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India blames environmental activists for its economic problems

Greenpeace in India
Salvatore Barbera

India's economy is growing, but not as quickly as some pundits had forecast. You might guess that rampant corruption was curbing the country's economic potential. Or maybe you would put some blame on worsening heat waves, which have been knocking out electrical grids. Or perhaps the crippling health effects of pollution from coal power plants?

Well, we've got some surprising news for you from India's intelligence agency: Environmental activists like you must shoulder some of the blame. Your peeps in India have been accused of reducing the nation's GDP by 2 to 3 percent every year. Reuters reports:

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don't frack me, bro

Yes, frackers can forcibly drill your land, even if you don’t want them to

filthy pool
13254
Jump in. You have no choice.

Forced pooling isn't some kind of college pool party that jocks compel nerds to attend, resulting in wacky hijinks. It's a grim legal tool, dating back nearly a century in some states, that allows drillers to tap the fossil fuels beneath a reluctant landowner's property -- if enough of their neighbors sell their drilling rights. The philosophy of such laws is that subterranean pools of oil and natural gas pay no heed to property lines.

As hydraulic fracturing takes grip across the nation, frackers are taking advantage of state laws that were drafted to allow forced pooling for conventional gas and oil drilling.

Newsweek took a trip to Marcellus Shale country and interviewed Suzanne Matteo and Bob Svetlak, two of the residents who've been stymieing drilling plans by refusing to sign agreements that would allow Hilcorp to frack their land in Pulaski Township, Penn., in exchange for per-acre payments and royalties:

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Why liberals like walkability more than conservatives

walkable city street
Urban Grammar
All of the people in this picture are Democrats.

The wonkosphere is going wild over the Pew Research Center’s new report on increasing partisan polarization. It shows that liberal and conservative Americans are more segregated than ever: liberals are now all Democrats, conservatives are all Republicans, and both groups -- although conservatives much more than liberals -- increasingly tend to socialize and get their news only from one another. Conservatives are also found to be totally hostile to political compromise.

To anyone following political news, these findings mostly just reinforce what we already knew. One of the starkest divisions stands out, though, because it is on a topic that is seldom measured or discussed: ideological divisions over walkable urbanism versus suburban sprawl.

Pew asked whether respondents would rather live in an area where “the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores and restaurants are several miles away,” versus one where “the houses are smaller and closer to each other, but schools, stores and restaurants are within walking distance.” The country is evenly split, with 49 percent choosing the former and 48 percent the latter. But the political divide is dramatic: 75 percent of “consistently conservative” respondents prefer the suburban sprawl model, and only 22 percent prefer the walkable urban design. Among “consistently liberal” Americans, the numbers are reversed.

Read more: Cities, Politics

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Will EPA’s power plant regulations be stopped in the courts?

scales of justice
Shutterstock

The famous adage that nothing is certain in this world but death and taxes should probably be amended. At least insofar as politics and policy are concerned, there is a third inevitability: lawsuits.

Before they even know the details of a major environmental regulation, affected industries start looking for ways to get it thrown out in court. That's definitely the case for President Obama’s newly proposed regulation on CO2 emissions from existing power plants. Republican-controlled states will be joining the legal assault too because the power-plant rule, like Obamacare, would impose mandates on state governments.

Generally, you cannot sue to block a rule until it has been finalized, which in this case is scheduled to happen by June 30, 2015. Lawyers on both sides say they don’t expect any suits to be filed before then. But they're already prepping for them.

Litigants will say the EPA has overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act. One of this proposed rule’s great virtues is that it is an innovative use of EPA’s rulemaking authority. Traditionally, the agency simply dictates that a source of pollution such as a factory or power plant must adopt the best available technology to reduce its emissions. By contrast, the newly proposed Clean Power Plan offers states the freedom to figure out how to most efficiently clean up their whole power generation system, not just coal plants themselves. That shuts down one common avenue for legal challenges -- that states were not given adequate consultation or flexibility. But when EPA shuts a door, it opens a window. By choosing an approach that is unprecedented, the agency is inviting complaints that it is unauthorized.

Here are five potential legal vulnerabilities in the EPA's proposed rule. Note that this is only the minimum of hurdles the rule will have to jump over -- opponents could still come up with as-yet unimagined arguments against it.

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Genetically engineered lawsuit

Big Food is already suing Vermont over its GMO labeling law

food law
Shutterstock

A Vermont law that will require manufacturers to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients won't take effect for another two years, but industry groups are already attacking it in court.

Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signed the bill on May 8, and a lawsuit against it landed on Thursday of this week, just 35 days later.

The suit was filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and National Association of Manufacturers. It argues that the labeling law exceeds Vermont's authority under the U.S. Constitution, and that it would be "difficult, if not impossible," for the groups' members to comply with the requirements by the mid-2016 deadline.

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry wants Tesla’s green jobs. What’s Texas willing to give?

rick-perry
The Sacramento Bee

Tesla Motors is looking for someplace to put its shiny new $4-5 billion electric car battery factory, replete with 6,500 high-paying green jobs. Understandably, states are lining up. The Lone Star State’s governor, Rick Perry, has done the math, and he wants all that work for little old Texas.

Perry never struck us as the electric car sort. In fact, he’s pushed for more offshore drilling and is begging for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. But with billions in his eyes, he’s apparently taken a cotton to the luxo-hotrods, even taking one for a spin in some camera-heavy environments.

Here’s Marc Lifsher with the L.A. Times:

Outside a Sacramento hotel on a 103-degree afternoon, [Perry] told reporters he enjoyed driving the Tesla but would have preferred "if it had a made-in-Texas bumper sticker."

He said he didn't like being accused of "poaching" jobs and stressed that "competition between states is good for the country."

Hmm. Competition between the states indeed.

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Why David Brat is completely wrong about climate science

dave-brat
richmondteaparty.com

David Brat, the Virginia economics professor and Tea Partier who just beat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary, is a staunch libertarian. And these days, that doesn't just mean thinking the free market should run most things, from the energy sector to health care. It also often means denying the reality of global warming.

In a recent campaign event video (which has since been made private), Brat explains his free-marketeer perspective on environmental and energy problems. Naturally, he believes that American ingenuity will lead the way to a cleaner environment. But he also hints at a disbelief in the science of global warming, and alludes to a well-worn myth that has been widely used on the right to undermine trust in climate scientists -- the idea that just a few decades ago, in the 1970s, climate experts all thought we were headed into "another Ice Age."

Here's how Brat put it: "If you let Americans do their thing, there is no scarcity, right? They said we're going to run out of food 200 years ago, and then we're going to have another ice age. Now it's, we're heating up … ." At this point, Brat waves his hand dismissively.

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radio static

Stop lying! Enviros are fed up with false ads about Obama’s power plant rules

radio ads
Shutterstock

Even as dishonest fossil-fuel propaganda goes, a National Mining Association advertisement being played in Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania is a true doozy.

Environmental groups have been calling on radio stations to stop playing the ad, which claims that electricity rates have nearly doubled because of the Obama administration's proposed CO2 regulations for new power plants -- which would be pretty extraordinary, given that the rules haven't even taken effect yet. Enviros say playing the ad violates Federal Communications Commission guidelines on honesty in advertising.

Yet 23 radio stations continue to air the ad, prompting the environmentalists to take their complaint on Wednesday to the FCC commissioners. Here are highlights from a letter cosigned by the Natural Resources Defense Council, 350.org, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace USA, and 22 other groups:

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Fuel disclosure

When cranky crude rides the rails, who should know?

A firefighter walks past a burning train wagon at Lac Megantic, Quebec, July 6, 2013.
Reuters/Mathieu Belanger

Last weekend, on June 7, it became official: After an emergency order from the federal Department of Transportation, railroads now have to tell state emergency responders when, and where, they happen to be driving trains full of Bakken crude through their region. Is this good news?

It is certainly better than nothing. In the last two years, this newfangled American crude from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota has shown a distressing propensity for exploding when it is loaded on trains and shipped cross-country. This seems to be caused by a variety of factors: old train cars; mystery solvents that are mixed in with the crude in order to keep it liquid and that could be dissolving the train cars; the flammability of the Bakken crude itself.

After a runaway train exploded in Lac Mégantic, Quebec, last year and killed 47 people, and an analysis by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Organization showed that seven of the 10 worst oil spills of the decade in the U.S. had happened in the last three years, people began looking, with great interest, into whether trains full of Bakken oil were being routed through their towns.

When they did this they were often stonewalled by railroads, who said that, since the crude was so flammable, its movements through the country were a matter of national security. Railroads sometimes revealed the information, but they did it haphazardly, so that some fire departments knew that Bakken crude was passing through and some didn't.

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Why Cantor’s defeat is terrible for the climate — and the country

Eric Cantor
Gage Skidmore

On Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was ousted with a decisive loss, 56 percent to 44 percent, in his party’s primary. The victor, college professor David Brat, challenged Cantor from the right, attacking him for raising the debt ceiling, agreeing to a budget that didn’t defund Obamacare, and pushing for bipartisan immigration reform.

But this is no ordinary Tea Party insurgency. Brat was a low-profile and disorganized candidate, who failed to rally support from national right-wing advocacy organizations and fundraising networks. According to the latest campaign filings, Brat's whole campaign spent $123,000 -- less than the $168,000 Cantor's campaign spent just at steakhouses. Nor was Cantor a tired old incumbent like Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who was forced into a runoff by a Tea Party challenger in last week’s primary. Cantor, 51, raised over $5 million and blasted Brat with a heavy ad campaign.

Most importantly, Cantor was no moderate. He positioned himself as the hard-right leader of the rabble-rousing freshman caucus elected in 2010. That’s why Democrats and establishment Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are chuckling that Cantor got what he deserved: He encouraged the Republican base’s unreasonable demands for bigger spending cuts and tax cuts than President Obama would ever agree to, and now he himself has fallen victim to their rejection of political reality. “What makes tonight’s upset defeat delightfully ironic is that Cantor, who has spent the last three and a half years whipping up right-wing dissatisfaction against Boehner’s alleged moderation, is himself the victim of accusations of collaboration,” writes Jonathan Lawrence, former chief of staff to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Tonight, I imagine, the atmosphere in the Speaker’s Office is unadulterated glee.”