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Air Enforce Won

After years of court battles, the U.S. EPA agreed yesterday to begin enforcing a stricter standard for ozone pollution that was developed by the Clinton administration in 1997. Industry groups such as the American Truckers Associations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to try to block the standard, but eventually lost their case on most grounds. With the Bush administration in power, it was left to environmental groups to coax the feds (in court) to establish a schedule to enforce the standard and thereby reduce smog levels around the country. The …

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Detroit Rock City

Detroit automakers sure aren't complaining about the Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate. They anticipate having a close ally in the incoming chair of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who is known for his criticism of clean air regulations and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. He once referred to federal environmental agencies as "Gestapo bureaucracies." On the other hand, automakers don't quite know what to expect from Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), who will assume the reins of the Commerce Committee. McCain has been an outspoken proponent of increasing fuel-efficiency standards for cars, SUVs, and …

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Study Buddies

Ignoring the overwhelming consensus among scientists worldwide, the Bush administration this week unveiled a proposal that would have the U.S. embark on another years-long study to assess whether humans are causing the globe to warm. Industry officials and other climate skeptics lauded the research plan. But many climate scientists said it would simply reopen issues that most experts consider resolved. Others said more research would be helpful, but not at the expense of delaying action to address climate change. Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University said, "If you strip away the rhetoric, there's a valuable agenda of research here to pursue. …

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Respirators Still Needed in Yellowstone

Rolling back a Clinton-era decision that would have banned snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks by the upcoming winter, the Bush administration plans to place no limits on snowmobiles until December 2003 and then to cap the number of snowmobiles at 1,100 per day. For the past decade, the parks have had an average of 840 snowmobiles per day during the winter, but as many as 1,650 per day during peak season. Under the plan, snowmobiles over time would be required to run on cleaner engines. Despite that mini-green concession, environmentalists aren't clapping their hands. Charles Clusen of …

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Green Day

The Green Party says it fared well during last week's election. The Greens ran 541 candidates for office, mostly at the state or local level. That's double the number from 2000, according to Dean Myerson, the party's national political coordinator. Sixty-seven candidates were elected; overall, 171 Greens now sit in office across the country. Another milestone: Maine now boasts the only Green sitting in a state legislature. Myerson attributed the gains to the party's expanding membership and its leftist perspective on the war on terrorism and corporate scandals. He said, "People look at the election as a bad election for …

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Are They Rocky Mountain High?

Another one from the Believe-It-Or-Not Department: Colorado officials want to increase clear-cutting to help solve the state's drought problem. Removing trees would allow more snow to fall to the ground, where it would run off into streams in the spring, providing enough new water to supply as many as a million families, says Kent Holsinger, the top water official at the state Department of Natural Resources. Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (R), a powerful Colorado representative to the U.S. House, and key Bush administration officials are all excited about the idea. They say the logging-for-water plan would kill two birds with …

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The Bucks Stop Here

The Bush administration slaps fewer polluters with fines than did the Clinton administration, and those it does nab get far gentler punishments, according to federal records compiled by Eric Schaeffer, the former head of the U.S. EPA's Office of Regulatory Enforcement. In the first 20 months of the Bush administration, civil penalties plunged nearly 56 percent, compared to those levied during the last 28 months of the Clinton administration, a Knight Ridder analysis found. Bush's current budget proposal would axe 112 EPA enforcement positions.

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Back in Black

Now that President Bush has strengthened his hand with a Republican-controlled Congress, his once-doomed energy plan -- which would provide $30 billion in tax cuts for the fossil-fuel and nuclear-power industries and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling -- stands a good chance of passing. Enviros are pinning their hopes on possible presidential contenders, John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), who in the past have promised to filibuster any bill in the Senate that would allow drilling to begin. Meanwhile, Bush's plan to increase logging in national forests as a way to combat wildfires will also be …

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Knock the Vote

In addition to suffering a loss at the federal level, the environmental movement came up short in several statewide and local votes on Tuesday. A huge majority of Oregonians voted down an initiative that would have made Oregon the first state to require labeling of genetically modified foods. The Grocery Manufacturers of American, with support from the biotech and food industries, spent more than $5 million to combat the measure. In Utah, voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have outlawed high-level radioactive waste from entering Utah and raised taxes on low-radioactivity waste already brought into the state. In Berkeley, …

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Leaf Me Alone

At international talks underway on protecting endangered species, the Bush administration has announced that it is "neutral" and "undecided" in the debate over whether to restrict trade in big-leaf mahogany from Latin America. The U.S. position since the time of George Bush the Elder had been to call for stricter limits on trade in the wood. The chief U.S. negotiator attending current negotiations in Santiago, Chile, at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species said the shift would better allow the country to broker a deal with countries that export mahogany. But Curtis Bohlen, who was assistant secretary of …