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North Dakota “reduces” pollution by measuring it differently

From Badlands to worse. Photo: NPS. To Theodore Roosevelt, a man who battled chronic asthma, the remote Badlands of North Dakota were as beloved for their fresh air as for their dramatic views and big game. "Wildflowers and sagebrush spiced the clean, dry North Dakotan breeze. Roosevelt's asthmatic lungs rejoiced in this air, as did his soul in the sheer size and emptiness of the landscape," Edmund Morris wrote in The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. Now ol' T.R. is probably spinning -- or wheezing -- in his grave. Just before Valentine's Day this year, the Bush administration gave the North …

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Science Friction

Top Scientists Accuse Bush Administration of Distorting Science The Bush administration, reeling from a series of unflattering stories and unfavorable poll numbers, took another kick in the pants yesterday when 60 of the world's most influential scientists -- including 20 Nobel laureates and 19 recipients of the National Medal of Science -- accused the administration in an open letter of systematically distorting scientific research and misleading the public about the likely results of its policies. In an accompanying report, the Union of Concerned Scientists detailed numerous instances in which the administration has suppressed scientific results, gagged its own science officials, …

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I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Study Finds MTBE Can Be Absorbed Through Skin A U.S. EPA study released yesterday concludes that the controversial fuel additive MTBE can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin, a finding likely to, ahem, fuel calls for further study and regulation. While the EPA was careful to say that the health effects of MTBE skin absorption are still unknown, enviros were quick to make hay from the study. "It's one more piece of evidence that MTBE is not something you want in your water," said Tom Curtis of the America Water Works Association. A provision to shield MTBE manufacturers …

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Put Down the Drills and Back Away Slowly

Enviro Groups Sue to Stop Alaska Drilling A coalition of seven environmental groups filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to stop a plan to open 8.8 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska to oil and gas development. The groups -- including the National Audubon Society, Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Alaska Wilderness League, and Sierra Club -- do not want to block all development. Rather, they want the plan reconsidered in light of federal protections for wildlife and habitats, and they want an adequate study of the likely environmental impact. Interior Secretary Gale Norton -- named in …

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A wide-ranging interview with environmental visionary Paul Hawken

Paul Hawken. It's hard to believe it was only a month ago that environmental hotshots Paul Hawken, Bruce Babbitt, Bill McKibben, and Terry Tempest Williams published a joint endorsement of Howard Dean in Grist. "We've concluded that the blast of clean air coming from the millions of Americans that constitute the Dean campaign is the best chance for [positive environmental] change," they wrote. "This democratic impulse seems to us an almost ecological imperative; something marvelous, and inevitable, blooming through the cracks in the concrete that the powers that be have poured over our political landscape." Shortly thereafter, Dean's campaign took …

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The Yellowstone snowmobile controversy gets more convoluted by the minute

The past few days have brought two more odd legal twists and turns to the Yellowstone snowmobile saga, which is becoming more litigiously complex and far-flung than a John Grisham novel. She's got a ticket to ride. Photo: NPS. The story is essentially a protracted game of legal Ping-Pong: The Clinton administration served the ball when it ordered a phaseout of snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks back in January 2001, just before Clinton left office. The Bush administration returned the serve in the early days of its term by freezing that decision, then reversing it in March …

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Coal and Calculating

Bush Admin. Decision Could Boost Pollution in National Parks In a move that could lead to more pollution in national parks, the Bush administration on Friday said it will permit North Dakota to change the way it estimates air pollution in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Seems like a small thing, but the new estimation formula is likely to produce lower emissions predictions, paving the way for a new coal-fired power plant to be built near the park. Enviros fear that the U.S. EPA will cut similar deals with other states -- for example, Utah, where there's a proposal to build …

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The Minnow Would Be Lost

Senator's Plan Would Move Endangered Fish to Wetter Habitat The New Mexico habitat of the silvery minnow, an endangered fish, too often goes dry, so Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) has come up with an unusual plan: relocate the fish to wetter territory. The minnow, which lives primarily in the Rio Grande River south of Albuquerque, has been the subject of substantial controversy because when the river gets low, water is diverted from towns and farmers to sustain the species' habitat. Domenici wants to turn that equation on its head and move the fish upstream where there are more consistent flows. …

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Shape Up or Ship Out

Texas Ship-Inspection Company Implicated in Prestige Tanker Disaster Negligence on the part of the Texas-based American Bureau of Shipping -- a company that conducts safety inspections of ships -- could be to blame for the notorious Prestige tanker disaster, which spilled millions of gallons of oil off the coast of Spain 15 months ago and affected or destroyed the livelihoods of some 100,000 fishers and other Spaniards. So say two lawsuits pending against ABS, which seek a combined total of $1 billion in damages from the company. Though numerous problems had been found with the ship over the years and …