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An improbable plan would use Arctic Refuge drilling proceeds to fund transportation projects

Beltway insiders waited with bated breath yesterday to see if Sen. Peter Domenici (R-N.M.) would succeed in tacking his stalled-out energy bill onto the huge highway transportation bill now wending its way through Congress. The consensus from his Senate Republican colleagues? No deal. In need of refuge. Photo: FWS. But another cockamamie plan that would mingle energy policy and transportation funding is in the works. In an open letter prominently featured on the website of the House Resources Committee earlier this week, Committee Chair Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) proposed opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration and …

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Snowmobefuddlement

Judge Issues Yet Another Reversal of Yellowstone Snowmobile Ban An already-confusing winter for tourists and tour operators in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks got more muddled yesterday, when a federal judge overturned severe restrictions on snowmobiling in the parks. For those of you keeping score at home, a quick rundown of the story so far: Just before leaving office in January 2001, President Clinton imposed restrictions on snowmobile use in the parks, aiming for a complete ban by 2003-04. Later in 2001, President Bush gave the National Park Service a chance to "further study" the issue. NPS released much …

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Natural Gas, Unnatural Allies

Unlikely Coalition Opposes Bush's Plan to Drill in New Mexico New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) is leading an improbable coalition of enviros, ranchers, hunters, and property-rights activists in a fight against the Bush administration's plans to drill for natural gas in the Otero Mesa area of New Mexico, a vast and largely untouched expanse of desert grasslands that Richardson has called "the West's ANWR." A recent Department of Interior proposal would open 90 percent of the area to drilling. Richardson's strong stance is a signal that Bush's energy policy could become a hot election-year issue in the Rocky Mountain …

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When Irresistible Cuts Meet Immovable Pork

Senate Republicans Flailing as They Try to Push Through Energy Bill Senate Republicans are having a bad week. A proposal to push the energy bill through Congress by attaching it to the more popular and pressing transportation bill was roundly rejected yesterday. President Bush told Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Monday that he wants costs cut substantially on both the energy bill and the transportation bill, a move many observers say is a response to election-year concerns over the budget deficit. Congressional leaders managed to pare down the energy bill's costs by more than half (from $31 billion …

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Bush nominates eco-hostile lobbyist to federal appeals court

My, oh, Myers. Photo: DOI. Environmental advocates are bristling over President Bush's nomination of William G. Myers III to the San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, calling Myers the most anti-environment judicial candidate the president has ever put forward. With rhetoric like that being thrown about, don't be surprised if Myers becomes the latest in a string of right-wing jurists stymied by Democratic filibusters in the Senate. Myers, a spitfire critic of environmentalists, hails from Boise, Idaho. A longtime lawyer and lobbyist for the mining and cattle industries, he recently served as a Bush-appointed senior solicitor at the …

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Not By the Air of My Chinny-chin-chin

States Expect Clean Air Act Changes Will Increase Pollution Most state environmental officials expect that changes to Clean Air Act rules proposed by the Bush administration would lead to higher air pollution, according to a survey conducted by the General Accounting Office upon the request of Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.). The survey gathered responses from 44 states; officials in 27 states expected higher pollution, officials in five expected a decrease, and officials in 12 expected no change. The U.S. EPA, which claims that the changes (primarily related to New Source Review provisions) would have minimal effect …

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Linkin’ Mercury

New Study Reveals More Babies at Risk From Mercury Roughly 630,000 of the 4 million children born annually in the U.S. are at risk of impaired motor function, learning capacity, memory, and vision due to high levels of mercury in their bloodstreams, revealed a U.S. EPA analysis released yesterday, which doubles the previously estimated number. While researchers once assumed that maternal and fetal blood contained equal levels of mercury, new studies of umbilical blood show that babies' levels are approximately 70 percent higher than their mothers'. Much mercury pollution comes from coal-fired power plants; it contaminates water sources, works its …

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Do the Domenici

Senate Republicans, led by Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), are trying one more time to get the Bush administration's energy bill passed, but growing worries over the massive federal budget deficit are making it difficult. You see, Domenici and crew larded the bill up with billions of dollars worth of tax incentives and subsidies (on top of Bush's already-larded $18 billion original) in order to buy the votes needed ... oops, did we say "buy"? We meant "persuade"! With deficit worries reaching an election-year fever pitch, Domenici has promised to trim the fat, but doing so may cost him the votes of …

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Greensylvania

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) unveiled a $22 billion state budget yesterday with numerous eco-friendly provisions that promise to protect green space, return abandoned mine sites to productive use, improve state parks, and revitalize aging city centers, asserting that such measures would spur economic development. Enviros hailed the budget, saying it would make Pennsylvania the top state in energy and environmental policy, but Republicans in the state legislature grumbled that it sent the wrong message to business. "He's a tax-and-spend liberal," said Rep. Jerry Birmelin (R). Despite the complaint, Rendell's "Growing Greener II" initiative would be paid for not with …

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Worries over federal deficit could dim prospects for energy bill

Oh, the irony. The same week Fortune magazine released a special "Climate Collapse" issue warning its double-starched readers of "growing evidence" that "abrupt climate change may well occur in the not-too-distant future," Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate have been attempting yet again to push through a controversial energy bill that would only intensify the threat. In late January, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) announced that he would be "working closely with House leadership to see what steps we can take to get the last few votes we need for final passage." Soaring gasoline and home-heating costs as well as threats …