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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 …

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Token enforcement of Clean Air Act provision smacks of political opportunism

This election year, U.S. EPA chief Mike Leavitt is playing the part of a Clean Air Act tough guy. Leavitt, left, with Bush, is acting tough. Photo: White House. For three years, the Bush administration and the power industry have been happily entangled in a session of mutual back-scratching -- utilities have been generous contributors to Bush and his Republican cohorts, and the administration has conspicuously refrained from filing a single lawsuit against an over-polluting power plant. But last month, Leavitt stirred things up by taking a no-more-Mr.-Nice-Guy stance with utilities; he called on them to clean up their facilities …

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Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

A coalition of more than 60 environmental, civil-rights, and Native American groups have sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing the confirmation of William G. Myers III to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Before serving as the Interior Department's chief legal officer, Bush nominee Myers was a lobbyist for the cattle and mining industries. He submitted briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing (unsuccessfully) that Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act safeguards were unconstitutional. He has also been vocal in his opposition to laws that protect sacred tribal lands, and has stated that ranchers' property …

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Morose Code

In a move that should mean cleaner air for Washington, D.C., a federal appeals court yesterday rejected the U.S. EPA's decision to accept a D.C.-area proposal to delay enforcement of Clean Air Act-mandated pollution levels for several years past the act's 1999 deadline. The area was classified as being in "severe" violation of federal ozone standards in January 2003, and it had nine "Code Red" ozone violation days in summer 2002. The ruling was a victory for the Sierra Club, which filed the suit challenging the EPA's provisional acceptance of the proposal in 2002. A three-judge appeals court panel chastised …

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Let’s Get Fiscal

President Bush's $2.4 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2005, released today, gives the environment the shaft. The budget does propose funding increases for a handful of high-profile enviro projects (mostly in electoral swing states), including Superfund cleanups, conservation grants to private landowners, maintenance and construction in national parks, and salmon restoration. In many cases, however, those increases come at the expense of other environmental programs; funding for the U.S. EPA as a whole is cut by more than 7 percent, and funding for the U.S. Forest Service is cut by 7.6 percent. Two details particularly nettlesome to enviros: Money …

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And Now for Something Completely Different

In sharp contrast to the recently released Bush administration budget, Canada's Liberal Party government on Monday promised to double spending on contaminated-site cleanups, promote green technologies to increase energy efficiency, and go beyond the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol in curtailing emissions. Over 10 years, $4 billion will be devoted to cleaning up polluted military bases, abandoned mines, nuclear research labs, and other sites for which the federal government is responsible; an additional $500 million will go to partnerships with provincial governments for local cleanups. The speech surprised and pleased Canadian enviros, who had worried that the Liberal Party's new …

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Cap ‘n’ Trade Cut ‘n’ Paste

If new rules proposed by the Bush administration to cut power-plant mercury emissions sound like they were written by industry lobbyists, it's only because, well, they kinda were. The proposal, released by the U.S. EPA on Friday for a 60-day public comment period, contains at least 12 paragraphs lifted almost verbatim from memorandums sent to the EPA by Latham & Watkins, a top Washington corporate environmental law firm. EPA spokespersons dismissed the plagiarism as an innocent interagency mix-up; the writer of the L&W memos called it "gratifying." Enviros criticized the EPA proposal, which would put in place a cap-and-trade system …

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State of the Art

One hundred years ago, progressives believed that states were laboratories of democracy, small-scale testing grounds for innovative policies. While the civil-rights struggle cast that view into disfavor, it may be on its way to a renaissance, led by forward-thinking state leaders concerned about the environment. Spurred by the federal government's failure to tackle many environmental problems in a timely fashion (or at all), state legislatures from California to New Mexico to Maryland are pushing funding for renewable energy and passing restrictions on pollution from power plants and heavy trucks. These moves take place in the context of a larger political …

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Swinging Both Ways

Bush Announces Environmental Money for Swing States A recent flurry of announcements from the Bush administration about proposed funding increases for environmental projects -- including salmon restoration and brush clearing in the Northwest, Everglades protection in Florida, and cleanup of the Great Lakes -- has some enviros suspicious. Not that they aren't glad to have a bit more money going to good causes. But they point out that the funding increases have several things in common: they are for programs the administration pushed to cut as recently as last year; they represent a fraction of the money requested by the …

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A Breath of Somewhat Fresher Air

Scientists Recommend Solutions to Coming Air-Quality Challenges Though the past three decades have seen substantial progress, concerted action is needed to prevent air pollution from adversely affecting the environment and human health now and in the future, reported the National Research Council of the National Academies, a nonpartisan scientific panel chartered by Congress to assess current air-quality standards. Population and economic growth will soon make current regulations inadequate, said the scientists, who evinced particular concern about ozone (a precursor to smog) and fine particulates of soot. The panel endorsed expanding cap-and-trade systems, a recommendation that may please the Bush administration, …