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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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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 …