation to an upcoming global conference on natural disasters is pushing to have references to global warming removed from the U.N. action plan to be ratified there. The document cites global warming as one factor among many leading to "a future where disasters could increasingly threaten the world's economy, and its population." U.S. delegation head Mark Lagon said that he doesn't want the "controversy" over global warming to "distract" the conference. On one side of the debate are the 25-nation European Union, which supports the Kyoto Protocol, and the …

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Receding Blair Line

Blair government tried to weaken E.U. climate-change targets The U.K. environmental community is all atwitter over revelations that senior officials in Prime Minister Tony Blair's government tried to remove tough greenhouse-gas reduction targets from the E.U.'s official climate policy. Specifically, they asked that language calling for 50 to 80 percent reductions (from 1990 levels, by 2050) be eliminated or replaced with the looser phrase, "significantly enhanced reduction efforts." A spokesbrit said the government supports big cuts, but wanted to complete a cost-benefit analysis before agreeing to "a figure plucked out of nowhere." Though the changes were ultimately overruled by other …

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