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Dirty Financing

Dirty-energy tax breaks total over $8.5 billion in energy bill Highly profitable dirty-power industries may be treated to even fatter bottom lines thanks to the energy bill that emerged this week from congressional conference committee. It would dedicate more than $8.5 billion in tax breaks over the next 10 years to oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear power, and electric utilities. Nukes alone would get $1.5 billion in direct subsidies, $2 billion in "risk insurance," and loan guarantees for future new reactor construction. Says a nuke industry spokesflack, "This is a great bill." After the bill was out of committee, Rep. …

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Brown vs. Sword of Education

Law students help eco-groups for free and get educated in the process When a nonprofit environmental group with a shoestring budget seeks to confront big government or corporate foes in court, where can it turn? Increasingly, the answer is: law students. Some 30 law schools around the country now host environmental law clinics (nearly half founded in the past decade), where students get real-world experience working on behalf of clients that frequently can't afford to hire professional lawyers and expert witnesses. Such experience can sometimes include riling up powerful adversaries: When lawyers-to-be at the University of Pittsburgh represented a citizens' …

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On the Gutting-Room Floor

Clean-energy measures dropped as Congress reaches energy-bill compromise Working into the wee hours Tuesday morning, House and Senate negotiators finished crafting a compromise federal energy bill, in the process killing two provisions intended to curb America's fossil-fuel addiction. A Senate measure that would have required the president to find ways to reduce oil use by 1 million barrels a day by 2015 was dropped, along with another that would have required utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Negotiators also rebuffed efforts by lawmakers from some coastal states to remove a proposed offshore oil …

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Lawsuits

Lawsuit shield for MTBE makers dropped from energy bill One of the last remaining roadblocks to the passage of the energy bill has reportedly been removed: According to Senate Energy Committee Chair Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), a provision to shield manufacturers of groundwater-polluting fuel additive MTBE from lawsuits has been dropped from the bill. A similar measure torpedoed a federal energy bill in 2003, when House advocates of the liability shield -- led by Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) -- proved intransigent. (The fact that the shield is being jettisoned this year is seen by some as a sign that DeLay's legendary …

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John G. Roberts’ enviro record not so green, but also not provoking a lot of protest

John G. Roberts (left) and President Bush. Photo: The White House/Eric Draper. Not only are the far-right Family Research Council and the biz-friendly U.S. Chamber of Commerce raving about President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, but plenty of liberals have glowing words for John G. Roberts Jr. too. Georgetown law professor Richard Lazarus, a Democrat and environmental lawyer who's known Roberts since their days together at Harvard Law School, enthusiastically told National Public Radio that Roberts is a "very decent, a very fair-minded individual ... he's obviously an incredibly smart person." There's no joy to be found in environmental-activist …

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The Pernicious Effects of Hollywood Liberalism

Californians believe global warming is real and want state to act Most Californians believe their state should take action now to regulate human activities that are heating up the planet. According to a survey conducted by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, 86 percent think global warming will affect them or their descendants, and more than half of those think changes are already under way. Even among Golden State Republicans, only 20 percent say global warming will never happen, and only 9 percent of Californians overall are greenhouse deniers. The survey revealed that Californians don't trust the federal government …

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Brussels Pouts

European Union commissioners duke it out over green legislation Today's meeting of the E.U.'s European Commission is a make-or-break moment for the union's sustainable-development policies, according to eco-advocates. Since taking office last November, commission president José Manuel Barroso has delayed initiatives on pesticides, the marine environment, air quality, and more, saying they might prevent the sluggish E.U. economy from picking up speed. E.U. Enterprise Commissioner Günter Verheugen argues that the anticipated expense of the union's enviro policies has yet to be justified. But greens and many others disagree, arguing that while implementation costs could be high, the policies are likely …

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Why Does He Hate Toads?

SCOTUS nominee John G. Roberts not a green's first pick President Bush's new Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. has a distinguished conservative pedigree: He clerked for conservative Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist and was deputy White House counsel during the Reagan administration. With only two years under his belt as a federal judge, Roberts' attitudes toward environmental law are not well-documented, but as a deputy solicitor general in Bush Sr.'s administration he won a Supreme Court case blocking National Wildlife Federation members from filing claims against mining on 4,500 acres of public land. Roberts also wrote rather sarcastic …

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Appeals court rules EPA doesn’t have to regulate CO2 emissions from cars

It's a simple but powerful question: Does the U.S. EPA have the power -- and the obligation -- to regulate carbon dioxide as an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act? Strangely, it still remains partially unanswered, even though it was a central issue in a landmark court case decided on Friday. Spew away, appeals court says. In a major legal victory for the Bush administration, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against 12 states, three cities, and more than a dozen environmental groups that had argued the EPA was …

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Elephant Fight! Elephant Fight!

Global warming, of all things, causes intra-party tensions in GOP Democrats have long hoped that the eerily monolithic modern GOP would fracture, but few expected global warming to be the wedge issue. Nevertheless, there you have it: Last week, House Science Committee Chair Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) laid into fellow Republican Rep. Joe Barton (Texas), chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, accusing him in a sharply worded letter of conducting a "misguided and illegitimate investigation." Last month, Barton contacted three climate scientists requesting extensive records; outrage ensued. Twenty noted climatologists sent Barton a letter decrying what they called political intimidation, …