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Oversight Out of Mind

Bush Relaxes Safety at Nuke Facilities The Bush administration has a new plan to waive some safety standards at federal nuclear facilities. The administration apparently didn't like being directed by Congress in 2002 to strictly enforce safety standards at the nuke sites -- though, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, you might have thought such a step would be a no-brainer. In an effort to increase "flexibility" (gotta love that euphemism), the Department of Energy recently proposed to enforce only safety plans written by contractors. Protests were swiftly lodged by members of Congress from both parties, …

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Round and Round They Go

Florida's Top Environmental Regulator Takes Job With Company He Regulated Florida's top environmental official, David Struhs, resigned Wednesday to take a job with International Paper, a company he did controversial favors for while in office. As head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Struhs received mixed reviews from enviros, with some lauding his tough enforcement of environmental regulations (which may, ironically, have prevented him from being appointed as U.S. EPA administrator) and others pointing to his cozy relationship with industry and involvement in several highly contentious decisions. The most contentious was his support for legislation that delayed final deadlines …

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EPA attempts to defuse MTBE issue in New Hampshire

Folks who paid close attention to the speeches of New Hampshire primary victor John Kerry in recent weeks would have noticed an emphasis on MTBE -- a gasoline additive that makes fuel burn more efficiently and cleanly, but is suspected to be carcinogenic* and widely known to contaminate groundwater. To outsiders, this may have seemed like a strange environmental issue to spotlight -- why not focus on global warming, say, or species extinction? New Hampshire wants its rivers to flow MTBE-free. Photo: U.S. DOT. But MTBE is an issue with considerable political resonance -- not only inside the Beltway, where …

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Next They’ll Get Rid of All the Stop Signs

Bush Admin. to Eliminate Pesticide Regulations It Doesn't Obey The provision of the Endangered Species Act that requires the U.S. EPA to consult with two other federal agencies when licensing new pesticides will be formally abandoned, if the Bush administration has its way. Government officials concede that the provision -- meant to involve the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service in every pesticide review to ensure that endangered species won't be harmed by new chemicals -- has been informally ignored for years. Proposed new regulations would officially let the government off the hook for what …

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Tempest in a Teapot

Government to Bury CO2 in Teapot Dome Oil Field The U.S. Department of Energy is planning to bury some 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide a year underneath the Teapot Dome oil field in central Wyoming, in the largest carbon-sequestration test project ever undertaken. The process, which involves compressing CO2 into liquid form and injecting it into depleted oil reservoirs, is being touted by the Bush administration as one of the most effective ways to combat global warming. One goal of the test is to stimulate growth of the private CO2 sequestration industry; another is to calm worries of environmental …

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A Dam Sham

Bush Officials Stand Atop Dam to Trumpet Salmon Funding Bush administration officials announced a $10 million increase in funding for restoration of endangered Northwest salmon on Monday, drawing election-year attention to recent increases in salmon numbers. Enviros expressed measured support for the rise in funding, but pointed out that higher salmon numbers were mostly attributable to changing ocean conditions. They also pointed out that $10 million is a fraction of the $110 million funding increase the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission says is needed to pay for ongoing restoration projects. They also pointed out that a federal blueprint for Columbia …

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Rivers and Tithes

Judge Rules Government Must Pay for Withheld Water In a case that could have substantial implications for enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, a federal judge ruled recently that the U.S. government must pay California irrigators some $14 million for water it withheld from them during an early 1990s drought in the state. The water was held back in order to maintain river and stream flows sufficient to protect two endangered fish species. The ruling builds on an earlier decision by the same judge that the withholding amounted to a property taking under the U.S. Constitution, which means the property …

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The League’s Extraordinary Gentleman

League of Conservation Voters Endorses Kerry The League of Conservation Voters has officially endorsed John Kerry for president, marking the first time in the organization's history that it has backed a candidate prior to the first primaries. Kerry, four-term Democratic senator from Massachusetts, has the best environmental voting record of the Democratic candidates, with an LCV score of 96 percent (Lieberman, whose supporters are reportedly frustrated with the decision, comes in second at 93 percent). LCV's board of directors has made unseating Bush a priority, and expressed hope that their early endorsement would raise the profile of environmental issues in …

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You Know the Drill

Bush Admin. Opens Nearly 9 Million Alaskan Acres to Oil Exploration Interior Secretary Gale Norton approved a plan on Thursday that will open nearly 9 million acres of pristine land on Alaska's North Slope to oil exploration and drilling. She pledged that the exploration and production in the area, a section of the huge National Petroleum Reserve, would be done in an "environmentally responsible manner with the best available technology." Enviros weren't convinced. "It makes no sense to industrialize this incomparable wilderness area when there's only about six months' worth of economically recoverable oil ... and it would take at …

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The Thinners Have Much More Fun

Forest Service to Triple Sierra Nevada Logging Citing the need to prevent catastrophic forest fires like the ones that plagued Southern California last year, on Thursday the U.S. Forest Service announced a plan to spend $50 million a year to thin forests in California's Sierra Nevada mountains. The plan would allow logging of 330 million board-feet of green timber a year, roughly triple the amount allowed under the Clinton administration. "You have to thin the forest to protect the forest," said Regional Forester Jack Blackwell. "If we don't take those actions, we're going to burn 'em up. It's as simple …

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