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Unlikely allies send a dispatch from an enviro-justice tour in MichiganLynn:

Lynn Henning (left) is a farmer whose family grows corn and soy on 300 acres in Hudson, Mich. She is an organizer with the Sierra Club's Water Sentinels program, testing local rivers and creeks for contamination from factory farms. Rhonda Anderson (right) is a single mother and longtime community activist in Detroit. She is an environmental-justice organizer for the Sierra Club. Saturday, 5 Nov 2005 Detroit and Hudson, Mich. What could a white farmer from rural Michigan possibly have in common with a black inner-city resident of Detroit? We think the answer begins with two words: environmental justice. For years, …

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Junk food: The Senate trashes organic standards

The Senate succumbed last week to food-industry pressure and approved a rider that would water down organic standards. (Grist's Amanda Griscom Little a few weeks ago ably laid out the context behind the Senate's surrender.) This AP article states that a Senate vote last Thursday ... ... unravels a court ruling on whether products labeled "USDA Organic" can contain small amounts of nonorganic substances. Earlier this year, an appeals court ruled that nonorganic substances such as vitamins or baking powder can't be in food bearing the round, green seal. As I understand it, the real issue isn't that baking powder …

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Between Barack and a Hard Place

Obama will block EPA nominees until agency issues new lead rules President Bush's latest U.S. EPA nominee has run into an obstacle no one anticipated: a Democrat with cojones. On Friday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) announced he was placing a hold on the nomination of Susan Bodine to head the EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response -- and furthermore, that he planned to block all future nominees to the EPA. What's his beef? Long-delayed rules for lead-paint exposure from home remodeling, which the agency has been under orders to produce since 1996. The EPA's own figures show that …

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Obama mia!

My near worship of Barack Obama is neither unique nor particularly well-concealed. I keep waiting for something to happen to break the spell, to start the inevitable backlash. But every time I hear his name, he's doing something at once politically savvy and substantively admirable. To wit: On Friday, Obama put a hold on Bush's latest nomination to the EPA, and says he intends to put a hold on all future nominees. Why? He's sick of the EPA delaying new regulations on remodeling and renovating in houses that contain lead paint. Despite being ordered by Congress in 1992 to release …

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Charlie’s Angles

Prince Charles sends veiled message to White House on climate change Britain's Prince Charles has made it clear he views global warming as the direst problem facing the world community. The $6 million question has been: Would he say as much to the notoriously intransigent George Bush during a state dinner this week at the White House? You could cut the diplomatic tension with a fine silver butter knife! Well, he did -- but in a distinctly British way: slightly veiled, scrupulously polite, but unmistakably sharp. Said Charles at the conclusion of his remarks to the 100 or so assembled …

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Better Dead Than Red-Legged

Bush admin plans to gut critical habitat for red-legged frog The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed slashing critical habitat for California's threatened red-legged frog by over 80 percent, from 4.1 million to 737,912 acres. Why, you ask? It seems protecting the beleaguered amphibian just costs too darn much: The agency says projected economic losses of nearly $500 million over the next 20 years outweigh benefits to the frog. But two economists who consulted with the FWS say they were instructed not to calculate the economic upsides of preserving such habitat -- cleaner drinking water, revived outdoor tourism, and …

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Senate votes to keep Arctic Refuge drilling in budget bill

The campaign to keep oil drills out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has just been dealt what could be a fatal blow. Yesterday, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced an amendment to drop refuge-drilling language from a filibuster-proof federal budget bill; today, the Senate voted down that amendment, 48 to 51. "This is too important a question to slide into the budget bill," Cantwell said yesterday. "We are setting a very, very dangerous precedent." But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is psyched. "America can't afford $3-a-gallon gasoline and we can't afford to depend on sources hostile to the United …

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The Rend Is Near

Senate votes to keep Arctic Refuge drilling in budget bill The campaign to keep oil drills out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has just been dealt what could be a fatal blow. Yesterday, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced an amendment to drop refuge-drilling language from a filibuster-proof federal budget bill; today, the Senate voted down that amendment, 48 to 51. "This is too important a question to slide into the budget bill," Cantwell said yesterday. "We are setting a very, very dangerous precedent." But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is psyched. "America can't afford $3-a-gallon gasoline and we …

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Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito has enviros worried

Samuel Alito, to the right of President Bush (ahem). Photo: Paul Morse/The White House. Enviro advocates in D.C. have spent the last 24 hours digging through Samuel Alito's extensive paper trail for clues as to how he might vote on environmental cases were he confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court justice. A staunchly conservative judge who's served on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for 15 years, Alito was nominated by President Bush yesterday to fill the slot being vacated by Sandra Day O'Connor. He's already a hit with Republican senators as well as Bush's right-wing base, which …

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Night of the Inexpensive Dead

EPA chief Johnson resurrects Bush's "Clear Skies" plan The Bush administration's "Clear Skies" air-pollution plan, seven months after its seeming death in Congress, has clawed its way out of the ground and lumbered back to life, moaning and twitching, bits of rotted flesh dropping from its desiccated corpse. (Hey, it's almost Halloween -- sue us.) Speaking before the Senate Environment Committee yesterday, U.S. EPA chief Stephen Johnson argued that while other legislative plans on offer might save more lives, Clear Skies is ... cheaper. No really, that was the argument: Johnson said the administration's approach to curbing emissions from nitrogen …

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