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Star Wars

The stars are twinkling over Nevada's Yucca Mountain -- movie stars and pop stars, that is. In the battle over the Bush administration's proposal to bury high-level radioactive waste below the mountain, the glitterati are siding against the president. Barbra Streisand, Bonnie Raitt, Martin Sheen, Melissa Gilbert, Tim Robbins, Alec Baldwin, Morgan Freeman -- the cast of characters assembled in opposition to the Yucca Mountain project reads like the credit sequence of a blockbuster. David Blee, a Reagan-era Energy Department official and a current PR consultant to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which supports the project) acknowledged ruefully that, "There …

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Money Shaving Steps

Many enviros have suspected for a while that the deregulation of electricity markets is bad for the environment. Now here's some proof: Spending on energy efficiency programs by North American power companies -- the biggest polluters on the continent -- dropped by 42 percent between 1995 and 1999, largely because of deregulation. The findings were made public this week in a report by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a Montreal-based agency created under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The drop in spending, from $2.4 billion to $1.4 billion, led to increased air pollution in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, …

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Texas Toast

Like John and Yoko, industry and politics in the U.S. have climbed into bed together and just refuse to get out. Nowhere is that more evident than in Texas, homeland of the Bush clan and the most polluted state in the country. Let's spell it out: Texas is the number one spewer of toxic chemicals and carcinogens into the air, number one in chemical spills, number one in ozone pollution, number one in carbon-dioxide and mercury emissions, number one in clean-water violations, and number one in the production of hazardous waste. How did it get that way? Largely because of …

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High-tailing it out of there

The Colorado River -- the water source for 25 million Americans -- is almost certainly on a collision course with a massive pile of uranium slag, according to a report released yesterday by the Department of Energy's National Research Council. The 12 million tons of tailings, located near Moab, Utah, are left over from a uranium mill that provided material for nuclear weapons prior to being shut down in 1984. The council's report said it was a "near certainty the river's course will run across the Moab site at some time in the future." Less certain is when; rivers tend …

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New Snooze Review

A proposal to alter the New Source Review rule of the Clean Air Act will be announced today, according to the U.S. EPA. The rule requires companies to install state-of-the-art pollution-control equipment when upgrading aging power plants. The utility industry has lobbied intensely against New Source Review, saying it should apply only to extensive, non-routine expansions that would dramatically increase pollutants. The Bush administration proposal is expected to promise the industry exactly what it wants: greater flexibility to expand plants without installing expensive emissions controls. Moreover, utilities would be allowed to use pollution levels from any two consecutive years in …

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When it comes to renewable energy, the DOE is DOA

The question isn't whether the Bush administration is in bed with the old-school energy industry; most of us have pretty much accepted that Big Oil and King Coal are the current sexy interns in the White House. Nor is the question whether we should be bracing for another oil shock; given the Iraqi oil boycott and political turbulence in Venezuela and Nigeria (two of the biggest oil suppliers to the U.S.), the likelihood of a third oil crisis heightens with every passing headline. The question is not even whether Washington should accelerate the shift toward a new-school energy system based …

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Dozing Off

More than 8,500 premature deaths are caused every year by pollution from off-road diesel-fueled equipment not regulated by the federal government, according to a new study by state air pollution control officials. Earthmovers, bulldozers, agricultural equipment, and other such vehicles emit extraordinarily high levels of pollution that have been linked to heart illnesses, asthma attacks, and other respiratory illnesses. Last week, the Bush administration announced an unusual collaboration between the U.S. EPA and the Office of Management and Budget to regulate off-road diesel emissions. That announcement came after a federal appeals court upheld a Clinton-era rule requiring a rapid reduction …

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Public interest groups fight for elbow room in Indonesia

Thousands of people have gathered on the resort island of Bali, Indonesia, to talk about poverty and environmental degradation in preparation for the August 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. Yet the big question among public interest participants here is not how to solve the world's woes, but rather whether they should participate at all. Try crossing these guards. Photo: IISD. Cynicism is running high among nonprofit representatives. They arrived in Bali frustrated with the lack of progress in the 10 years since the World Summit's predecessor, the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. As the negotiations …

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Foresight Is 20/20

California state regulators unanimously approved a measure yesterday that will allow Golden State residents to save up to 20 percent on their electric bills by conserving power. Beginning in July, households that use 15 to 20 percent less electricity than they used in 2000 (before the energy crisis) will receive an additional, proportional deduction from their electricity bill, under the state's "20/20" rebate program. The program is expensive, but regulators hope it will prevent rolling blackouts, which disrupt service and ultimately cost the state far more money. After the state's massive energy crisis, regulators approved a more expansive version of …

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Boxer Rebellion

President Bush scored a victory yesterday when the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved his plan to store highly radioactive nuclear waste beneath Nevada's Yucca Mountain, but he was challenged by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on other environmental issues. Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) introduced legislation supported by 172 other House members to bar logging and road construction on much of the country's national forest lands, backing the roadless rule that was drafted under Clinton but is opposed by the current administration. And today, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) will …

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