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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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Strawberry Yields Forever

U.S. Could Endanger Ozone Layer with Push for Pesticide Use In pushing for continued use of a controversial pesticide, the Bush administration could undermine international efforts to protect the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol, a 1987 treaty ratified by the U.S. and other industrialized nations, calls for phasing out the ozone-depleting pesticide methyl bromide by 2005, but at an international meeting on the protocol this week in Nairobi, Kenya, representatives from the U.S. will fight for an exemption that would not only allow U.S. farmers to keep using the pesticide but also to use it in larger amounts. The U.S. …

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He’s Crafty, He Gets Around

Anti-Environmental Riders Popping Up on Spending Bills With a raft of must-pass spending bills making their way through Congress this month, a handful of crafty lawmakers are tacking on unrelated anti-environmental provisions, or "riders," in hopes of circumventing the usual legislative process. Perhaps the craftiest of all is Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), head of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, who has authored one amendment that would prevent the feds from spending any money to study and protect fish habitat in the North Pacific and another that would limit legal challenges to timber sales in Alaska's Tongass National Forest. Meanwhile, a …

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Drop and Give Me 50

States Fight Back Against EPA Decision to Drop Power Plant Cases It didn't take long for the backlash to set in against the U.S. EPA's decision, announced Wednesday, to abandon its investigations into 50 polluting power plants in the face of the Bush administration's rollback of the Clean Air Act's New Source Review rules. One day later, Democratic senators and attorneys general from Northeastern states decried that decision and called for an inquiry into the policy change. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) demanded hearings to determine the reason for the change, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) questioned whether the agency had …

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Leavitt to Busy Beaver

Leavitt Sworn in as New EPA Chief Former Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt zipped from his home state of Utah to the nation's capital this week, but he didn't get to go for a leisurely stroll along the Mall or take advantage of the free museum access. Instead, after a hasty swearing-in as the 10th administrator of the U.S. EPA yesterday morning, he turned his attention to business: dashing off a memo to all agency employees asking for their input on how best to do his job, and fielding demands from Democratic senators that he make good on the promises he …

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Baby, We Use Corn to Run

House and Senate Reach Agreement Over Ethanol in Energy Bill Clearing one of the last major hurdles on the way to a final energy bill, negotiators from the House and Senate agreed yesterday on most parts of a plan to almost double the use of ethanol by 2012 and provide a new tax credit for diesel fuels that are blended with soybeans or other farm products. Under the plan, the U.S. gasoline industry must mix at least 5 billion gallons of ethanol into other fuels by 2012, compared to 2.7 billion gallons today. That's good news for farmers in the …

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Missouri Compromised

Bush Administration Boots Scientists Studying Missouri River Just weeks before producing its final report on the ecosystem of the Missouri River, a team of government scientists was yanked off the job by the Bush administration. The scientists had been at work for years and had recommended, among other things, changes to the river's flow to better mimic natural fluctuations and support more bird and fish species. That recommendation was echoed by the National Academy of Sciences but opposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Now, a new team of scientists has a month to decide whether the corps can …

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Promises, Promises, You Knew You’d Never Keep

Breaking Promise, EPA Will Drop Cases Against Polluting Power Plants The U.S. EPA announced yesterday that it will drop investigations into 50 power plants accused of violating the federal Clean Air Act. Enviros and agency watchdogs warned about the possibility of such a shift when the Bush administration rolled back the act's New Source Review rules -- but agency officials promised it would never happen. So much for that; now, lawyers for the EPA say, the cases will be reviewed under the less stringent rules that take effect next month, rather than those that were in place at the time …