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Johnson Left Hanging

Six former EPA chiefs tell Bush to cap and cut greenhouse gases Six former heads of the U.S. EPA -- including five Republicans -- have blasted the Bush administration for failing to act on global warming. In an unprecedented united front, the ex-chiefs, gathered yesterday to commemorate the agency's 35th anniversary, agreed that debating the extent to which climate change is a human-caused phenomenon (a favorite Bushy pastime) is pointless. They want federally regulated carbon caps and cuts. Current EPA head Stephen Johnson defended Bush policies, but the panel wasn't biting. "This is not a sort of short-term cycle problem. …

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The Sound of One Hand Tapping

Greenpeace joins lawsuit against Bush admin's secret wiretap program On Tuesday, a diverse group of individuals and organizations filed suit against the National Security Agency, asking a federal court in Detroit to declare the agency's clandestine domestic eavesdropping program unconstitutional. The plaintiffs -- ranging from Greenpeace to stalwart Iraq war booster Christopher Hitchens -- have no proof that the NSA spied on them. But the ACLU, which is leading the suit, charges that simply knowing the program exists has had a "chilling effect" on their willingness to use international phone and data lines to communicate openly, violating their First Amendment …

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Wild to Be Born

Montana’s landscape is changing — will America’s be next?

The governor is a politician of such breathtaking dexterity, ability, and raw, hungry, political instinct that your first thought upon witnessing him -- no matter whether you're a Republican or Democrat -- is likely to be, "When does he explode, and in what manner?" For rarely in American politics has anyone this good been that way indefinitely. Brian Schweitzer has only been the governor of Montana for a year, but already, among Democrats in the state and beyond, I sense a Clintonesque déjà vu creeping in, a relief that all will be all right, that our values are protected. We …

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Land-rich regions’ residents tell hungry politicians to back off

It is difficult to recognize change while living through it. However, two recent decisions involving the use of the public's lands signal a historic political and policy transition, particularly here in the Rocky Mountain West. The first of those two is the almost unanimous rejection by Western governors of the Bush administration's multiyear attempt to punch roads into the last remaining wild lands here in the Rockies. The second is the public's outrage at the year-end congressional attempt to sell massive amounts of our commonly held land. Not in our back yard. Photo: iStockphoto. The ham-handed effort to open up …

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Keeping Up With the Bushes

Conservative Canadian politico vows to back out of Kyoto agreement As Canada's federal election looms -- yes, Canada is having an election -- Conservative leader Stephen Harper is campaigning on virtually abandoning the Kyoto accord on climate change. Harper, who proclaimed in 2004 that the treaty would never become international law (oops), says victorious Conservatives would jettison mandatory targets and timelines for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in favor of voluntary ones. The Canadian Climate Coalition accuses Harper of putting Canada "into the same camp as U.S. President George W. Bush." Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin is using the issue to hit …

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RFK Jr. and other prominent enviros face off over Cape Cod wind farm

A long-simmering disagreement within the environmental community over a plan to build a massive wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., is now boiling over into a highly public quarrel. The future of Nantucket Sound? Photo: NREL. The four-year-old battle started heating up last summer when Greenpeace USA staged a demonstration against well-known eco-activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who's been an outspoken opponent of the proposal for a 130-turbine wind-power project in Horseshoe Shoal, a shallow portion of Nantucket Sound south of Cape Cod. Kennedy -- a senior attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council and a pioneer in …

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Climate change is pushing this easygoing enviro over the edge

The one and only time I ever saw my mother become aggressive in public went like this. We were out as a family for a weekend leaf-peeping drive, an impulse apparently shared by most of the rest of New England, because the traffic along New Hampshire's Kancamagus Highway was endless 90-degree gridlock. Every once in a while, however, somebody would zoom happily by in the breakdown lane. We watched them with a kind of mounting zealous anger. It would never have occurred to my parents to emulate them -- that would have been wrong. But eventually my mother, sitting in …

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The Green Mileage

Mileage estimates likely to decline under EPA's proposed new system The U.S. EPA has proposed new standards for calculating auto fuel-economy ratings, expected to reduce by 5 to 30 percent the mileage estimates in window stickers on new cars and trucks. Ouch. It's the first ratings overhaul since 1985, intended to reflect changes in driving conditions (e.g., more stop-and-go traffic) and technology (e.g., more fuel-eating air-conditioners). The city-driving mileage estimates for hybrids -- including Toyota's hot-selling Prius, which gets a 60-mile-per-gallon estimate under the current system -- are likely to shrink an especially dramatic 20 to 30 percent. Environmental groups …

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Enviros plot to beat Pombo in November

Just a week into this election year and already environmental strategists are up to their elbows in plots to snatch Congress from the grip of anti-environment GOP leaders and turn it over to a conservation-minded majority. Leaders of green groups including the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife are hatching plans to help political allies who face tough battles this coming November, including Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). But an even bigger priority for enviros is thwarting the reelection of Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), chair of the House Resources Committee and a zealous advocate …

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If It Ain’t Broke, Break It

New report from House Republicans targets cornerstone environmental law House Republicans have issued a 30-page report that proposes fixes for the National Environmental Policy Act -- a law greens say isn't broken. Since 1970, NEPA has required that activities on federal lands that may have environmental impact (think road building and flood control) be subject to environmental assessments, and that citizens be allowed to challenge the findings. Rep. Cathy McMorris (R-Wash.), who chaired a 20-member NEPA task force, voiced the common litany of complaints levied by NEPA opponents, saying that it's caused "delays, excessive paperwork, and lawsuits." Environmentalists point out …

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