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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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The Terminator

Schwarzenegger Suggests that He Might Shut Down California EPA California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) suggested yesterday that he might terminate the state's environmental protection agency. At a question-and-answer session with voters, Schwarzenegger was asked by a farmer why the state needed Cal/EPA when there was a federal EPA. "What you just talked about is the waste -- overlapping agencies," said the candidate. "They cost a fortune. We have to strip that down and get rid of some of those agencies." Meanwhile, one week out from a vote on whether to recall California Gov. Gray Davis (D), Davis has been …

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Strip-tease

Republicans Drop Renewable Requirement from Energy Bill A measure that would require large utilities to produce 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2019 has been stripped out of a big energy bill by Republican congressional negotiators. Yesterday, 53 senators, including eight Republicans, called for the provision to be reinstated, but to no avail. In another development that's making environmentalists unhappy, Republican leaders in the House are pushing for the energy bill to exempt makers of the fuel additive MTBE from lawsuits related to water contamination. MTBE, which is added to gasoline to make it burn cleaner, has …

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The Cost Is Clear

Benefits of U.S. Clean-Air Rules Far Outweigh Costs, Report Says The benefits of some major U.S. environmental laws appear to dramatically outweigh the costs, according to a new federal report that is giving environmentalists reason to cheer. The Office of Management and Budget found that tough clean-air regulations implemented over the past decade brought health and social benefits -- including fewer premature deaths, emergency room visits, and lost workdays -- that were five to seven times greater in economic terms than the costs of complying with the rules. "In this case, the data show that the [EPA]'s clean-air office has …

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Not Russian to Judgment

Russia Still Undecided on Kyoto Protocol Russia still has not decided whether to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, President Vladimir Putin said today. The nation has the power to make or break the climate-change treaty, which cannot go into effect until it is ratified by nations accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions. The treaty would likely be a good deal for Russia because the nation's emissions are already below the required levels, thanks to the industrial collapse that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union; this means Russia could sell emissions credits to nations that have trouble meeting their …

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Watching Their Waste

California Passes Cutting-Edge E-Waste Law Consistent with its habit of pushing the environmental envelope, California has adopted the nation's most comprehensive law governing the manufacture and disposal of electronics. The law has three main purposes: to speed the recycling of discarded computers and televisions (some 6 million of which await disposal across the state); to ensure that future tech trash will be less toxic by forcing manufacturers to stop using lead, mercury, and other harmful materials; and to establish safety standards for dismantling computers in foreign countries. To fund the law, new high-tech products will be subject to a $6 …

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MTBE Promises

Energy Bill Likely to Include Liability Protections for MTBE Makers The makers of a gasoline additive that can contaminate groundwater will almost certainly be protected from liability issues under the terms of the nation's energy bill, negotiators of the legislation announced yesterday. Methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, has been added to gasoline since the 1990s to reduce emissions, but it can leak from underground storage tanks, with undetermined consequences for human health. The liability protection is sought by key Republicans in the House of Representatives whose districts are home to manufacturers of MTBE. The House also wants the final …