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Dollars Without Sense

Privatizing Forest Service Jobs Would Cost More, Study Finds A Bush administration plan to privatize hundreds of U.S. Forest Service jobs, from wildlife biologists to safety officers, would cost taxpayers more than continuing to pay federal employees, a new agency study has found. Under the Bush plan, as many as one-fourth of all 40,000 USFS jobs would be outsourced in the interest of "improving the cost-effectiveness" of the agency -- but according to a study that looked at jobs in New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Texas and Oklahoma, private contractors would cost more than federal employees. The study's authors …

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Live MTBE-Free or Die

New Hampshire Sues 22 Oil Companies Over MTBE Pollution In a first-of-its-kind move by a state, New Hampshire filed suit against 22 oil companies yesterday, blaming them for contaminating drinking water with the fuel additive MTBE. The companies added the chemical to their gasoline to make it burn more cleanly, but it has leached into more than 15 percent of public water supplies and an estimated 40,000 private wells in the state. Other communities around the country have also uncovered MTBE contamination in their drinking water. "These companies knew of the dangers that adding MTBE to gasoline posed to the …

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A Monumental Decision

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to National Monuments The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a pillar of former President Clinton's environmental legacy yesterday when it refused to hear challenges to the creation of seven national monuments in five Western states. The Mountain States Legal Foundation, a conservative law firm, argued that Clinton overstepped the bounds of the 1906 Antiquities Act when he created the monuments, and Tulare County, Calif., argued that restrictions on logging stemming from the creation of the Giant Sequoia National Monument have significantly raised the risk of wildfires, but their arguments didn't convince the court to hear …

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Caveat Farmer

Bush Insulates Pesticide Makers from Lawsuits The Bush administration is doing a big favor for pesticide manufacturers by instituting a new policy that will curb farmers' ability to sue the companies if their products don't work as promised. In a significant policy reversal, the U.S. EPA has reinterpreted a federal law and now claims that it bars suits against chemical manufacturers when their pesticides or herbicides harm a crop they are supposed to protect or fail to eradicate an insect or blight. Tom Buis of the National Farmers Union worries that the shift could leave farmers without legal recourse even …

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Suit to Kill

California and Other States to Sue EPA over Greenhouse Gases California intends to sue the U.S. EPA over the Bush administration's recent decision that the agency doesn't have the authority to regulate emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, Gov. Gray Davis (D) announced on Friday. Nine other states, including Illinois, New York, and Washington, are expected to join the suit, which argues that the EPA should have the power to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases under the federal Clean Air Act. Last year, California passed the nation's first law aimed at reining in CO2 emissions …

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Run Out on a Rail

Senate Rejects White House Proposal to Restructure Amtrak A White House plan to restructure Amtrak was, uh, derailed yesterday by nearly unanimous bipartisan opposition in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The six-year Amtrak reauthorization bill proposed ending federal operating subsidies for the passenger rail service, opening some routes to private operators, and turning the Washington-to-Boston service area over to the states. Committee members called it an ill-disguised effort to dismantle the beleaguered rail system and leave states holding the financial bag. Even one of the only champions of the plan, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), acknowledged that "there …

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The Bush administration lets a profitable energy-efficiency program lapse

As of yesterday, Oct. 1, the most successful program in U.S. history for improving energy efficiency in federal buildings is toast. The demise of the Energy Savings Performance Contracting program is no insignificant matter, seeing as how the federal government is the single biggest energy-user in the nation. Taxpayers spend $4 billion per year to power 500,000 federal buildings nationwide, from science labs to military bases. Sayonara to more CFLs? The ESPC program grew out of the Energy Conservation Policy Act, which was enacted in 1992 by President Bush the First, whose intent was to allay problems that seem to …

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New Kid on the Block

Democrats Block Vote on Leavitt's Nomination to EPA As expected, Senate Democrats blocked a committee vote yesterday on President Bush's nominee to head the U.S. EPA, Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (R). Though they insisted it was "nothing personal" against Leavitt, Democrats on the Senate Environment Committee, joined by independent Sen. James Jeffords (Vt.), boycotted a committee meeting and thereby denied the quorum needed for a vote to send Leavitt's nomination to the Senate floor. Jeffords said he and his Democratic cohorts want responses from Leavitt and the Bush team to numerous questions about the administration's environmental policies. "The American public …

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Wolf at the Door

Enviros Sue Feds for Loosening Wolf Protections In an effort to make the western U.S. safe for gray wolves, 17 conservation groups teamed up yesterday to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for downgrading the species' status from endangered to threatened in April. The coalition argued that the Bush administration was wrong to remove federal protections from the wolves because the animals still have not returned to much of their historic range and their populations remain small and isolated. The down-listing would give states more say in how wolf populations are managed; a number of states have plans to …

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Nuclear Waste By Any Other Name…

Energy Department Wants to Redefine Nuclear Waste The U.S. Department of Energy is asking Congress for the power to redefine some nuclear waste to allow it to be left where it is or disposed of at low-level radioactive waste sites instead of buried deep underground. The waste in question consists of tens of millions of gallons of salts and sludges left over from weapons production in Idaho, South Carolina, and Washington, as well as waste from a reprocessing plant near Buffalo, N.Y. The DOE has chosen Yucca Mountain, Nev., as the site for its underground repository for high-level nuke waste, …

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