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Fun facts on voters’ environmental values and more

73 -- percentage of Americans who think political candidates' positions on the environment are "very important" or "somewhat important"1 61 -- percentage who say they are either active participants in or sympathizers with the environmental movement2 30 -- percentage who list the environment as an "extremely important" factor in deciding for whom to vote3 49 -- percentage who list both the economy and terrorism as "extremely important" factors in deciding for whom to vote3 51 -- percentage who say the U.S. government is doing too little to protect the environment2 35 -- percentage who believe that the Bush administration is …

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A special edition on elections and the environment

"Information is the currency of democracy," said Thomas Jefferson, who, as the oft-cited father of democracy, presumably knew whereof he spoke. Alas, a couple of hundred years later, it seems more accurate to say that currency is the currency of democracy. Here at the height of the Information Age, information about the workings of our democracy is increasingly tough to come by (think of the Bush administration stonewalling about Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force) and increasingly hard to trust (think of the staggering consolidation and centralization of media control). To counter those trends and conduct a little Jefferson-style …

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Dump Struck

Bush Lets Mining Companies Dump on More Public Land The Bush administration announced yet another environmental rollback on Friday, following a pattern of releasing such news right before a holiday weekend, presumably in hopes that it will slip past the public's notice. This time the beneficiaries are mining companies, which, thanks to a reinterpretation of the 1872 Mining Law, will now be able to use as much public land as they want to develop operations for mining gold, silver, and other minerals. The 131-year-old mining act, long criticized as outdated by the environmental community, already allows mining companies to extract …

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Creature Discomforts

Endangered Species May Soon Be Imported to U.S., Under Bush Proposal The Bush administration wants to radically alter conservation policies to allow hunters, circuses, the pet industry, and leather importers to bring endangered animals into the U.S. from other nations -- dead or alive. Since its adoption in 1973, the Endangered Species Act has been interpreted as effectively prohibiting trade in endangered species between the U.S. and other countries, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now argues that other nations should be permitted to sell a limited number of endangered animals to American buyers, so the funds generated can …

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No Heir Apparent Until Air’s Apparent

Documents Show Sharp Dispute Took Place Over 9/11 Air Quality Information Newly released government documents are finally providing Congressional Democrats with what they've been looking for: information about who was responsible for censoring data about Manhattan's air quality following the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Those documents reveal "screaming telephone calls" between the U.S. EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, as the council advocated for reassuring the public with calming language -- and incomplete information. The White House council objected to the posting of raw air-quality data on the Internet and said …

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Holmstead Act

EPA Official Gave Misleading Testimony on Clean Air, Say Whistleblowers Meanwhile, all isn't well inside the U.S. EPA, either. Last year, Assistant Administrator for Air Policy Jeffrey Holmstead testified before Congress that Bush administration efforts to ease clean air enforcement rules wouldn't interfere with pending lawsuits against dirty power plants -- but two former agency officials say key aides had repeatedly told Holmstead otherwise. The two whistleblowers are Sylvia Lowrance, former acting chief of the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, and Eric Schaeffer, the former enforcement official who resigned last year to protest Bush administration environmental policies. Holmstead …

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Will a softer McCain-Lieberman bill prove to be harder-hitting?

Even though Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) decided to soften the terms of their climate bill last week, the document may go down in history as one of the hardest-hitting gambits in the U.S. fight against global warming. In fact, easing the demands of the bill -- which proposes a mandatory cap on greenhouse-gas emissions from the energy, industrial, commercial, and transportation sectors -- may mean it will pack more of a punch in the long run. Why? Because all of the senators who vote against it (likely to be a majority, unfortunately) will seem that much …

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Dollars Without Sense

Privatizing Forest Service Jobs Would Cost More, Study Finds A Bush administration plan to privatize hundreds of U.S. Forest Service jobs, from wildlife biologists to safety officers, would cost taxpayers more than continuing to pay federal employees, a new agency study has found. Under the Bush plan, as many as one-fourth of all 40,000 USFS jobs would be outsourced in the interest of "improving the cost-effectiveness" of the agency -- but according to a study that looked at jobs in New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Texas and Oklahoma, private contractors would cost more than federal employees. The study's authors …

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Live MTBE-Free or Die

New Hampshire Sues 22 Oil Companies Over MTBE Pollution In a first-of-its-kind move by a state, New Hampshire filed suit against 22 oil companies yesterday, blaming them for contaminating drinking water with the fuel additive MTBE. The companies added the chemical to their gasoline to make it burn more cleanly, but it has leached into more than 15 percent of public water supplies and an estimated 40,000 private wells in the state. Other communities around the country have also uncovered MTBE contamination in their drinking water. "These companies knew of the dangers that adding MTBE to gasoline posed to the …

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A Monumental Decision

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to National Monuments The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a pillar of former President Clinton's environmental legacy yesterday when it refused to hear challenges to the creation of seven national monuments in five Western states. The Mountain States Legal Foundation, a conservative law firm, argued that Clinton overstepped the bounds of the 1906 Antiquities Act when he created the monuments, and Tulare County, Calif., argued that restrictions on logging stemming from the creation of the Giant Sequoia National Monument have significantly raised the risk of wildfires, but their arguments didn't convince the court to hear …

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