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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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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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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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Streaming Media

Judge Bans Pesticide Use Near Northwest Salmon Runs A federal judge Thursday banned the use of a wide range of pesticides in and around thousands of miles of waterways in the Northwest frequented by endangered salmon, and required stores selling seven of the most dangerous banned pesticides to display signs reading "salmon hazard." U.S. District Judge John Coughenour's sweeping ruling, which will apply to everything from farms to orchards to golf courses, establishes a 100-yard buffer around streams when aerial spraying and a 20-yard buffer when ground spraying -- protective measures that the ruling calls "common, simple, and effective." Although …

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Veteran environmental leader gives Kerry the green light

Ted gets Kerry-ed away. Photo: Lou Dematteis, Kerry for President. A mischievous grin spread across John Kerry's face last week as he was introducing Ted Kennedy, his fellow Massachusetts senator, to an Iowa crowd. It caught my eye because I hadn't seen Kerry smile for quite a while. "I'm now pleased to introduce," he said, "the real leader of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party -- Ted Kennedy." Without rancor, Kerry had popped the empty little balloon that had long been Howard Dean's biggest applause line. And I thought to myself, He's back. As it turns out, Kerry had …

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Zinc Positive

Supreme Court Sides With EPA in Clean Air Case A narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the U.S. EPA has the authority to override state government decisions on what constitutes the "best available" anti-pollution technology. Enviros hailed the decision as a victory for clean air, while libertarian think tanks, a coalition of Western states, and four justices decried it as a violation of states' rights. The case focused on a zinc and lead mine in Alaska whose expansion proposal had been accepted by state regulators; EPA officials subsequently ruled that the mine's air-quality technology was not the …

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Patently Absurd

GM Giant Monsanto Sues Canadian Farmer Speaking of genetic drift: The Canadian Supreme Court began hearing arguments on Tuesday in a case that has become a cause celebre for both opponents and fans of agricultural biotechnology. Agro-giant Monsanto Co. sued Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser when its patented biotech canola was found growing in his fields in 1997; the company requires a per-acre licensing fee for use of its herbicide-resistant seeds. Schmeiser claims that the canola seeds drifted onto his land from neighboring farms without his knowledge. The lawsuit has come to represent the hopes and fears of small farmers around …

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Misstate of the Union

Bush State of the Union Speech Silent on Environment In a State of the Union speech that found time to discuss the evils of steroid use among athletes -- an issue entirely outside the purview of the federal government -- President Bush did not mention the environment, or the environmental challenges facing the country, a single time. Foreign policy loomed large, dominating the first half of the speech. The latter half, which focused on domestic policy, was bereft of new proposals and any mention of clean air, clean water, threatened species, or public lands. (In contrast, in his 2003 SOTU …

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Industry flacks learn how to snooker the public with their not-so-eco-friendly messages

This morning, some 50 people powwowed in the chandeliered Ticonderoga conference room of the Hyatt Regency hotel on Capitol Hill for a conference entitled "Environmental Issues 2004: How to Get Results in an Election Year." There weren't more than a handful of environmentalists in attendance -- perhaps because the conference was hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers, known to be one of the most anti-environment industry groups in the country. The great attraction of the affair (which cost up to $150 a head) was its keynote speaker -- not an industry kingpin, not a bigwig GOP pollster like Frank …