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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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Why we need a World Environment Organization

With climate change manifesting itself in the melting of Arctic glaciers and the drowning of small Pacific islands, in widespread species extinction, forest loss, desertification, and impending water shortages, the scope of environmental problems has changed. Long-term alteration of the earth's climate is moving us into terra incognita that's difficult or impossible to reverse. Recently, Hurricane Katrina provided a dreadful example of how human alterations multiply natural impacts. And this is only one of many escalating global environmental crises. As Jared Diamond puts it, "the only question is whether" the world's environmental problems "will become resolved in pleasant ways of …

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Optical Delusion

Republicans ask oil firms to "do their part" to ease pain at the pump Oil companies and their GOP backers in Washington face a somewhat awkward situation: The oil industry is awash in record profits, but Republicans continue to shovel them millions in subsidies. Meanwhile, Americans stagger under the weight of soaring gas prices. This has created some unfavorable "optics," as the PR professionals put it. A few congressional Democrats are calling for a windfall-profits tax on oil companies to provide consumer relief, but c'mon, let's not get crazy. Instead, House Republicans opted for ... a stern press conference, calling …

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Just Another Woeful Wednesday

Congressional committees approve a pile o' drilling and mining Congress worked hard on Wednesday to ensure America a clean, secure energy future. Ah, we kid! Actually, the House Resources Committee approved a measure that would weaken the federal ban on new offshore gas and oil drilling. And both House and Senate resource committees approved provisions that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. And the House Resources Committee approved language proposed by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) (does this guy ever sleep?) intended to spur a sell-off of public lands to mining companies, even if those lands haven't been …

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Shake, Rattle, and Bankroll

Hillary calls for Big Oil to fund a cleaner energy future Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) says the oil industry should pony up for a multibillion-dollar "Strategic Energy Fund" that would invest in clean-energy technologies and help folks struggling with spiking heating costs. At the Cleantech Venture Forum in D.C. yesterday, Clinton called for Big Oil to pay an "alternative energy development fee" to help "reinvest" its record-breaking profits, but stressed, "It's not about new energy taxes on consumers." (God no, not new taxes!) She said the money would underwrite wind and solar projects, development of new technologies, and a major …

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Oil drills getting closer than ever to the Arctic Refuge

The future of the Arctic Refuge? "The threat to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has never been greater than it is today," according to Brian Moore, legislative director for the Alaska Wilderness League. And, though the battle over the refuge has a Groundhog Day quality to it -- haven't we heard this same alarm sounding before? -- this time advocates on both sides of the issue agree: Congress is closer than ever before to green-lighting oil and gas drilling in one of the largest remaining undeveloped wild areas in the United States. Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee …