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Senate’s stab at energy legislation may be more moderate than House bill

A refinery at Anacortes, Wash. "Shame, shame, shame, shame!" That's the furious chant that erupted from the Democratic section of the House of Representatives last Friday after Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) managed to eke out a victory for his Gasoline for America's Security (GAS) Act, which would loosen environmental laws and boost industry incentives to accelerate the expansion of oil-refinery capacity in the U.S. Now the onus is on Senate leaders who must decide whether they will help parlay Barton's much-contested victory into law. Strongly backed by President Bush, the GAS Act has been framed by Barton as a response …

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Hapless Wetlands

Supreme Court will hear two Clean Water Act cases The first U.S. Supreme Court session under Chief Justice John Roberts will feature two cases pitting government regulatory power against private property rights -- precisely the area where greens most fear Roberts' jurisprudence. Both cases originated in Michigan, and ask whether the federal government has jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act to regulate development on wetlands that, while part of a tributary system or drainage area, do not directly abut or drain into the "navigable waters" cited in the CWA (sounds thrilling, we know). If it does give the feds this …

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No Word on the Mansions

Governors abandon gas-guzzling SUVs as they ask others to use less fuel As post-hurricane gas prices in the U.S. hover around $3 a gallon, several governors have dumped their state-funded, gas-hogging SUVs for more energy-conscious vehicles. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) will be sidelining his Lincoln Navigator for a Ford Escape hybrid, and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has been Escape-ing on official business since Katrina hit. Maine Gov. John Baldacci (D) has ditched his Chevy Suburban for unmarked sedans. Midwest Govs. Tim Pawlenty (R) of Minnesota and Tom Vilsack (D) of Iowa are switching to SUVs that burn …

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Beswitched

Jeb Bush's switcheroo on drilling causes rift in Florida delegation Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is backing a bill in the House of Representatives that would open some new federal waters, including the eastern Gulf of Mexico, to oil rigs -- and in so doing, he's fractured the state's long-standing bipartisan political consensus against offshore drilling. Jeb's flip-flop, after years of advocating for a stronger drilling ban in order to protect his state's tourist-friendly beaches, is said to have thrown Florida's 27-member congressional delegation into disarray. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), would permit oil and gas drilling …

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Mad cash cow: Will the U.S. slaughter agriculture subsidies?

Why the Bush Administration looks set to jettison the farm-subsidy program, beloved of industry and

Long the bane of environmentalists and sustainable-agriculture proponents, the U.S. agriculture-subsidy system has drawn some unlikely new critics: top Bush administration officials. Speaking before a food-industry trade group last week, USDA chief Mike Johanns, the reliably pro-Big Ag former governer of subsidy-rich Nebraska, complained that in fiscal year 2005: 92 percent of commodity program spending was paid on five crops -- corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and rice. The farmers who raise other crops -- two thirds of all farmers -- received little support from current farm programs. Later, he deplored what he called "trade-distorting subsidies. " And Monday, U.S. Trade …

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Who Needs Solar Roofs?

Schwarzenegger signs many green bills into law, vetoes a few California reaped a green bonanza last week, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed more than 30 wide-ranging environmental bills into law. One with potential for nationwide impact will mandate that all new cars for sale in California be stickered with information on how many tons of greenhouse gases they emit, starting in 2009. Others will prohibit sewage dumping from commercial ships within three miles of the shore, ban use of experimental pesticides around schools, phase out mercury in industrial switches, and require cosmetics companies to tell state officials if potentially …

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Enviros anxious as Senate gears up to reform Endangered Species Act

There's been much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the environmental community since Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) pushed his overhaul of the Endangered Species Act through the House of Representatives last week. All eyes are now on the Senate to see whether Pombo's bill -- described as "so toxic it's radioactive" by Jamie Rappaport Clark, who oversaw implementation of the ESA during the Clinton administration -- will make it through that august body and onto the desk of President Bush, who's indicated his support. Bear-y worried about ESA revisions. Photo: USFWS/Terry Tollefsbol. Despite assumptions that the Senate -- the more …

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A Refine and Pleasant Misery

House energy legislation would undermine parts of Clean Air Act You just can't keep a bad bill down. Provisions cut from the energy bill that was passed this summer have lurched back to life; they now stumble forward under the banner of the Gasoline for America's Security (GAS) Act, due for a House vote today. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the legislation's sponsor, says the act will help curb spiking gas prices and ease post-hurricane energy bottlenecks by giving companies incentives to build more refineries -- "without messing with any environmental laws." But not everyone agrees. In a letter to House …

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So a Priest Walks Into an Environmental Protest …

Brazilian priest on hunger strike to stop water-diversion scheme Roman Catholic bishop Luiz Flavio Cappio has been fasting for 10 days in a modest chapel 600 feet from Brazil's Sao Francisco River, aiming to halt a massive water-diversion project. The $1.8 billion government plan involves building hundreds of miles of canals and other infrastructure to send water from the 1,700-mile river to drought-afflicted regions in Brazil's northeast. Cappio and his supporters say most of the water will benefit wealthy farmers growing export crops like grapes and flowers, with only a tiny percentage allocated to millions of rural poor. They fear …

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Hall and Votes

Choice to head FWS has iffy record on endangered species Dale Hall, a 27-year veteran of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will probably be confirmed today as the agency's director by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. A full Senate vote on the confirmation is expected soon. Hall's tenure at FWS seems notable mainly for his unwillingness to strongly support protections for endangered and threatened species in the Southwestern U.S., including Mexican gray wolves. He also has a reputation for trying to get staff to "change the science" in ways that might weaken the case for species protections, …

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