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Allan Thornton, environmental investigator, answers questions

Allan Thornton. What work do you do? I run the Environmental Investigation Agency, a nonprofit environmental group with offices in Washington, D.C., and London. I generally oversee the strategic development of the organization, which includes targeting research, deploying investigative teams to obtain documentary evidence, and exposing environmental crimes; I work in close cooperation with our directors, campaigners, and investigators. What does your organization do? We campaign to protect the natural environment using investigation -- often undercover -- to document and expose environmental crimes around the world. We focus on several areas: illegal logging and the international trade in illegal logs, …

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Before Sunset

Language in budget bill could unravel federal environmental protections Buried deep in the 2,000-page budget bill President Bush recently sent to Congress is a three-sentence provision that threatens to eviscerate environmental and other protections. Authored by the White House Office of Management and Budget, the provision would, if passed unamended, subject any and all federal programs to the scrutiny of a "Sunset Commission." The eight-member panel, appointed by the president, would have the power to kill any programs not "producing results." Programs deemed non-productive would "automatically terminate unless the Congress took action to continue them." "This is potentially devastating," warned …

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Oh, Right, I Knew We Were Forgetting Something!

Bush climate-change research won't research climate-change effects According to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, the "more research" President Bush is always touting as his response to climate change is overlooking an area some might consider important -- namely, what effects global warming might have on people and the environment (oh, that!). In fact, the GAO report to be released today says that none of the 21 studies of climate change the administration plans to publish by 2007 will include assessments of its possible effects on agriculture, water, energy, or biological diversity (oh, those!). This is in violation of the 1990 …

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Souuuueeeee!

House passes pork-laden energy bill The House of Representatives approved broad energy legislation yesterday by a vote of 249 to 183. The 1,000-plus-page bill contains some $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for energy companies, less than 5 percent of which go to clean energy or energy conservation. It contains a provision that would funnel $2 billion to deep-water oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. It would open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. It would allow "downwind" states to delay meeting air-quality standards until "upwind" states have met them. And it would …

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Earth Day goings-on don’t measure up to dark drama on Capitol Hill

Today, on the eve of the 35th anniversary of the first Earth Day, the House of Representatives is voting on, and widely expected to pass, a grossly porkified energy bill that would dole out billions in subsidies to fossil-fuel industries, shortchange alternative-energy and efficiency initiatives, and indemnify makers of the gasoline additive MTBE against liability for groundwater contamination. And this time the bill may actually have a chance of passing in the Senate, perhaps as early as next month, after years of stalemate. Bright Earth Day events are no match for dark D.C. happenings. This and other dismal news rolling …

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It’s a bloated, industry-friend piece of crony capitalism. And its breath stinks.

The House starts work on the monstrosity that is the Energy Bill today, and could vote on it as early as tomorrow. It contains this hideous provision, a naked givaway to big industry that would "bypass Congress's normal spending process to funnel up to $2 billion over 10 years into research for recovering oil and gas from the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico." And that's just the beginning. It's difficult to describe just how reprehensible this bill is -- an exquisite example of the crony capitalism and patronage network that have long since replaced responsible governance for the …

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Rock the Bloat

Some conservatives getting uncomfortable with energy-bill pork A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, being a conservative meant favoring free markets and smaller, less intrusive federal government. A shrinking number of conservatives still cling to the old ways, and they are disturbed by the energy bill making its way through the House. Though Republican leaders promised to trim the bill down from the bloated version that was defeated in past years, a new analysis by the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense shows that lawmakers have added $35 billion to the bill's costs in the last three …

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And By “Miscellaneous” We Mean “Nefarious”

Substantial changes to Clean Air Act slipped into energy bill Buried deep in the energy bill, filed under "Miscellaneous," is a tiny bit of text that could affect the Clean Air Act in a big way. The provision, authored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would allow "downwind" states like New York and other Northeastern states to postpone fulfillment of clean-air standards until offending "upwinders" clean up their act. If the energy bill becomes law, this provision would represent one of the most significant changes to the Clean Air Act in 15 years, …

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Here’s a Solution. Now What Was Your Problem Again?

Bush administration pushes energy bill as solution to high gas prices American citizens -- or "consumers," as they're known these days -- are irritated about high gas prices, and many of them blame President Bush, whose popularity has hit new lows. Of course, presidents are hardly responsible for short-term swings in commodity prices. Nevertheless, Bush is rising to his fake responsibility with a fake solution. On Saturday, in his weekly radio address, he expressed sympathy about gas prices and said the solution is for Congress to pass his energy bill, which would, in fact, do nothing to affect short-term gas …

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Know When to Hold Him

More drama around Stephen Johnson's EPA confirmation The political jousting around the confirmation of Stephen Johnson to head the U.S. EPA continues, as yet another senator has threatened to gum up the process. Just last week, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.) held the confirmation hostage, forcing Johnson to cancel a controversial research program on household pesticides and children. Now, Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) is, according to a spokesperson, "keeping his options open as far as blocking the nomination." The beef? Carper is steamed that the Bush administration has ignored his requests for studies on ways to …

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