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Basin and Strange

Since Sept. 11, the Bush administration has claimed that strict environmental laws are hindering oil and gas exploration in the West -- thereby compromising national security by forcing ongoing dependence on foreign energy sources. But a new federal study undermines that claim by showing that most oil and gas reserves on Western federal lands could be explored under standard government leases. In a finding described by Interior Assistant Secretary Rebecca Watson as "unexpected," 57 percent of oil and 63 percent of gas in five major geological basins on federal land are not subject to any kind of special usage restrictions. …

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Range Bedfellows

Energy exploration has been part of Western landscape and culture for decades -- but it seems the thrill of the drill may finally be wearing off. As the Bush administration pushes for further exploitation of Western resources (such as coal-bed methane mining in Wyoming and Montana and oil and natural gas drilling in the Rocky Mountains), ranchers, farmers, and local governments are starting to push back. Delta County, Colo., has sued the state's oil and water commission over a proposed natural gas project that could harm local water supplies; officials in Gallatin County, Mont., are trying to prevent gas exploration …

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You’re in the Army Now

Environmentalists and the Pentagon have never been the best of friends -- in fact, the folks at the Department of Defense are currently trying to wiggle out of complying with as many environmental regulations as possible in the name of national security -- but it would seem that military leaders can think green when it suits them. The U.S. Army and General Motors have rolled out a new, highly efficient hybrid-engine truck, designed for soldiers doing stealth work in the field. The truck, a militarized version of the Chevrolet Silverado, has a V8 engine coupled with a gas-electric system and …

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Mexico City’s mayor plans to reduce pollution by building more roads

Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has come a long way in the last decade -- too far, some environmentalists would argue. O, brador. Photo: Gobierno del Distrito Federal. In February 1996, AMLO (as the Mexican press calls him) was arguably the country's most prominent environmentalist, organizing a string of high-profile protests in his native Tabasco, in southeastern Mexico. The protests were aimed at forcing Pemex, the country's state-owned oil monopoly, to clean up its act and prevent crude oil spills from wells in Tabasco's lush, tropical plains and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, where most of the …

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Park and Writhe

The National Parks Conservation Association has released its annual list of endangered parks -- and, sadly, it includes some of the most treasured wild areas in the U.S.: Yellowstone, Denali, and the Great Smoky Mountains, among others. The unlucky parks made the list because they are plagued by problems such as air pollution, excessive motor vehicle traffic, chronic funding shortages, and development just outside their borders. The report also cited multiple ways the parks are imperiled by the Bush administration, which has attempted to weaken the Clean Air Act, proposed regulations that could lead to road building in national parks, …

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Spotted Record

Federal protections for the spotted owl and the marbled murrelet have been blamed by many in the anti-enviro camp for the collapse of the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest during the 1990s. Now, the Bush administration has announced that it will review those protections, as well as the designation of "critical habitat" thought necessary to ensure the survival of the species. The agreement to review the protections settles a lawsuit brought by the timber industry against federal biologists for allegedly dragging their feet on reviewing the health of the two birds. Under the terms of the settlement, the U.S. …

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Put It on Credit

Industrial polluters will be allowed to buy credits from cleaner competitors to help comply with the Clean Water Act, under a plan released yesterday by the Bush administration. The National Water Quality Trading Policy would allow industrial, agricultural, and wastewater-treatment operations that cannot meet clean water regulations to purchase credits from cleaner facilities in the same watershed. In keeping with the administration's fondness for incentives-based environmental protection over government regulation, the policy would rely on financial incentives to boost water quality. Some environmentalists welcomed the plan, but others worried that it would contribute to a significant decline in the nation's …

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Texas, With Mess

The Texas legislature is under pressure to find a way to fund a plan to cut smog in the state's major urban areas. If the lawmakers can't come up with the money soon, the U.S. EPA has threatened to reject the plan and take over the state's pollution-control efforts. That would jeopardize federal highway money, which is contingent on meeting clean air standards. Under the Texas Emissions Reductions Plan, passed by the legislature in 2001, the state is supposed to collect taxes and fees to help offset the cost to businesses of voluntarily replacing old, smog-producing diesel equipment, as well …

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The Gas They Pass

In other news from the Golden State, California's two Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, have introduced legislation that would prevent energy companies in Mexico from using Californian natural gas in their plants near the California-Mexico border unless those plants complied with the state's strict air-quality standards. The legislation would apply to natural-gas-powered generators that produce more than 50 megawatts of electricity and are located within 50 miles of the border. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has introduced a similar bill in the House. The legislation would have its most immediate effect on two new plants planned for Mexicali, Mexico, …

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Wet ‘n’ Not-so-wild

New guidelines unveiled by the Bush administration on Friday could spell trouble for 20 million acres of wetlands across the United States. The guidelines were prompted by a 2001 Supreme Court decision that found that isolated, non-navigable ponds and wetlands in Illinois did not merit protection under the Clean Water Act. Environmentalists say that narrow ruling should not be applied to the entire nation, but the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have ordered their regional offices to withhold protections from similar water bodies and seek federal advice prior to protecting other small, intrastate waterways. As a …

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