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Onward Christine Soldier

Washington gov signs groundbreaking renewable-energy legislation Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) has signed into law two bills that some are calling the most progressive renewable-energy legislation in any U.S. state. The measures earned bipartisan support thanks to their focus on creating a renewables market that would generate jobs and boost the state's economy. One bill calls for a credit to be paid to home and business owners for each kilowatt-hour of electricity they generate via solar photovoltaic and wind-power systems, with higher credits paid if the energy systems are manufactured in-state. The second offers tax breaks to renewable-energy businesses that …

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We Can’t Handle the Truth

Court rules that Cheney may keep task-force deliberations secret In a major political and legal victory for the Bush administration, a federal appeals court has ruled that Vice President Dick Cheney is not obliged to release records on his secretive 2001 energy task-force meetings, effectively ending the long-running legal challenge brought by the Sierra Club and open-government advocate Judicial Watch. The court originally ruled that Cheney had to cough up the documents, but the administration appealed to the Supreme Court, which sent the case back to the appeals court with the stern suggestion that it reconsider. It did. The ruling …

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GE kicks off ambitious green initiative

Last night, General Electric Chair and CEO Jeffrey Immelt canoodled with Congress members and industry top brass at a swish cocktail party on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C., celebrating the launch of "ecomagination," an initiative he announced earlier in the day to ramp up development of clean technologies and lighten the company's Goliath-like environmental footprint. GE's wind technology in action. Photo: General Electric. Guests nibbled organic canapés and sipped wine produced by a solar-powered California vineyard (equipped with GE's own photovoltaic panels) as they perused exhibitions of the company's new technologies -- here a life-sized model of a hybrid-engine train …

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Can’t See the Forest for the Roads

Bush administration replaces Clinton roadless rule with more roadful one The Bush administration yesterday gave the heave-ho to the sweeping Clinton administration roadless rule, which put some 58.5 million acres of national forests off-limits to development. In its place, a new rule will put 34.3 million acres of that land back into play, at the discretion of governors, who will have 18 months to petition the feds either to open national-forest land in their states to development or keep it protected. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey claimed that "the way [the Clinton rule] was done developed a substantial amount of ill …

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Cornerstone environmental law, NEPA, under fire in energy bill

When the energy bill sailed through the House of Representatives late last month, the media reported that it was the same old grotesquely corpulent package that the GOP leadership had previously tried -- and failed -- to pass through Congress four times in the last four years. This is true. But what flew under the radar were a few new provisions snuck in at the 11th hour by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), chair of the House Resources Committee, which have made the bill even more environmentally threatening than previous versions, many Democrats and environmentalists say. There's more energy exploration on …

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Reservoir Hogs

Norton won't reduce water releases from Lake Powell Following a year's worth of unsuccessful negotiations between governors of seven parched Western states, Interior Secretary Gale Norton stepped in yesterday to make a decision on how to divvy up the much-coveted water of the Colorado River. A winter of heavy precipitation and subsequent spring thaws have made the debate over how much water to divert to the river's two largest reservoirs -- Lake Powell to the north and Lake Mead to the south -- even more heated. Upper-basin states Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico argued that water levels were finally …

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Tit for Habitat

Habitat conservation plans poorly monitored, sporadically effective Today, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer kicks off a big three-day series on the increasingly ubiquitous but nonetheless poorly understood and poorly monitored phenomenon of habitat conservation plans (HCPs). Congress authorized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to administer such plans in 1982, but it wasn't until the late '90s that they started catching on, as disgruntled landowners in Southern California threatened to sue the feds when the Endangered Species Act kept them from developing their property. HCPs, in exchange for some protection of species and habitat, offer landowners and developers permanent immunity from ESA …

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Mike Millikin, publisher of green-car blog, answers questions

Mike Millikin. What work do you do? I am the publisher/writer of Green Car Congress, a site covering technologies, issues, and policies for sustainable mobility. What does your organization do? What, in a perfect world, would constitute "mission accomplished"? My mission is to build a company that offers a portfolio of media products providing detailed technical, practical business and product information focused on sustainable energy and transportation markets to professionals and consumers. I want to provide people the information and context they need to make the right -- or at least informed -- decisions: personal, business, and political. What do …

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Johnson Scores

Senate confirms Johnson to head EPA Scientist and career agency veteran Stephen Johnson is the new head of the U.S. EPA. After a confirmation process that was oddly turbulent given the mild-mannered bureaucrat's generally warm reception on both sides of the aisle, the Senate voted 61-37 just after midnight last night to approve a cloture motion, which put an end to the procedural roadblock in Johnson's way, and thereafter quickly confirmed him. The roadblock in question was a hold put on the confirmation by appropriately named Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). Carper's beef was not with Johnson but with the Bush …

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Strongarm of the Law

Supreme Court rules that pesticide makers are liable for damages The U.S. Supreme Court has acted to restore a measure of sanity to the world of pesticides and weed-killers. In the 1990s, lawyers for big chemical companies pushed a novel interpretation of the 1972 federal law governing pesticides: By submitting pesticides for approval by the U.S. EPA, they said, companies thereby gained immunity from any future lawsuits over damage caused by the chemicals. Several lower courts fell for it, and in 2001, the Bush administration formally adopted the pro-industry position. But in a ruling yesterday on a case involving peanut …

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