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The climate bill lost out, but the environment may yet prove the winner

"We were nervous as hell," said Kevin Curtis, vice president of National Environmental Trust, describing the sentiment leading up to last Thursday's Senate vote that defeated the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, 43 to 55. "But it's a great start. This may seem to be a defeat now, but in the end, it's a victory." Lieberman stumps for his bill. Photo: U.S. Senate. The victory lies in the gamesmanship surrounding the landmark bill, which was the first serious congressional attempt to rein in global warming. Three weeks ago, the bill reportedly had only 32 votes firmly in support of it; more …

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It’s Chemical (Let’s Do It)

Europe Pushes for Chemical Testing, But U.S. Backs Voluntary Approach While the European Commission voted last week to require new safety testing of chemicals (though not nearly as strict of testing as environmentalists would have liked), the U.S. is making no such strides. Rather, an average of two new chemicals are approved for use in the U.S. every day, most of which have undergone little or no lab testing to determine safety. A number of potentially dangerous chemicals are increasingly showing up in human blood and breast milk. "We're treating [people] worse than lab rats," said Karen Florini, a lawyer …

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I’m on the Hunt, I’m After You

Bush Angers Hunters and Anglers by Promoting Resource Extraction The Bush administration is ticking off many traditionally Republican hunters and anglers with its plans to encourage logging and oil and gas drilling in natural areas throughout the Western U.S. Last week, 450 U.S. gun clubs sent a petition to the U.S. Forest Service objecting to plans to remove protections from the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska, which contains prime habitat for big game and salmon. And many hunters in Montana are irate about administration plans to encourage gas drilling in the Rocky Mountain Front, which is home to bears, …

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Hollow Weenies

EPA Won't Restrict Use of Potentially Harmful Weed Killer Talk about scary stuff: On Oct. 31, as people across the U.S. were getting ready to don costumes and pass out Halloween candy, the Bush administration announced that it would not impose new restrictions on the commonly used herbicide atrazine, which has been associated with low sperm counts and prostate cancer in men and sex-organ deformities in frogs. The European Union recently decided to ban atrazine, but the U.S. EPA said on Friday that it saw no grounds for restricting the chemical's use. The agency did announce a new plan for …

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Every Which Way but Loose

Bush Administration Plans to Ease Sewage-Treatment Rules More disease-carrying microbes from doo-doo could contaminate U.S. waterways, lakes, and coastlines if the Bush administration proceeds with plans to loosen sewage-treatment requirements. This week, the U.S. EPA intends to unveil a proposed rule change that would let many communities skip a sewage-treatment step after storms cause an increased flow of wastewater; the public will have 60 days to comment on the proposal. Many local sewage-treatment plants don't have the capacity to handle storm-water surges and it would cost billions to make upgrades at these facilities. But the looser rules would lead to …

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The Ghost of Climate Change Future

Defeat on Climate Change Bill Masks Subtle Victory, Supporters Say As expected, a proposal to establish mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions was rejected yesterday by the U.S. Senate in a 55-43 vote. Still, supporters of the bill, which was sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), were generally pleased with the outcome: Crossing party lines, six Republicans backed the bill, as did several Democrats from major industrial and coal-producing states, who typically oppose such caps. The vote represented the first time that members of Congress have been called upon to take a position on global warming …

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Senate Chainsaw Massacre

Senate Passes Healthy Forests Initiative Meanwhile, forest management in the rest of the U.S. is set to change, too, with yesterday's 80-14 Senate vote in favor of a compromise version of President Bush's Healthy Forests initiative. Although the vote was somewhat influenced by the fires in California, its effect will be felt well beyond the Golden State, on as many as 20 million acres of federal land. The bill will now go into conference with the House, which has already passed similar legislation. Among the chief differences between the two bills: The House version does not say where the logging …

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Green Gobblin’

California Fires Could Trigger Massive Changes in Forest Management The devastating forest fires raging across Southern California this week could initiate a change in environmental policy as sweeping -- but probably not as desirable -- as those ushered in by the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. Forest-management experts say blame for the fires is widespread, but the most recent act of neglect lies at the door of the Bush administration: While (successfully) pushing its Healthy Forests initiative as a way to prevent forest fires, the White House simultaneously denied an emergency request by Gov. …

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A new consumer revolution could change the way we label food

There's a tongue-in-cheek ad campaign going on in New York City right now regarding smoking in public places. The ads feature slogans like, "If they ban smoking in airports, people will never fly again," and "If they ban smoking in bathrooms, people will never gossip again." I thought of this campaign when I stumbled across a Reuters article on Tuesday describing opposition to a new law requiring that meat, seafood, produce, and peanuts be labeled with their countries of origin. Critics of the law quoted in the article foresaw disasters of nigh-biblical proportions: U.S. exports plunging, thousands of farmers pitched …

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Glade Tidings

Judge Agrees to Appoint Expert to Oversee Everglades Cleanup Dealing a blow to both Bush administrations (that is, G.W. in the White House and Jeb in Florida), a federal judge agreed late yesterday to appoint an expert to monitor the $8 billion restoration and cleanup of the Everglades. Environmentalists and a Native American tribe had asked for such an appointment, but government agencies and the powerful sugar industry lobby had strenuously objected. Siding with the former, U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno said an environmental lawyer will be appointed in two weeks to ensure "that the Everglades cleanup will proceed in …

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