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Muddy Water

EPA Analysis Finds Clean Water Act Changes Would Cause Major Setback An internal analysis conducted by the U.S. EPA has found that a Bush administration plan to alter clean water rules could result in more than half of the mid-Atlantic's streams and one-third of its wetlands losing protection under the federal Clean Water Act. That, in turn, would leave more than 3 million people reliant on drinking water supplies that were not protected by pollution regulations, according to the EPA analysis. At issue is a proposal, unveiled in January, that would make Clean Water Act protections inapplicable to most intrastate, …

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Keeping tabs on the Bush administration’s environmental record

Just after George W. Bush took office, two memos circulated among his top administrators that set the stage for what the president, during his campaign, promoted as a new era of environmental policy. On Bush's first day in office, January 20, 2001, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card sent a memo to all cabinet members directing them to ice more than 50 regulations (many of them several years in the making) that had been approved toward the end of the Clinton administration. The rules were not to be enacted unless the White House Office of Management and Budget could …

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You Get What You Pay For

Two EPA Officials Accept Jobs with Utility Industry Two high-ranking officials at the U.S. EPA are defecting to industry lobbying posts, causing an outcry among environmentalists. John Pemberton, chief of staff to the EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation, plans to work for Southern Company, an electrical utility conglomerate, while Edward Krenik, EPA associate administrator for congressional and intergovernmental relations, started work this week at Bracewell & Patterson, a law firm representing the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a utility-advocacy group. The Natural Resources Defense Council decried the job-change announcements, which came just one week after the EPA substantially weakened …

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Real Bad Estate

Bush Administration Lifts Ban on Selling PCB-Tainted Land In yet another behind-the-scenes weakening of environmental rules, the Bush administration last month quietly ended a ban on the sale of land contaminated with PCBs. The 25-year-old ban was designed to prevent polluted sites from being redeveloped in ways that might expose the public to PCBs, which are believed to be carcinogens. The U.S. EPA made the change by issuing an internal memo that reinterpreted an existing law; the agency made no public announcement and did not solicit public comment. Some EPA staffers worry that the shift will make it difficult to …

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Out of State, Not Out of Mind

States, Enviros Move to Sue Over Clean Air Act Changes Within hours after the Bush administration relaxed the federal clean-air rules governing the nation's power plants, refineries, and other facilities yesterday, environmental organizations and state attorneys general were preparing challenges to the rule change. The Northeast, in particular, was a flurry of legal activity, as the states most affected by emissions drifting eastward from coal-fired power plants in the Midwest began to get their ducks in a row: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania said they would go to court to block the rule change. "A large portion of …

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Peruvian Gold

Peruvian Natural Gas Project Denied Funding In a blow for two Texas energy companies, a huge Peruvian natural-gas project was denied funding yesterday because of concerns about the likely impact on a marine preserve, a rainforest, and indigenous people in the Amazon Basin. In a 2-to-1 vote, the U.S. Export-Import Bank rejected a bid for about $214 million in loan guarantees for the Camisea project, which would pump some 13 trillion cubic feet of gas from an Amazon rainforest and pipe it over the Andes to an export facility near a marine sanctuary off the coast of Peru. The forest …

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Relax? Don’t Do It!

Bush Administration Relaxes Clean Air Act Rules In an expected but nonetheless bitter blow to environmentalists, the Bush administration yesterday rolled back the New Source Review rules of the Clean Air Act. Under those rules, utilities were required to install state-of-the-art pollution controls when they upgraded their facilities. Now, those rules will be relaxed for the nation's oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, and factories -- some 17,000 of them. That's music to the ears of utility companies, which stand to save hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars from the rule change. Advocates of the rollback …

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Skeptic Tanked

Scientific Panel Dismisses Reports from Danish Environmental Skeptic Recent environmental reports produced by Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish environmental skeptic, were found to be unscientific and of dubious value yesterday by a panel of independent Scandinavian scientists. Lomborg created a stir with his controversial book The Skeptical Environmentalist, in which he dismissed a wide range of environmental concerns as overblown. Last year, Denmark's conservative government appointed Lomborg to head a new environmental think tank, the Institute for Environmental Valuation. Earlier this year, a prestigious Danish scientific committee charged Lomborg with scientific dishonesty, and the government then asked the independent panel to …

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Re-sounding Victory

Judge Orders Navy to Curtail Use of Sonar to Protect Marine Life In a victory for ocean advocates, a federal judge in California ruled yesterday that the U.S. Navy can't globally deploy a new submarine-hunting sonar system because the military neglected to follow federal laws when determining whether the sonar could harm whales and other marine animals. At the same time, Judge Elizabeth Laporte rejected requests from environmentalists for a total peacetime ban on the sonar. She ordered the Navy and enviro groups to negotiate a plan that would allow limited use of the technology in areas that are not …

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Mexican Standoff

Feds Will Study Environmental Impact of Mexican Trucks on U.S. Roads Bowing to a federal court order, the Bush administration announced yesterday that it will study what the environmental impact would be of an increase in Mexican trucks on U.S. roads. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals banned Mexican trucks from the U.S. in response to a lawsuit filed by environmental, labor, and trucking groups, which claimed that the administration had not determined what effect increased emissions from the trucks would have on air quality. The Transportation Department will proceed with a study, which is expected to take 12 …

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