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What I Did With My Summer Vacation

Looking for a good summer camp? A weeklong environmental activist training camp being held this week in Montana's Bitterroot National Forest might be for you. Sponsored by Greenpeace, the National Forest Protection Alliance, and other, like-minded environmental organizations, the camp is teaching some 70 participants the finer points of civil disobedience. The camp is designed to turn out a generation of activists equipped to fight the widespread logging that, Greenpeace says, will result from the Bush administration's Healthy Forests Initiative. To that end, campers are learning not only about grassroots organizing and species identification, but also about safe tree-sitting and …

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Stow It

The U.S. famously declined to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, but yesterday it jumped on the bandwagon of another effort to control global warming: a research program dedicated to exploring technologies for capturing and storing carbon dioxide. Such technologies, collectively known as carbon sequestration, seek to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere through storage innovations, rather than through limiting emissions. At a three-day conference convened by the Bush administration in McLean, Va., the U.S. signed on to the research program along with representatives of other industrialized and developing countries, including the E.U. nations, Canada, Australia, Russia, Japan, China, …

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White House Whitewash

In a first-of-its-kind environmental survey released today, the U.S. EPA said that the nation's air, water, and land are cleaner and better protected than they were 30 years ago, though sprawl and air quality, among other problems, continue to pose challenges for the nation. But the survey's credibility was compromised by reports last week that the White House heavily edited the document, deleting information that pointed to climate change as a significant problem. The report also makes no mention of potential harm to humans and wildlife from pesticides and industrial chemicals, and it contains little data on environmental health risks …

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The Dirk Side of the Moon

Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (R), thought to be President Bush's top pick to head the U.S. EPA after Christie Whitman leaves the agency at the end of this week, has overseen a decline in environmental quality in his home state. Since he assumed the Idaho governorship four and a half years ago, the state's air has gotten dirtier and toxic emissions have increased, even as national trends have gone in the other direction. Kempthorne cut the state's environmental budget three times and reduced environmental enforcement efforts, leading to fewer inspections at polluting facilities. In November 2001, Kempthorne publicly clashed with …

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Aw, Shoot

People accused of shooting endangered species are getting off the hook thanks to a U.S. Justice Department policy that some federal wildlife officials say amounts to a loophole in the Endangered Species Act. Adopted in 1998 under the Clinton administration, the policy requires government prosecutors to prove that a suspect knew the animal they were killing was endangered. "We have to show a mental state, which for federal agents is very difficult," said Neill Hartman of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The policy has hampered dozens of federal criminal prosecutions in cases where grizzlies, wolves, lynx, condors, and other …

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Crop Circles

Negotiations between the U.S. and the European Union over genetically modified foods broke down yesterday in Geneva, furthering heightening trans-Atlantic tension and prompting the Bush administration to call on the World Trade Organization to begin hearing the dispute. At issue is a European ban on GM crops -- a ban that the U.S. agricultural industry says is costing it hundreds of billions of dollars per year. The White House contends that genetically altered crops are safe and that therefore the E.U. ban is illegal and "denies choices to European consumers," according to Richard Mills, a spokesperson for U.S. Trade Representative …

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Who needs Superfund when we’ve got reality TV?

By the end of the year, only $28 million will be left in the U.S. EPA's Superfund account. Superfund pays for the reclamation of abandoned toxic-waste sites, and $28 million barely affords a study just to figure out how to clean up one of the 1,200 deserted dumps wasting away in American communities. Money's tight to fund cleanups of Superfund sites like this one in Pennsylvania. Photo: U.S. EPA. How did Superfund, which used to have an annual account ledger of $1.5 billion, end up functionally bankrupt? Going back to 1995, the Republican-controlled Congress killed off the corporate "polluter tax" …

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Censor Censure

Bowdlerizing what was meant to be the first-ever comprehensive report on environmental problems facing the U.S., the White House has deleted most of the information the report contained on global climate change and reduced the remainder to a few vague paragraphs. The omitted sections referred to findings that climate change is at least partly caused by emissions from vehicles and power plants and could have dire consequences for human and environmental health. Environmental organizations and some EPA staff members strongly criticized the revisions; Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation compared them to "the White House directing the secretary of …

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Dire Strait

Russian poachers are killing 200 to 400 polar bears each year in the Bering Strait region, a trend that threatens to halve the strait's bear population by 2020, according to new research by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Russia and the U.S. are currently considering ratification of a treaty the two nations signed in 2000 that is intended to protect the region's population of about 4,000 polar bears. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing today on the treaty, which has the backing of the Bush administration. The Soviet Union banned polar bear hunting in 1956, but …

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