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Hasta La Vista, Regulations

Schwarzenegger Puts a Hold on Pending Environmental Regulations California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was in office only a few hours before throwing a wrench into a number of environmental-protection efforts by placing a hold on all pending state regulations in order to review their potential impact on the state's business climate. Affected rules include building standards aimed at increasing the energy-efficiency of air conditioners; water-use and efficiency standards for washing machines; and restrictions on carcinogenic industrial chemicals. Schwarzenegger's move could also stymie rules related to disposal of old computers, pollutant levels in drinking water, the use of diesel engines, and …

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Fishing for Answers

Bush Administration Admits Role in Klamath Fish Die-Off The Bush administration has finally admitted to its role in last year's die-off of more than 34,000 chinook and coho salmon in the Klamath River basin, which straddles the Oregon-California border: The massive fish kill was caused at least in part by the government's diversion of water for agriculture, which led to unusually low water levels in the river, according to an analysis released yesterday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal scientists reached this conclusion six months ago (and California state scientists found much the same thing even earlier), but …

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The Wrath of Grapes

Ban on Biotech Crops Makes the Ballot in a California County Voters in Northern California's Mendocino County will be the first in the nation with a chance to rebuff growers of genetically modified (GM) crops. Local anti-biotechnology activists gathered enough signatures to secure a spot on the March ballot for an initiative that would ban the raising of GM crops in the county. The campaign was started by the owners of an all-organic brewpub and framed as a way to protect the county's organic wine-grape industry from genetic contamination. The initiative is largely symbolic at this point, as there are …

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Empty Suits

MTBE Producers Would Get Relief from Lawsuits Under Energy Bill Of all the anti-environmental provisions in the energy bill, the one raising perhaps the most ire would limit the liability of companies that produce the fuel additive MTBE, which has been found to contaminate water supplies across the country. Not only would the measure shield the companies from future lawsuits related to water pollution; it would be retroactive to Sept. 5, thereby undermining a number of cases that have been filed in the last month and a half. To top it all off, the bill would give MTBE manufacturers $2 …

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A Low-level Blow

Bush Plans to Loosen Rules for Radwaste Disposal Radioactive waste may be coming soon to a dump near you, brought to you by -- you guessed it -- the Bush administration. The U.S. EPA is proposing a significant rule change that would let the nuclear industry dispose of low-level radwaste at commonplace dumps and hazardous waste sites that weren't designed to handle it. The change would affect such radioactive materials as cesium, strontium, cobalt, and plutonium, which now must be stored at nuclear waste sites closely monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the EPA, and state governments. Enviros, of course, …

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Kill Bill!

Final Version of Energy Bill Is Bad News for the Environment After many weeks of pork-barrel politics conducted behind closed doors, Republican negotiators yesterday released a final version of the first big energy bill to emerge from Congress in more than a decade -- and it's a doozy. The package, which contains loads of subsidies for industry and loads of bad news for the environment, now goes back to the House and Senate for a vote; if the two chambers okay it, President Bush will enthusiastically sign it into law. Among other things, the bill would: give $14.5 billion in …

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Commission: Possible?

Kerry Proposes Commission to Protect Integrity of Environmental Regulation John Kerry, the Massachusetts senator who has slipped substantially in the ranks of Democratic presidential contenders, sought to reinvigorate his campaign yesterday by returning to one of his keystone issues: environmental protection. Speaking in New Hampshire, Kerry proposed creating a new federal commission to prevent political and corporate interests from influencing environmental regulation. Kerry's speech came shortly after the U.S. EPA dropped investigations into polluting power plants around the nation, a move that was widely seen as yet another giveaway to industry. It also came just after a major turning point …

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Robert Redford gets heated up about the Bush environmental agenda, clean energy, and more

He played the Sundance Kid, the sharpshooter sidekick to Paul Newman's Butch Cassidy in the 1969 classic; he built the Sundance Village in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah; he founded the Sundance Institute for independent film and theater production and established the Sundance Film Festival. But all the while, Robert Redford has been doing an altogether more literal kind of sun dance: preaching the clean-energy gospel at the grassroots, in the op-ed pages of newspapers, on the big screen, and inside the Beltway. Solar is not a new fascination for the actor and director. As far back as 1975, Redford …

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Lawn Order

Senate Says No to California Plan to Cut Small-Engine Pollution California's cutting-edge environmental policies were dealt a blow yesterday when the U.S. Senate voted to prevent the state from regulating air pollution from small engines such as those found in gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and weed whackers. Although lawn equipment is small, its environmental impact is huge -- accounting for 10 percent of pollution from mobile sources -- and almost wholly unregulated. California sought to change that by requiring that new small engines come equipped with catalytic converters, a move that would have eliminated as much air pollution as …

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The Bush administration is jettisoning real scientists in favor of yes-men

Craig Manson. Photo: USFWS. In the final days of October, Craig Manson, assistant Interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, dealt a "Godfather"-style blow to a team of government biologists that was about to release a final report with flow recommendations for the Missouri River -- a blow that could have a sizable ripple effect on the river itself. The report was to have argued for the need to better mimic the natural flow of the Missouri (releasing more water from hydroelectric dams in the spring and less in the summer) to prevent extinction of the river's endangered sturgeon, …

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