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Twisting Their Farms

California Bills Would Crack Down on Air Pollution from Farms For the first time, California farmers would have to do their part to curb air pollution, under a series of controversial bills approved last week by the state legislature. The state's agriculture industry has long enjoyed an exemption from the federal Clean Air Act, even though many of its activities generate substantial amounts of pollution; in fact, California's Central Valley, the heart of the state's farm country, has some of the nation's dirtiest air. The package of bills would eliminate that exemption, phase out the burning of agricultural waste, require …

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The Coast in the Machine

Bush Pushes for Offshore Oil Drilling in Alaska The Bush administration is moving aggressively to open Alaska's coastal waters to oil exploration -- a campaign that is not getting nearly as much public scrutiny as efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The administration plans to offer eight oil and gas lease sales in Alaska's federal waters over the next five years, starting with a 9.4 million-acre offering this month in the Arctic's Beaufort Sea. To boost interest in the Beaufort lease, the federal Minerals Management Service is offering royalty breaks that could let oil producers make away …

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Foam Call

Canadian Tribes Fight Big Fish Farms in Court Fish farms off Canada's west coast are under fire from native tribes that claim the big aquaculture operations are devastating the natural environment. Four tribes living in the Broughton Archipelago, off the coast of British Columbia north of Vancouver Island, are going to court to curb the spread of aquaculture, citing Canada's constitutional obligation to protect natives' fishing rights. Tribal leaders contend that the 30-some salmon farms in the archipelago, which consist of huge floating cages containing large numbers of fish, have spread disease to wild fish and decimated local pink salmon …

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Cheney Reaction

Appeals Court Rejects Bush Attempt to Withhold Energy Documents A federal appeals court yesterday rejected the Bush administration's argument that it should not have to release documents related to Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force, marking the fourth -- yes, fourth -- time the judiciary has told the White House the information must be made public. The suit against the Veep was brought by the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, both of which sought to learn who participated in the task force and what role Cheney played in it. Now that the appellate court has …

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Hillary Clinton threatens to block Bush’s EPA nominee

As the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks looms, the Bush administration is facing opprobrium for having deceived the American public about possible air-quality concerns at Ground Zero. Behind the scenes, the issue has become somewhat bizarrely entwined with another hot topic: the confirmation of Republican Gov. Michael Leavitt of Utah as the new U.S. EPA administrator. What's the connection? Nada. But Leavitt's confirmation hearing can be delayed by filibuster, which means it offers environmentally minded senators a megaphone to address the Ground Zero quandary and other green grievances. What does this man have to do with Ground …

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Rove V. Waders

White House Political Maneuvering Could Hurt Northwest Salmon President Bush lost in Oregon and Washington in the 2000 election, but his team is working to ensure that he fares better in the Pacific Northwest in 2004 -- and that may mean trouble for salmon. Bush's top strategy honcho, Karl Rove, has been making quiet trips to the region and, some say, pressuring federal agencies to loosen protections for salmon and other endangered species because agricultural interests in the Northwest don't want protective measures to interfere with irrigation. Rove's intent seems to be to shore up support from Bush's base: farmers, …

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Conan the Eco-friendly Barbarian

Schwarzenegger Tries to Green His Image Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to paint himself with a green brush as he revs up his campaign for the California governorship. Though he's running as a Republican, he's carving out positions at odds with the Bush administration on a number of issues, from logging in the Sierra Nevada to regulating carbon-dioxide emissions from vehicles to pushing energy conservation and solar power. Schwarzenegger is even talking about converting his gas-guzzling Hummer to run on clean-burning hydrogen. His campaign released an eight-page position paper on environmental issues last week, put together with help from Robert F. …

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License to Drill

GOP Energy Bill Would Do a Big Favor for Halliburton A measure in a big Republican-backed energy bill would exempt from federal regulation a natural-gas-drilling procedure refined by Halliburton Co., the oil and gas services company previously headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. The process, called hydraulic fracturing, is used widely in Western states and involves the injection of diesel fuel, hydrochloric acid, or other substances into the ground to help increase natural gas production. Enviros argue that hydraulic fracturing has contaminated drinking water in Alabama and could put water in other areas at risk. The massive energy bill, being …

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Muddy Water

EPA Analysis Finds Clean Water Act Changes Would Cause Major Setback An internal analysis conducted by the U.S. EPA has found that a Bush administration plan to alter clean water rules could result in more than half of the mid-Atlantic's streams and one-third of its wetlands losing protection under the federal Clean Water Act. That, in turn, would leave more than 3 million people reliant on drinking water supplies that were not protected by pollution regulations, according to the EPA analysis. At issue is a proposal, unveiled in January, that would make Clean Water Act protections inapplicable to most intrastate, …

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Turf Wars

Missouri, California Clash Over Air-Quality Plan A proposal to reduce air pollution from lawn mowers and other gas-powered outdoor equipment has set the stage for a battle between the staid Midwestern state of Missouri and the kooky Californians. To help deal with the Golden State's chronic air-quality problem, the California Air Resources Board plans to require manufacturers to equip all small gasoline engines sold in the state with catalytic converters beginning in 2008. That plan isn't sitting well with Missouri Sen. Christopher Bond (R), whose state is home to two factories owned by Briggs and Stratton, the world's largest manufacturer …