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Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow, but Not Fonder

The Bush administration indicated last week that it might withdraw its support from a landmark international agreement on population over concerns that it promotes abortion. At a U.N. meeting last Thursday in Bangkok, Thailand, U.S. State Department official Louise Oliver said the 1994 Cairo accord included terms such as "reproductive services" and "reproductive health care" that imply the right to abortion. Supporters of the accord were shocked by the development and said the withdrawal of U.S. support would undermine the entire international effort to control population growth and improve women's health care in developing nations. Francoise Girard of the International …

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Bambi Vs. Thumper

The Bush administration's plan to expand fossil fuel exploration in the West ran into an obstacle Wednesday when a federal judge temporarily blocked the Interior Department from allowing energy prospecting on thousands of acres of public land in Utah. The ruling halted a project by a seismic exploration company to search for oil and gas reserves in Utah's Arches National Park. The company intends to use 60,000-pound "thumper trucks" to vibrate the ground to test for oil deposits. Environmentalists say such testing would cause irreparable harm to the area and are asking the court to require the feds to conduct …

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Not With a Bang but a Whimper

The Bush administration's plan to open federal lands in the western U.S. to oil and gas drilling would produce a measly amount of energy and a massive amount of environmental destruction, according to a Wilderness Society report released yesterday. The proposed drilling areas, which are scattered throughout millions of acres in six Rocky Mountain states and include some currently protected lands, would produce enough natural gas to meet the total U.S. demand for about 11 weeks and enough oil for about three weeks, according to the 31-page report. The report says the feds have not accurately assessed whether it would …

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Half-baked Alaska

Anti-environmentalism in Alaska is at a fever pitch, and it's affecting the shape of nearly every political campaign in the final weeks before voters go to the polls. Incumbent state Rep. Harry Crawford (D), for example, has gone out of his way to try to convince his constituency that he's pro-development, not eco-friendly. "I believe I've had to explain it 100 times at the door," said the first-term Democrat, who insists that he's pushed hard to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. Crawford is one of many Alaskan Dems -- gubernatorial candidate Fran Ulmer among them -- …

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Arkansas of the Covenant

Arkansas is poised to consider an innovative plan to create an "alternative fuels" tax on electricity and gas users in the state. Under the plan, which state Rep. Herschel Cleveland (D) said yesterday that he would introduce to the state assembly early next year, residents would be charged a 25-cent tax on each of their monthly electric and gas bills, while commercial and industrial users would be charged 25 cents for every $1,000 of electric or natural gas use per month. The tax would raise an estimated $2 million annually and would be used to create an alternative-fuels fund. Chris …

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Whistle While You Work

In a new twist to the Klamath River controversy, Michael Kelly, a biologist with the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, is blowing the whistle on the Bush administration for drafting and approving a water plan that he says provides inadequate protections for endangered salmon. The accusations come after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation rejected water-flow recommendations by Kelly and his team and instead proposed cutting the river's flow by 43 percent. According to Kelly, that plan won't provide sufficient protection for the salmon "until the ninth year of the 10-year plan," which, he says, is a violation of the Endangered …

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On a Roll Back

Turning up the heat on Republicans in the final weeks before the U.S. elections, Democrats and environmentalists are requesting documents from the U.S. EPA detailing the Bush administration's effort to roll back clean-air regulations on older coal-fired power plants and refineries. But EPA officials have refused to pony up the evidence, and Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has threatened to subpoena the agency if it doesn't comply with the request -- his third such threat this year. Says the senator, "This action is another example in an unprecedented and disturbing pattern of …

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Gutter Politics

At the same time that is it seeking to rollback the Clean Water Act and other historic environmental legislation, the Bush administration is cracking down on sewage spills in Portland, Ore., and other major cities. Municipal leaders in Portland accuse the administration of selectively punishing areas that are traditional Democratic strongholds, but the U.S. EPA says it's just following rules drafted during the Clinton administration. "I don't know how a spokesman for the administration could rationalize going after Portland and not against mining, to pick one obvious example," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a former Portland City Council member. Portland …

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Sen. Wellstone Killed in Plane Crash

U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) was killed today along with seven others in a plane crash in northern Minnesota. Wellstone, 58, was one of the most outspoken liberals in Congress; he opposed the use of force in Iraq and was a longtime ally to environmentalists, earning a near-perfect 96 percent lifetime score from the Washington, D.C.-based League of Conservation Voters. Wellstone's wife and daughter were also killed in the crash, along with several of his aides. At the time of his death, the senator was facing a tough reelection battle against Republican challenger Norm Coleman, who was handpicked to run …

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No Respect

In a report released yesterday, the Governmental Affairs Committee of the U.S. Senate accused the Bush administration of "a predetermined hostility" toward environmental regulations initiated by former President Clinton. The withering 90-page assessment of President Bush's actions questioned the legality of a 60-day freeze, issued hours after Bush took office, affecting all pending federal environmental regulations. Among the initiatives halted by the directive were strict Interior Department rules for hard-rock mining on public lands, a U.S. EPA effort to lower the allowable levels of arsenic in drinking water, and an Agriculture Department rule barring most new logging and road construction …

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