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O Tidings of Comfort and Anti-Enjoyment

Latest national-parks policy draft drops worst of proposed revisions The Bush administration has released its proposed revision of National Park Service management policies for 90 days of public comment. An earlier draft, written by Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Paul Hoffman and leaked to the press in August, would have required park managers to prove an activity would "irreversibly" damage park resources in order to ban it. This language is notably absent from the latest version. Some other dubious revisions have also been excised, like allowing more cell-phone towers and snowmobiling in the parks. Hoffman decries "anti-enjoyment" policies that over-prioritize conservation, …

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Oh No You Mittn’t

Mass. governor may weaken power-plant rules as winter approaches Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is the latest lawmaker looking to sacrifice environmental protections in the face of sky-high energy prices and what looks to be a frigid winter. He's considering weakening some air-emissions restrictions on oil-burning power plants in his state, saying it may allow them to produce more energy this winter. Massachusetts and the rest of New England get almost half of their electricity from plants burning natural gas, but with natural-gas prices hitting new highs, some worry that utilities will find it more profitable to just cease operating …

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Junket in the Trunk

ESA foe Pombo took two trips paid for by anti-animal-welfare foundation The ever-widening net of Republican-corruption busting may have snared a green bête noire: Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.). It seems Pombo took two trips, to New Zealand in 2000 and Japan in 2002, underwritten by a nonprofit foundation notable for opposition to environmental and animal-welfare protections. Problem is, tax laws prohibit private, nonprofit foundations from financing international travel by government officials. According to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, Pombo, his wife, and a staffer have taken $23,000 worth of international travel paid for by the International Foundation for the …

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The Ballast’s in Your Court

Enviro-backed Great Lakes bill stalls, industry-backed bill advances Following this summer's massive Detroit News series on threats to the Great Lakes, a key protection measure is ... wait for it ... stalled in Congress. Officials from Great Lakes states and conservationists back the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act, which would force shippers to use stronger measures to kill invasive species in their ballast-water tanks by 2011. "It may be the most important bill in Congress to protect the Great Lakes from ecological collapse," says the National Wildlife Federation's Andy Buchsbaum. But it's languished for three years, while a shipping-industry-backed rival, …

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And the Land Played On

Judge rules Oregon's Measure 37 unconstitutional Oregon's voter-approved Measure 37, which would mandate that private landowners be compensated for changes in their property value brought about by state land-use decisions, has been ruled unconstitutional by Marion County Circuit Judge Mary James. Oregon was widely seen as a national model in land-use planning, pushing new development into already-developed regions and preserving open space -- until November 2004, when a landowner revolt pushed Measure 37 through. Now already-perplexed state officials are even more baffled as to how to proceed. Measure backers plan to appeal, and there have been calls to send the …

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Wet, Me Worry?

Wetlands protection has gone downhill under Bush administration The Bush administration has radically curtailed protection of wetlands and waterways in the past four years, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office. It found that prior to 2001, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asserted its jurisdiction over most waters if migratory birds could use them -- even those that were isolated and non-navigable -- requiring developers to seek permits before starting projects in such areas. But in 2001, the Supreme Court determined that the corps could not judge jurisdiction by migrating birds alone. Since then, the corps …

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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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