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Europe Paean

Major American corporations may be getting off easy on environmental regulations in the U.S. these days, but they're being forced to toe the line in Europe. Rules adopted this year will require all electronics manufacturers doing business in European Union countries to eliminate use of lead, mercury, and other heavy metals from their products, and makers of electronics and appliances to pay to recycle their goods at the end of their useful lives -- changes that U.S. companies say could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Also in the works are E.U. laws that would encourage energy …

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Gutter Talk

The Bush administration has been discreetly gutting environmental protections by encouraging industry groups to sue over rules and then settling those lawsuits on terms favorable to industry, enviros argue. Using such tactics, the administration has allowed more logging in Northwest forests, curtailed protections for roadless lands and potential wilderness areas in the West, and reopened national parklands to snowmobiles. "In the guise of settling lawsuits, federal officials have retired to the backroom to work out deals that sacrifice our old-growth forests, salmon, and clean water for the sake of clear-cutting our public lands," said Patti Goldman of Earthjustice, a public-interest …

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Out, Damn Dam!

The Bush administration last week proposed the breaching of a hydroelectric dam near Missoula, Mont. -- yep, you read that right. It's not one of the four dams on the Snake River that enviros want to tear down in order to restore salmon runs, but it's in the same region. The Milltown Dam blocks migration of threatened bull trout and traps dangerous toxics from mining operations upstream, storing them in a reservoir. "The Bush administration is doing the right thing here," said Tracy Stone-Manning, executive director of the Clark Fork Coalition, a local environmental group. Even Republicans hate the Milltown …

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Orange Alert

The U.S. military sprayed twice as much herbicide on Vietnam during the war there than previously estimated, according to a study published today in the journal Nature. Relying on previously unexamined military documents and new assessments of dioxin concentrations, the study found that an additional 1.8 million gallons of toxic herbicides, mostly Agent Orange, were used by the Armed Forces. From 1961 to 1971, more than 10 percent of what was then South Vietnam was sprayed with defoliants in an effort to destroy food crops and remove forest cover from combat areas. An estimated 14 percent of Vietnam's forests were …

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Ever Glad-handing

The federal government is footing half the $8.4 billion bill for restoring the Florida Everglades -- so no wonder eight U.S. lawmakers are expressing concern over what they see as the state's efforts to alter the Everglades Forever Act, which sets the terms of the cleanup. Florida Department of Environmental Protection chief David Struhs is in Washington, D.C., today to reassure those lawmakers, who hailed from both sides of the aisle, and emphasize the state's commitment to restoring the Everglades. Those reassurances are necessary, because this week, the Natural Resources Committee of the Florida legislature approved changes in a matter …

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Wild Thing, I Think I Lost You

In a major blow to wilderness advocates in Utah and around the country, the Bush administration on Friday announced its intention to suspend new wilderness reviews of federal lands in the West and to remove protections from nearly 3 million acres in Utah that had been under consideration for wilderness status. The Interior Department, in settling a lawsuit filed by the state of Utah, put a halt to Clinton-era policies that had encouraged the Bureau of Land Management to protect land while it was being assessed for wilderness qualities. The administration plans to cap at 22.8 million the number of …

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Earth Island of the Blue Dolphin

In better news for enviros, a federal judge has upheld the existing definition of "dolphin-safe" tuna, thwarting an effort by the Bush administration to relax the term to include tuna caught by methods that can harm marine mammals. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson noted in his ruling yesterday that the administration's efforts to change the definition seemed to have been driven more by trade interests than scientific evidence, a situation he described as raising "a serious question as to the integrity" of the decision-making process. Fishing fleets in Mexico, Venezuela, and elsewhere in Latin America have pressured the White House …

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Alcoa-holics

Two of the nation's corporate giants, Alcoa and Archer Daniels Midland, have agreed to settle charges of violating the New Source Review rules of the federal Clean Air Act by making upgrades ballparked at some $700 million, according to people familiar with the settlements. Alcoa, the world's largest producer of aluminum, has 12 months to cut sulfur dioxide emissions at a plant in Rockdale, Tex., by 95 percent (or over 52,000 tons per year) and nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 percent (or 17,000 tons per year). In addition, the company will pony up $1.5 million in fines and $2.5 million …

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Made to Border

Mexico and the U.S. shook hands Friday on a 10-year agreement to fight pollution along their shared 2,000-mile border, while some enviros contended that without money behind the deal, it won't make a real dent in the region's many problems. The intent is to reduce air pollution, protect water supplies, and prevent pesticide contamination in the border area, which is home to almost 12 million people. In the wake of NAFTA, the population along the border has grown markedly, particularly on the Mexican side, where people flock to find jobs at U.S.-owned factories, or maquiladoras, that have become notorious polluters. …

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Civil Wrongs

In the South, low-income, black citizens are becoming more outspoken and effective as they fight the construction of landfills, polluting factories, and other environmentally hazardous facilities in their communities, and they're increasingly being joined by neighbors of all colors. "Companies now don't just bully in," said Robert Bullard, a sociology professor at Clark Atlanta University who has studied environmental racism. "When they do, they're in for a rude awakening." Companies often argue that their proposed plants and incinerators would create jobs, but even in economically depressed areas, many citizens aren't willing to overlook the pollution that these developments bring to …