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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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Big Ban Boom

Robert Zoellick, the Bush administration's chief trade official, is calling on the U.S. to challenge the European Union's ban on genetically modified food. Zoellick claims the ban is both scientifically backward and "immoral," arguing that it deprives starving people in the developing world of food. The U.S. and the E.U. have adopted polar positions when it comes to GM foods. The former says such food is not only safe but also an important tool in the fight against world hunger, while the latter is broadly suspicious of GM crops and fears that agribusiness is promoting them without adequate concern for …

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Pombo and (Unfortunate) Circumstance

U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) was chosen this week to lead the House Resources Committee, much to the dismay of environmentalists. As head of the committee, Pombo, who earned only a 9 percent approval rating from the League of Conservation Voters in the last session of Congress, will have significant say in shaping federal legislation on water issues and natural forests and parks. Environmentalists are particularly alarmed by Pombo's new power to help pass legislation modifying the federal Endangered Species Act, which he openly detests. Pombo sees the ESA and other federal environmental laws as generally meddlesome, expensive, and a …

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Tuna Sandwiched

Two former government scientists say their superiors shot down years' worth of research on the effects of tuna fishing on dolphin populations because the findings clashed with the policy aims of the Clinton and Bush administrations. Separate research conducted by Albert Myrick and Sarka Southern indicated that dolphins are exposed to dangerous levels of stress by the practice of chasing and encircling them to catch tuna. Myrick says he retired from his government post in 1995 after he was not permitted to continue his work, and Southern says she was forced to abandon her dolphin study and focus on other …

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Glowing Report

The top dogs at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say they are fully committed to safety -- but their own employees are not so sure. One-third of NRC workers question its commitment to public safety, and nearly half would not be comfortable raising safety concerns within the agency, according to a survey conducted by a private consulting firm. About half of the NRC's 3,072 employees were surveyed, ranging from clerical workers to nuclear engineers to senior managers; nearly 90 percent of the latter group said the agency was firmly committed to safety, but 30 percent of non-supervisory workers, including senior career …

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Green groups work together to counter the Bush attack on the environment

It's been nine weeks since voters turned the national government over to Republican lawmakers, many of whom explicitly vowed to help President Bush and his industrial allies complete what former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) failed to do in 1995: dismantle the nation's basic protections for water, air, wild lands, forests, and public health. An uphill battleground. Since the first hours after the election, senior staff members from the most prominent U.S. green groups have been preparing an action plan to foil the Republican assault on the environment -- and today, when Congress reconvenes, that plan will be launched. …

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Yurok Me Like a Hurricane

The Bush administration is to blame for last fall's die-off of 33,000 salmon along the Klamath River in Northern California, biologists from the state's Department of Fish and Game have determined. They say the fish kill -- the largest ever recorded in the West -- was the result of the administration's decision to divert water from the river to farming interests, a move that was heavily protested by environmentalists, tribes, and some in the fishing industry, who predicted that salmon would suffer as a result. At the time of the die-off, the Bush administration said not enough science was available …

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Smokin’, Joe

Despite inevitable resistance from the Bush administration and fellow Congress members, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) plan to unveil a proposal this week that would force all U.S. industries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation would require all industries to limit their emissions to 2000 levels by 2010 and 1990 levels by 2016. McCain has scheduled a hearing on the matter for tomorrow and plans to send a proposal to the Senate floor later this year, according to his aides. That proposal is bound to face stiff opposition from President Bush and from Sen. James …

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Flippering Out

In a lawsuit made public late last week, Earth Island Institute and other environmental organizations have sued the U.S. government for relaxing labeling standards for "dolphin-safe" tuna. The suit stems from a decision by the U.S. Commerce Department to classify as dolphin-safe a previously prohibited method of fishing -- in which dolphins are encircled with nets to trap tuna swimming below -- so long as an onboard observer certified that no dolphins were killed or injured in the process. The change in classification would primarily affect Mexico, which has been excluded from the U.S. market for more than a decade …

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