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You Know the Drill

Bush Admin. Opens Nearly 9 Million Alaskan Acres to Oil Exploration Interior Secretary Gale Norton approved a plan on Thursday that will open nearly 9 million acres of pristine land on Alaska's North Slope to oil exploration and drilling. She pledged that the exploration and production in the area, a section of the huge National Petroleum Reserve, would be done in an "environmentally responsible manner with the best available technology." Enviros weren't convinced. "It makes no sense to industrialize this incomparable wilderness area when there's only about six months' worth of economically recoverable oil ... and it would take at …

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The Thinners Have Much More Fun

Forest Service to Triple Sierra Nevada Logging Citing the need to prevent catastrophic forest fires like the ones that plagued Southern California last year, on Thursday the U.S. Forest Service announced a plan to spend $50 million a year to thin forests in California's Sierra Nevada mountains. The plan would allow logging of 330 million board-feet of green timber a year, roughly triple the amount allowed under the Clinton administration. "You have to thin the forest to protect the forest," said Regional Forester Jack Blackwell. "If we don't take those actions, we're going to burn 'em up. It's as simple …

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Veteran environmental leader gives Kerry the green light

Ted gets Kerry-ed away. Photo: Lou Dematteis, Kerry for President. A mischievous grin spread across John Kerry's face last week as he was introducing Ted Kennedy, his fellow Massachusetts senator, to an Iowa crowd. It caught my eye because I hadn't seen Kerry smile for quite a while. "I'm now pleased to introduce," he said, "the real leader of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party -- Ted Kennedy." Without rancor, Kerry had popped the empty little balloon that had long been Howard Dean's biggest applause line. And I thought to myself, He's back. As it turns out, Kerry had …

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Zinc Positive

Supreme Court Sides With EPA in Clean Air Case A narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the U.S. EPA has the authority to override state government decisions on what constitutes the "best available" anti-pollution technology. Enviros hailed the decision as a victory for clean air, while libertarian think tanks, a coalition of Western states, and four justices decried it as a violation of states' rights. The case focused on a zinc and lead mine in Alaska whose expansion proposal had been accepted by state regulators; EPA officials subsequently ruled that the mine's air-quality technology was not the …

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Patently Absurd

GM Giant Monsanto Sues Canadian Farmer Speaking of genetic drift: The Canadian Supreme Court began hearing arguments on Tuesday in a case that has become a cause celebre for both opponents and fans of agricultural biotechnology. Agro-giant Monsanto Co. sued Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser when its patented biotech canola was found growing in his fields in 1997; the company requires a per-acre licensing fee for use of its herbicide-resistant seeds. Schmeiser claims that the canola seeds drifted onto his land from neighboring farms without his knowledge. The lawsuit has come to represent the hopes and fears of small farmers around …

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Misstate of the Union

Bush State of the Union Speech Silent on Environment In a State of the Union speech that found time to discuss the evils of steroid use among athletes -- an issue entirely outside the purview of the federal government -- President Bush did not mention the environment, or the environmental challenges facing the country, a single time. Foreign policy loomed large, dominating the first half of the speech. The latter half, which focused on domestic policy, was bereft of new proposals and any mention of clean air, clean water, threatened species, or public lands. (In contrast, in his 2003 SOTU …

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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 …

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Tipping the Scalias of Justice

Cheney-Scalia Connection Raises Questions About Energy Task Force Case In December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from Vice President Dick Cheney, who had been ordered by lower courts to release documents related to his secretive energy task force meetings. In January, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Cheney -- long-time friends -- went duck hunting in Louisiana. For some reason, this prompted worrywarts from the Center for Public Integrity and New York University Law School to raise questions about Scalia's ability to remain impartial in the case. The code of conduct for federal judges says that they …

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Pesticidal

EPA Sued Over Consultations With Pesticide Industry Group Fourteen leading chemical companies have formed a task force that is meeting in secret with the U.S. EPA, attempting to weaken endangered species rules relating to pesticide use -- so charges a lawsuit filed against the EPA on Thursday by a coalition of Seattle-based environmental groups. The lawsuit claims the meetings violate a federal law prohibiting government agencies from consulting with advisory panels composed exclusively of representatives from a single industry, and prohibiting secret meetings with advisory panels of any kind. The suit is part of a larger attempt by environmental groups …

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Gore Text

Gore Calls Bush a "Moral Coward" in Speech on Environment The Bush administration is "wholly owned by the coal, oil, utility, and mining companies," said former Vice President Al Gore in a fiery address to a packed theater in New York City on Thursday. The speech -- fourth in a series cosponsored by activist group MoveOn.org and Democratic group Environment 2004 -- took the administration to task for its disregard for global warming, destructive rollbacks of air and water protections, and secret consultations with industry in formulating policy. Prompting one of several standing ovations, Gore claimed, "While President Bush likes …