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Hey, Where Is Everybody?

Deafening Silence Greets Bush's Call for Voluntary Pollution Cuts Two years in, President Bush's "Climate Leaders" program -- a call for commitments from companies to voluntarily cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent or more within a decade -- has seen only 50 of the thousands of polluting companies in the U.S. sign up, and of those only 14 have set concrete goals. Many of the nation's most egregious polluters have shown no interest in the program because, well, it would actually oblige them to spend money on cleaning up. And most of the "leaders" are companies that have …

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On climate change, other nations get cracking while the U.S. is slacking

The recent Milan conference on the Kyoto Protocol started out with a bang -- a commotion of rumors about Russia's ratification of the treaty -- and went out with a whimper, offering no clear signal that the landmark accord on climate change would ever become international law. But one important development became clear amidst the flimflam: Kyoto-supporting countries, including Japan, Canada, and those of the European Union, are not going to stand around and wait for the rogue elephants Russia and the United States to join the pack. Instead of idling while the treaty negotiations make slow progress, these countries …

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Willy Wonks

Judge Orders Feds to Reconsider Protections for Puget Sound Orcas The Bush administration's environmental policies are taking a beating from the judicial branch this week. Not only did a federal court yesterday reject a plan to allow snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Glacier national parks; today, a different federal judge struck down the administration's decision not to extend Endangered Species Act protections to Puget Sound orcas. U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik criticized the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to use the "best available science" when it determined that the Puget Sound orcas are not a significant subset of the species …

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A Smog-and-Pony Show

Bush Team Unveils Plan to Cut Smog-Forming Pollution A new rule proposed yesterday by the Bush administration would cut emissions of smog- and soot-causing pollutants from power plants in the Midwest and East -- but not deeply or quickly enough, say enviros. The plan would reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution by implementing a market-based cap-and-trade system that would allow utilities to buy and sell the right to pollute (similar to the recently announced system to control mercury emissions, but less controversial). U.S. EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt claimed that the rule -- widely seen as a partial substitute for …

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The Supreme Court may alleviate Cheney’s energy task force troubles

On Monday, the Supreme Court offered Vice President Dick Cheney a possible escape hatch from the great energy task force imbroglio. The high court agreed to hear an appeal from Cheney, who for more than a year has been defying a federal judge's order to pony up documents about his infamous 2001 task force. Those behind the lawsuit against the veep are certain the documents will reveal that the White House was canoodling with industrial interests behind closed doors as it worked to establish national energy policy. See Dick play hide and seek. Photo: White House. The legal saga began …

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Judge to Bush: Are You Yellowstoned?

Federal Judge Reinstates Clinton Snowmobile Ban in Yellowstone In a sharply worded ruling issued just hours before the start of the winter snowmobiling season in Yellowstone National Park, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan nixed the Bush administration's plans to allow nearly 1,000 snowmobiles in the park every day. The 49-page ruling pointed out that a Clinton administration plan, which would have phased out snowmobiles over three years and banned them completely this winter, was based on a decade's worth of studies, while the new plan was based on an environmental impact statement "conspicuously timed with the change in administrations" and …

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May the Enforcement Be With You

EPA Enforcement Officials Removed From Homeland Security Duty But wait, there's more! The Bush administration abruptly changed tack on yet another issue this week, when it announced that it will stop diverting federal environmental enforcement officials from pollution investigations to homeland security matters. The U.S. EPA will also stop using enforcement officials as bodyguards, chauffeurs, and errand-runners for the EPA administrator during national and overseas travel. The practice of diverting enforcement officials coincided with a notable drop in the number of cases the EPA referred to the Justice Department for prosecution. J.P. Suarez, who heads enforcement at the EPA, had …

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The Weak in Review

Bush's Mercury Plan Was Rejected by Clinton EPA as Too Weak The Bush administration's new plan for regulating mercury emissions from power plants is virtually the same as one that the Clinton administration considered and dismissed because it appeared to violate the federal Clean Air Act, former U.S. EPA officials said yesterday. The Bush proposal caused an uproar among environmentalists and public-health advocates when it was leaked to the press last week. Yesterday, the administration formally introduced the plan, which would regulate mercury from power plants for the first time and mandate a nearly 70 percent drop in mercury emissions …

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NPR: One Thing Considered

Pristine Petroleum Reserve in Alaska Opened to Oil Drilling Try as it might, the Bush administration hasn't been able to get its hands on oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Perhaps to make itself feel better, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is forging ahead with plans to permit aggressive oil drilling in large swaths of the National Petroleum Reserve of Alaska (NPR-A), the refuge's lesser-known neighbor. The NPR-A, which was set aside as an oil storehouse for the U.S. military, provides habitat for caribou, migratory birds, and other wildlife. Along with its drilling plans, the BLM is relaxing …

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Deck the Hauls

U.S. High Court Will Hear Mexican Truck Pollution Case The U.S. Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will wade into a dispute over whether tens of thousands of highly polluting Mexican trucks should be allowed to cross the border and deliver goods throughout the U.S. The Bush administration, arguing the free-trade point of view, welcomes the trucks, but enviros and union members say they would dramatically worsen pollution in cities such as Los Angeles and Houston, which are already struggling with dirty air. In January, a federal court ruled that the administration should have conducted a comprehensive environmental impact study …

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