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Scalia denies bias in Cheney case, but enviros say he looks as guilty as ever

Back on the Cheney gang. According to Sierra Club lawyers, Vice President Dick Cheney has been exceeding the recommended dosage of political Viagra. Last year, they sued him for metaphorically bedding the energy executives whom critics charge all but wrote the Bush administration's energy policy. Now they say he's been romancing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who will be hearing Cheney's appeal of the Sierra Club case next month. The high court agreed in December to consider the appeal from Cheney, who had been ducking a federal judge's order to disclose documents about his infamous 2001 energy task force for …

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Biotech Dot Con

U.S. Government Funds Biotech-Boosting Website The U.S. government has launched a new website that trumpets the benefits of genetically modified foods -- paid for with taxpayer dollars. It's part of a larger State Department effort to "encourage broader adoption and acceptance of biotechnology in the developing world," said department official Deborah Malac; the program got half a million dollars this year, and a million over the previous two. Some farming and environmental groups have protested that the government should be funding research on the safety of GM crops rather than accepting (and pushing) corporate claims about their beneficial qualities, and …

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EPA exaggerated claims about clean drinking water

That sinking feeling. The U.S. EPA claims it is successfully protecting the nation's drinking-water supplies -- but that claim seems to have sprung a leak. Earlier this month, the EPA's Office of the Inspector General accused officials in the agency of consistently making bogus statements about improvements in the quality of America's tap water. The charges are spelled out in a tellingly titled report: "EPA Claims to Meet Drinking Water Goals Despite Persistent Data Quality Shortcomings" [PDF]. "It's just one more example of Bush officials using cooked-up numbers to try to prove what a great job they're doing," said Erik …

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EPA and BLM fight over how to protect groundwater from massive Nevada mine

In an age when corporate America can't see past its quarterly results, it's hard to imagine how the world's largest gold producer is going to manage the environmental damage caused by one of its mines hundreds or even thousands of years into the future. Future site of the Phoenix mine. Photo: Lighthawk, Great Basin Mine Watch. That's the challenge Newmont Mining Corp. faces as it proposes to mine gold from a billion tons of rock in the Battle Mountain range of Nevada -- a state which, if it were a country, would rank third in the world in gold production …

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Bush drilling plan ticks off many New Mexicans and tickles GOP donors pink

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) is facing off against the Department of Interior and its Bureau of Land Management over a plan to allow oil and gas drilling on his state's pristine Otero Mesa -- an expanse of desert grassland which the governor, with a touch of dramatic flair, has called "the West's ANWR." Don't mesa 'round with New Mexico. Photo: Nathan Newcomer, NMWild.org. On Monday, Richardson -- whose name frequently pops up on lists of possible Democratic vice presidential nominees -- released an official state report [PDF] slamming the BLM's plan as "inconsistent with numerous state laws, rules, …

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Energy bill may be gaining ground, but prospects are still dicey

It's a gas, gas, gas. U.S. oil prices jumped to their highest levels since the Iraq war this week, hitting $37.51 a barrel, for an average of about $1.74 a gallon -- unwelcome news for those feeling the pinch at the pump, but great news for supporters of the newly overhauled but still-stalled energy bill. "They've been waiting for something like this -- a blackout, a spike in gas prices, a terrorist attack -- anything to convince a majority in the Senate that they have no choice but to steamroll this energy bill through," said a staffer at the Senate …

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To the Victor Goes the Right to Spoil

How the Energy Industry Won the Battle for Influence in the Bush Admin. It's a fable for our times: When the Bush administration took office in 2001, a battle over energy policy began. On one side was the U.S. EPA, with its team of long-time career employees and its moderate new head Christie Whitman. On the other side was Vice President Dick Cheney, the Energy Department under Spencer Abraham, and the energy industry, eventually organized by lobbyist (and ex-GOP party chair) Haley Barbour into the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, with a helping hand from lobbyist (and future GOP party chair) …

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Southwest Passage

New Mexico Passes Renewable-Energy Bills New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) yesterday celebrated the passage of a remarkable package of progressive energy bills, with the vocal support of a broad coalition including utilities, environmentalists, ranchers, and consumers. The centerpiece is a new law stating that all investor-owned electrical utilities in the state must generate 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2011. New Mexico is uniquely positioned to lead the country as the "Saudi Arabia of renewable energy," said Dan Reicher, a former U.S. Department of Energy official: "You've got great sun, great wind, you've got biomass, you've …

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Bush EPA dilutes meaning of environmental justice

The U.S. EPA has failed to integrate environmental justice research into the development of its policies, says a report [PDF] released on Monday by the EPA's inspector general (IG), who operates an independent office within the agency. Play at your own risk. Photo: Environmental Defense. More troubling still, the EPA under President Bush seems to have watered down the very definition of environmental justice to the point of emptiness. The IG's report -- neatly summed up by its title, "The EPA Needs to Consistently Implement the Intent of the Executive Order on Environmental Justice" -- was written in response to …

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Group Hug

Environmental Cooperation Bringing Hostile Nations Together Frustrated by the glacial pace and pestersome bureaucracy of major international treaties and conventions, a new generation of environmental activists is turning its focus to "environmental peacekeeping": local, grassroots efforts to forge cooperation on ecosystem preservation among neighboring nations with a history of conflict. Activists say that, rather than provoking further conflict, shared environmental challenges often serve as an opportunity for geopolitical opponents to reach rapprochement. Joint conservation projects are underway between rival nations such as Russia and Kazakhstan; Peru and Ecuador; and China and Vietnam. "There's not much in the way of political …

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