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Dopey’s Choice

Pombo proposes selling off parks to make point about Arctic Refuge A draft bill being circulated by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), chair of the House Resources Committee, advocates selling 15 national preserves, historic sites, and monuments to help shrink the federal budget deficit. The proposal also recommends selling ads on National Park Service brochures and maps, finding private sponsors for Park Service trails and museums, and leasing oil and gas rights on the outer continental shelf. Pombo's committee staff estimates the sell-offs would raise about $2.4 billion over five years -- which, not at all coincidentally, is what the Congressional …

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Dispatches from Arctic Refuge Action Day

A family sends firsthand accounts from the rally

In a massive grassroots campaign to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, thousands of citizen lobbyists descended upon the U.S. Capitol yesterday to protest drilling plans and lobby Congress before a pivotal vote this fall. The Arctic Refuge Action Day events were coordinated by a number of major environmental groups, grassroots organizers, and volunteer "bus captains" who drove protestors from as far as Oregon and Alaska to Washington, D.C. Grist was lucky enough to catch up with one such vanful: Brad and Alicia Black and their two tot-sized greens. Brad and Alicia, both teachers, dropped everything to begin their journey …

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Do as I Say, Not as I Vote

Majority leave environmental concerns behind at the ballot box Most Americans want tough laws protecting air, land, and water -- but only about 1 in 5 say environmental issues have been a major influence on how they vote. According to a new survey, these numbers hold up across party lines, with 74 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats backing stronger environmental standards. But the environment ranked last on a list of nine issues that swayed actual votes -- trounced by the economy and jobs, health care, the war in Iraq, terrorism, and moral values, among others. Asked why …

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The Unkindest Gut

Pombo launches new bid to rewrite Endangered Species Act Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) plans to fast-track legislation he introduced yesterday that would rewrite the Endangered Species Act -- much to the consternation of environmental advocates. Chair of the House Resources Committee, Pombo has long aimed to overhaul the landmark law, and with this latest version of his bill he managed to get six Democrats to join eight Republicans as cosponsors. The legislation contains several provisions long sought by property-rights advocates, including one that would eliminate current ESA requirements that critical habitat be designated for listed species. The bill would also …

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Jay Tutchton, head of environmental law clinic, answers questions

Jay Tutchton. What work do you do? I am the director of the Environmental Law Clinical Partnership at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law. We introduce law students to the world of public-interest environmental litigation and train them in the basic skills of the trade, and we file the best lawsuits we can on behalf of our clients to advance environmental protection. Basically, we play David to the legal Goliaths of government and industry. We represent environmental groups and individuals who would otherwise go without legal representation because they cannot afford it. What do you really do, on …

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Katrina prompts new energy proposals — some green, most not

Hurricane Katrina has triggered a whirlwind of new energy proposals in Congress -- some gratifying to environmental activists, most galling. The long-awaited energy bill that President Bush gleefully signed into law a mere month ago started looking sadly outdated when viewed against a backdrop of slackened oil production along the Gulf Coast, crippled refineries, gasoline shortages, and soaring prices at the pump. On Sept. 6, the day Congress reconvened after its summer recess, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee penned an uncharacteristically conservation-minded letter to the White House: "We would encourage you to make the federal government the leader …

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Gas Dismissed

Federal judge throws out multistate suit against CO2-spewing utilities A U.S. federal judge yesterday delivered a big blow to eight states that had been pushing for power plants to cut their carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to stave off global warming. A coalition of the states plus New York City had filed suit against five utility companies that together own 174 fossil fuel-burning power plants, claiming that the five firms are the nation's biggest CO2 polluters and should be forced to curb their emissions. U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska dismissed the case, saying the plaintiffs were asking the …

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Touch and Goshute

Feds approve nuclear-waste dump on Utah tribe's land On Friday, the Bush administration approved a controversial $3.1 billion plan for a massive temporary radioactive-waste dump on a Utah Indian reservation -- a win for nuclear-power interests. A private firm and the sovereign Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians struck up the agreement for the repository, so the plan has evaded the kind of public review and political debate that's kept the proposed nuclear-waste dump at Nevada's Yucca Mountain in stasis. The Utah facility could come online by 2007, and might ultimately hold about 40,000 tons of spent reactor fuel. The …

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Photovoltaic Finish

California's Million Solar Roofs bill dies in legislature Partisan squabbling effectively killed California's closely watched Million Solar Roofs legislation last week, as the state Assembly session ended on Thursday with no vote on the bill. The measure, which would have dramatically boosted the state's use of solar power by providing incentives for businesses and homeowners to install photovoltaic systems, initially had broad backing from across the political spectrum, but Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a compromise over Democrat-sponsored provisions that would have required workers on large commercial solar installations to be paid union-level prevailing wages. Many Republicans said the …

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Clang of Four

Senators challenge Bush rewrite of mercury-emissions rule A cross-party coalition of senators aims to use an obscure legislative tactic in an attempt to block implementation of the Bush administration's proposed regulation on power-plant mercury emissions. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) say the Bush rule rewrite endangers public health even as it caters to the utility industry. It would remove power plants from stricter oversight and a tight timeline for cutting mercury emissions under the Clean Air Act, giving them instead a reduced target and several more years to meet it. It would …

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