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Bush-appointed judges rule against environmental regs more often than others, report finds

Bush speaks his mind at the second debate. Photo: Joe Angeles/WUSTL. President Bush's remarks about Supreme Court appointees during the debate last Friday left many Americans scratching their heads, what with his perplexing reference to the 1857 Dred Scott slavery case (a coded wink to pro-life factions, as it turns out) and some classic Dubya-style language mangling: "[T]he Dred Scott case ... is where judges years ago said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights. ... The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the …

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Tricky Richard

Pombo uses taxpayer dollars to campaign for Bush Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), chair of the House Resources Committee, has sent at least 100,000 flyers to voters in swing states praising President Bush's environmental policies -- at taxpayer expense. He's also given his committee staff a month of vacation time immediately preceding the election, presumably so they can focus on helping Republican candidates get reelected -- that's paid vacation, mind you, again at taxpayer expense. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) called these two moves a "combined unprecedented crescendo of politicization" of House committee budgets. Individual House members must cease sending taxpayer-funded mailings …

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Unsuitable

Lawsuits against polluters decline under Bush administration In the first three years of the Bush administration, the number of civil lawsuits filed by the federal government against polluters declined by 75 percent compared to the last three years of the Clinton administration, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project. Eric Shaeffer, who quit the U.S. EPA almost three years ago to protest lax enforcement and now leads the group, said, "If you are a big energy company, you are basically on holiday from enforcement." EIP's report comes on the heels of a similar report from the EPA's …

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Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Disturb Me

Bush's EPA and Interior stocked with industry lawyers and lobbyists New York Newsday is running a series called "Erasing the Rules" about the Bush administration's coordinated efforts to remove or weaken regulations on industry. Of particular interest to Gristians will be the third installment, about the administration's staffing of the U.S. EPA, Interior Department, and Agriculture Department with lawyers and lobbyists drawn directly from industries those agencies regulate. While Bush has had little luck persuading Congress to weaken the Clean Air Act or allow drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- perhaps because open debate on these unpopular measures …

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Tempest in a Tight Spot

Writer Terry Tempest Williams barred from speaking on Florida campus Renowned author and wilderness activist Terry Tempest Williams is touring the country to promote her new book, "The Open Space of Democracy." Given the subject, it's a rather pointed irony that the board of trustees of Florida Gulf Coast University voted 11 to 1 to prohibit Williams from speaking at a convocation, unhappy with statements in her book lamenting the Bush administration's environmental policies and saying that her speech would lack "balance." All 11 of those who voted against her, including university President William Merwin, were appointed by Florida Gov. …

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Debate wars episode II: the empire strikes back

The second presidential debate was, by any measure, better than the first. Bush recovered from his twitchy, petulant performance of Sep. 30 and Kerry was, if anything, even more concise (lo, a miracle!) and direct. More importantly, the questions from audience members were better -- more substantive, less circumspect -- than anything asked by the "official" media-types refereeing the VP and first presidential debates. However, Kerry flubbed one question that should have been a home run for him.  As you might guess, I'm talking about the environmental question.  Here's a policy area where, unlike many others, Kerry has a clear, …

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Pump it up

Thomas Friedman is back at The New York Times after a two-month hiatus. I don't always agree with his stands (and enjoyed the alternative voices that appeared in The Times during his absence), but find it heartening that his second op-ed upon returning has an environmental bent: Of all the shortsighted policies of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, none have [Editor's Note:  Grist editors would not have let slip this misuse of have] been worse than their opposition to energy conservation and a gasoline tax. If we had imposed a new gasoline tax after 9/11, demand would have …

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Like a Camel Through the Eye of the Tax Code

Congress moves to close SUV-friendly tax loophole It looks like Congress may soon close one of the U.S. tax code's most egregious provisions (and that's quite a distinction!). In 2003, lawmakers raised the business-equipment tax deduction to $100,000, clearing the way for a massive luxury SUV to be written off as a business expense -- if it was used "primarily" for business purposes, of course, wink, wink. The American International Automobile Dealers, an industry group, claimed the tax break stimulated the economy, citing, uh, a 6 percent rise in SUV sales. Automakers, deeply aware of the injustice of it all, …

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Bush admin tries to take the whistle away from potential blowers at the EPA

Last week, when a House of Representatives committee approved new whistle-blower protection legislation, the Bush administration flew into a tizzy, saying such protections would open the door to gratuitous complaints against its officials and create needless headaches. But the House committee held strong, citing more than a dozen plights like that of Teresa Chambers as evidence that one too many federal employees have had their whistles -- and their jobs -- confiscated. Chambers got the boot from her post as chief of the U.S. Park Police after she told the press that her agency didn't have adequate funding or personnel …

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