The Environment

  Preservation Groups Suing Government Over Bears’ Removal From Endangered Species ActApril 28, 2007 23:38 One of the most pristine expanses of wilderness in the lower 48 states grew even wilder over the last two decades, with the resurgence of grizzly bears across 9 million acres in and around Yellowstone National Park.

On Monday, those grizzlies will be cut loose from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. The move is being hailed by the Bush administration as a landmark in the drive to protect the bears’ vast habitat.

But a lawsuit to reverse the administration’s ruling already is being drafted, illustrating that the bitter fight over grizzlies — and the wild lands they roam — is far from over.

The preservation groups behind the pending legal challenge claim the administration is delisting grizzlies as part of its agenda to expand logging, oil and gas exploration and grazing on Western lands. They also argue the administration is ignoring new perils for grizzlies, in global warming and the boom in vacation-home construction that is sweeping across the West.

 
  Democrats Demand A Say In Changes To Species ProtectionApril 26, 2007 10:36 Key Senate Democrats expressed concern yesterday about an Interior Department proposal they say will weaken the Endangered Species Act and demanded the Bush administration include Congress in any attempt to rewrite the 30-year-old law.
"We have seen reports of a document reflecting extensive draft revisions" and "additional documents that have surfaced recently suggest that major rule revisions remain under active consideration," the senators told Interior Secretary Dirk Kemp-thorne in a letter yesterday.
"We are concerned about any attempt to overhaul the Endangered Species Act program administratively, without the involvement of Congress," the lawmakers wrote.
The letter includes 15 questions the lawmakers are demanding be answered before the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service moves forward with any changes. The letter is signed by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, and independent Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
The 90-page proposal limits the number of species protected and the acreage of habitat preserved for those species, and includes a timeline for protection. It also shifts more power and funding from the federal government to the states, and gives local officials veto power over what plants and animals will be protected.
  Bush's Gravest Impeachable CrimeApril 25, 2007 15:15 When my co-author Barbara Olshansky and I wrote The Case for Impeachment during the waning months of 2005 and early 2006, it seemed clear to us that the biggest impeachable crimes of the Bush regime involved the illegal war against Iraq, and the trashing of the rights and civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution. Almost as an afterthought, we also included a proposed article of impeachment against the president for his insidious efforts to block any regulatory, Congressional or international action on confronting global warming.

Now that the first two UN reports on the causes and magnitude of the threats posed by global warming have come out--albeit in watered down form, thanks in part to the administration’s continuing efforts to downplay the crisis--and now that independent scientific research is suggesting that the disaster facing life on earth, and human life and civilization in particular is of catastrophic proportions, it seems that perhaps we should turn things around.
At this point, arguably, Bush’s greatest crime is not the Iraq War, terrible as that has been. Nor is it his revocation of habeas corpus or his authorization of torture. It is not the usurpation of the legislative power of the Congress. It is not the felonious violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or his obstruction of the investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

His biggest crime is a deliberate campaign of inaction and active obstruction in the face of a clear need for the United States to act decisively to stop or slow catastrophic climate change.

This president has not simply denied the reality of global warming. He has actively lied to the American people about the dangers ahead, and has had his administration, through intimidation and post-hoc editing by political hacks, block the publication of government scientific reports on global warming. He has defunded projects that would help document the growing crisis, for example cutting funding for satellites that would measure the effects of climate change on the surface of the planet. He has pulled the U.S. out of the Kyoto Protocol--the first global effort to confront the problem and try to limit production of greenhouse gasses. He even went back on a 2000 campaign promise to limit carbon emissions from power plants, and instead has given virtual carte blanche to power companies to build the most carbon-spewing coal-powered generating stations possible, complete with gratuitous tax breaks. He has threatened countries with trade sanctions for trying to take actions that would combat global warming, and has even had the US government go to court against state governments, like California’s and Vermont’s, to try to block them from acting to reduce carbon emissions on their own, by for example setting mileage standards for vehicles sold in-state.
  Next U.S. Species To Go Extinct May Be Two Hawaiian BirdsApril 25, 2007 15:11 A dramatic drop in sightings of the Akekee and the Akikiki, two very rare birds on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, is raising concern that these species may be on the brink of extinction. Beginning this month the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources will conduct population surveys of forest birds on Kauai to see if the suspected decline is taking place.


“The strongest available measures such as captive-breeding, fencing out and removing invasive species, and emergency listing under the Endangered Species Act, are all necessary due to the recent history of Hawaiian birds in similar circumstances going extinct,” said George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy (ABC).

Hawaii leads the U.S. in the total number of endangered and threatened species with 329, and in extinctions – with over 1,000 plants and animals having disappeared since humans colonized the islands. When Captain Cook landed on the islands in 1778, there were at least 71 endemic bird species. Since then, 26 of those species have gone extinct, and 32 more are now listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered. Several Hawaiian bird species, the Poouli and the Ou are assumed to have recently gone extinct before captive-breeding or other protection measures could be implemented.

David Kuhn, Doug Pratt, and Alvaro Jararillo, who lead birding tours on Kauai, recently alerted scientists, state officials, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to their concerns about the drop in sightings of the once relatively abundant Akekee.
  Cities Plagued By Rodents, Emergency DeclaredApril 25, 2007 13:29 What global warming?

The rodent population in six Peruvian regions has ballooned due to unusual weather patterns and the government declared a state of emergency on Tuesday to control the plague, including in the capital city, Lima.

The rodents are flourishing in some areas because of higher-than-normal temperatures, which favor their reproductive cycle, said Pedro Morales, a spokesman for the Senasa national agrarian health service.

The rampant rodents have affected nearly 150,000 people and 32,100 acres of land covered by crops, livestock and naturally growing vegetation, according to a resolution published in the government gazette El Peruano.

The plague has cost the South American country nearly $5 million and could pose a health hazard if the creatures spread disease via the food supply.
  Hundreds Of Troubled Species Await Official ProtectionApril 23, 2007 09:51 The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and its parent agency, the Department of the Interior, have lately come under fire for their management the Endangered Species Act. Last week a document was leaked that reveals plans to revise the law without prior congressional approval.

While agency officials claim that the proposed changes would improve the act's consistency and clarity, environmental groups contend that they would loosen restrictions on timber and other industries, undermine wildlife protections, and reduce the total number of federally protected species. Within days of the leak, federal investigators sent a report to Congress revealing that a high-ranking Interior Department official has been altering reports written by scientists, effectively weakening safeguards for vulnerable species.

None of it sounds like good news for the plants and animals sheltered by the Endangered Species Act. But what about all the species imperiled but not yet protected? Currently, there are 280 species whose populations appear to be in trouble but remain in limbo, awaiting the government's verdict: to list, or not to list. "It's a huge, long, [bureaucratic] process" that takes years, explains Valerie Fellows, spokesperson for the Fish & Wildlife Service. Currently, two species are proposed for listing, meaning that they are under active consideration; another 278 remain on the candidate list, which is the waiting list for proposal.
  New Attack On Endangered Species Act OutrageousApril 20, 2007 11:04 Can a dam - an enormous, concrete, human-constructed barrier that blocks the flow of a major river like the Snake - ever be considered a natural part of the landscape?
The Interior Department apparently believes it can, simply because it exists. In a draft of outrageous new department rules governing the Endangered Species Act, the effect of dams on endangered wild salmon (dams kill them) are simply written out of consideration.
Not that the fish don't die - dams kill from 40 to 60 percent of baby wild salmon swimming to the ocean; on some rivers, dams kill 92 percent. But, under the new rules, the agency just doesn't see a problem with that.
Revising ESA regulations is the latest ploy in the Bush administration attack on the ESA after Congress voted against undercutting the act itself and courts have ruled federal agencies have illegally ignored its provisions.
For example, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week ruled against the administration's 2004 Columbia Basin plan for failing to protect endangered wild salmon, calling it analytical "sleight of hand." So Interior is now trying to dismantle the act from within to placate energy-development, mining and timber interests.
Rewrites would allow federal actions, such as selling drilling permits or allowing hundreds of snowmobiles in pristine national parks, even though they could reduce the chance of recovery of an endangered species.
And a proposed new rule says that if a species is surviving within a small range, it cannot be listed as endangered. That rule would result in many fewer species being protected.
  Endangered-Species Listing Sought For U.S. Beluga WhalesApril 20, 2007 07:53 The dwindling beluga whale population in Alaska's famed Cook Inlet could be extinct in 100 years and should be listed as an endangered species, a federal agency said Thursday.

The proposal is being made by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which studied a petition brought by environmentalists a year ago.

The findings, which were to be published today, are being strenuously opposed by business and industry groups — backed by all three members of Alaska's congressional delegation — who say the designation is unwarranted and economically damaging.

The report, which is not a final ruling, bypasses the lesser designation of "threatened" and goes straight to "endangered," which provides a greater level of protection for the 300 belugas that remain in the inlet.
  Court Hears Endangered Species Cases That Could Slow Az BuildingApril 18, 2007 09:56 The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a pair of Arizona cases that could lead to tougher requirements for how federal agencies weigh the environmental effects of their policies.
The specific issue before justices is whether the Environmental Protection Agency should have consulted more closely with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials when it gave Arizona's Department of Environmental Quality the power to issue permits for a housing development in the state's southern desert.
Depending on how the court rules, the outcome could resonate far outside Arizona.
The federal government says complying with endangered species laws before entering into agreements with states would be impossible. Housing developers say if they lose, it could mean construction delays of up to six months on new projects, and raise the cost of a new house by $5,000 to $10,000.
Environmental activists say the government needs to be sure endangered species aren't at risk from policy decisions that may seem unrelated at first.
"If you (issue) permits . . . and if it's affecting endangered species then you need to pay attention," said Robin Silver, board chairman of the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona group that sued the government over the permits and had already been in litigation over groundwater in the southern part of the state before these cases began.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, the EPA has the power to delegate permitting authority to state agencies such as the Arizona environmental agency, and 45 states have started their own programs where they issue permits for water discharge.
  Farmers May Help Endangered SpeciesApril 18, 2007 09:49 vBoth the House and Senate now have bills that would encourage landowners to protect endangered species by providing income tax credits for agreeing to enhance wildlife habitat on their property.

“This bill provides the opportunity for landowners to make those improvements on habitat that will make the Endangered Species Act successful,” says American Farm Bureau Regulatory Specialist Rick Krause. He said the legislation actually amends the Internal Revenue laws, not the Endangered Species Act and could be very successful, “This bill will give people the necessary incentive and we think that will greatly improve listed species.”

krause says the legislation recognizes that farmers and ranchers need to be part of the plan to protect endangered species. “With over 80 percent of all listed species living to some extent on private lands and fully 35 percent of listed species relying exclusively on private lands for their existence cooperation with landowners is essential if the endangered species act is going to be successful,” he noted.
  Lawsuit Seeks To Keep Gray Wolf On Endangered Species ListApril 17, 2007 09:56 Three animal advocacy groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday over its decision to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, says the gray wolf essentially remains endangered in the three states, and it demands that the Fish and Wildlife Service be prevented from implementing its "de-listing" plan.

The lawsuit was filed by The Humane Society of the United States, Help Our Wolves Live, and the Animal Protection Institute.

"The agencies' decision to strip wolves of all federal protection is biologically reckless and contrary to the requirements of the Endangered Species Act," Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president of litigation for the Humane Society, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

A message left late Monday with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was not immediately returned.
  Court rulings on environment go against Bush administrationApril 16, 2007 08:58 A string of federal court rulings in recent weeks has gone against Bush administration environmental policies, and critics say they are proof that the White House regularly circumvents laws designed to protect the nation’s air, water, forests and endangered species.

“They (courts) are finding in case after case after case that the Bush administration is violating the law,” said Trip Van Noppen, vice president of litigation for Earthjustice, a public interest law firm that represents environmental groups suing the government.

Not so, say administration officials, who are claiming their own share of court victories and say they prefer negotiation to litigation.

Topping the list of administration setbacks was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on April 2 telling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency it could not opt out of enforcing carbon dioxide emissions — a major component of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming — under the Clean Air Act.

Here are other court rulings against Bush administration environmental policies in recent weeks:

— The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the administration’s 2004 plan for balancing endangered salmon runs against federally owned hydroelectric dams in the Columbia Basin. The ruling characterized NOAA Fisheries’ plan as a “sleight of hand” that counted dead fish as if they were alive. The court added that the plan ignored a provision of the Endangered Species Act that requires the agency to consider whether salmon can be expected to thrive, not just survive, under dam operations.

— A federal judge in San Francisco tossed out new Bush administration rules that gave states a chance to seek logging and other commercial projects in roadless areas of national forests previously off-limits to most development.

— On the same day, a U.S. judge in Seattle ruled that the Bush administration illegally suppressed and misrepresented the views of dissenting scientists when it eased logging restrictions designed to protect salmon under the Northwest Forest Plan.

— Other rulings have struck down mountaintop coal mining in West Virginia, efforts to avoid listing new threatened and endangered species, and EPA emissions standards for brick and ceramics kilns.
  Oil Giant Backs Greenhouse Gas LimitsApril 11, 2007 23:04 ConocoPhillips has joined several other major corporations urging Congress to require limits on greenhouse gases tied to global warming, the first major U.S. oil company to take such a stance.

The company said Wednesday it has joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, an alliance of big business and environmental groups that in January sent a letter to President Bush stating that mandatory emissions caps are needed to reduce the flow of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.

And American International Group on Wednesday became the first insurer to join the business group. In a statement, Chief Executive Martin Sullivan said AIG "can help shape a broad-based cap-and-trade legislative proposal, bringing to this critical endeavor a unique business perspective on the business opportunities and risks that climate change poses for our industry."
  Bush Admin Loses Salmon BattleApril 11, 2007 22:23 A federal appeals court Monday strongly rejected the Bush administration's novel 2004 plan for making Columbia Basin hydroelectric dams safe for salmon, saying it used "sleight of hand" and violated the Endangered Species Act.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld U.S. District Judge James Redden's order requiring the dams to sacrifice power production to help juvenile salmon migrating to the ocean.

It also keeps open the possibility that Redden could order four dams on the lower Snake River in eastern Washington breached to restore salmon -- a step he has said he would be willing to take if needed.

"Under this approach, a listed species could be gradually destroyed, so long as each step on the path to destruction is sufficiently modest," Judge Sydney R. Thomas wrote of the Bush administration's approach to balancing dams against salmon. "This type of slow slide into oblivion is one of the very ills the ESA seeks to prevent."

The ruling was the latest of a series in recent weeks going against the Bush administration's environmental policies, including global warming, forest management and protecting endangered species.

Michael Garrity of American Rivers, one of the salmon conservation groups that filed the original lawsuit, said the ruling made it clear that "small tweaks to the system" are not going to save salmon, from a legal or scientific standpoint.
  Polar Bears Draw Record Public Response To Endangered Species ListingApril 10, 2007 20:05 In just 90 days, more than 500,000 Americans have urged federal officials to list polar bears as officially threatened under the Endangered Species Act due to the profound effect of global warming on the bears' habitat, according to U.S. government statistics. That figure is almost double the former record for the number of comments in an endangered-species listing case in American history.

The polar bear's sea-ice habitat is melting at a dangerous and unprecedented rate, according to internationally recognized scientists. At this rate, polar bears will not survive.

"The sense of urgency about the fate of the polar bears is like nothing we've ever seen in an endangered species listing," said Andrew Wetzler, director of the Endangered Species Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The plight of these animals is critical, and so is the sense that the changes affecting them are eventually going to affect us. That's why there is such tremendous public support for getting this listing done."

In December, under pressure from a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC, and Greenpeace, the Bush administration proposed the listing. Today marks the end of the required 90-day comment period. The government has until early next year to decide whether to go forward with the plan.
  Flak Over Environment May Ground BushApril 09, 2007 16:55 The Bush administration is taking more flak for its environmental policies from Congress, federal courts, official government watchdog agencies, and the court of public opinion. One probable outcome: It will be more difficult for President Bush, with less than two years left in office, to push environmental policy in the direction he wants.

Federal courts have recently blocked or changed administration policies regarding forest management and the strip mining of coal. In response to the U.S. Supreme Court's global warming ruling last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been forced to allow states to proceed with efforts to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from motor vehicles.

In another administration setback, the Interior Department's inspector general (IG) reported recently that a senior political appointee there — an official without training in the natural sciences — rewrote the conclusions of US Fish & Wildlife Service scientists regarding endangered species and critical habitat. Interior's official watchdog also confirmed that the appointee sent internal documents to industry lobbyists, in violation of federal rules. "Policy trumps science on many occasions," said one Interior lawyer in his statement to the IG.

While these charges are likely to result in no more than a rhetorical spanking by Democrats, who now control powerful congressional committees, other friends of the administration are snarled in legal charges regarding environmental issues.

In late March, J. Steven Griles, the former second in command at Interior and now an oil and gas lobbyist, pleaded guilty in federal court to obstruction of justice in lying to the Senate about his relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

 
  Ipcc Report Confirms Widespread Impact Of Global WarmingApril 06, 2007 14:14 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its "Fourth Assessment of Working Group II," which updates past studies and sets forth the "current scientific understanding of impacts of climate change on natural, managed and human systems, the capacity of these systems to adapt and their vulnerability," the IPCC said in a summary of its findings. "It builds upon past IPCC assessments and incorporates new knowledge gained since the Third Assessment."

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That report is ancient history. It was issued in 2001, when there were still many in the scientific community who still questioned the existence of a global warming trend and the seriousness of the impacts it might have. Six years later that's no longer the case. No serious scientist today disputes the existence of global warming, even though its potential impact remains the subject of continued analysis.

The IPCC was unequivocal. It stated: "Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases." The report cites the following examples – all of which are well documented with scientific studies:
-- Changes in snow, ice and frozen ground (including permafrost);
-- increased run-off and earlier spring peak discharge in many glacier- and snow-fed rivers;
-- warming of lakes and rivers in many regions, with effects on thermal structure and water quality;
-- earlier timing of spring events, such as leaf-unfolding, bird migration and egg-laying;
-- poleward and upward shifts in ranges in plant and animal species;
-- shifts in ranges and changes in algal, plankton and fish abundance in high-latitude oceans;
-- increases in algal and zooplankton abundance in high-latitude and high-altitude lakes;
-- range changes and earlier migrations of fish in rivers.

Under the category of "Other effects of regional climate changes on natural and human environments," which are harder to gauge, a partial list of the IPCC's report includes an analysis of the following:
-- Effects on agricultural and forestry management at Northern Hemisphere higher latitudes, such as earlier spring planting of crops, and alterations in disturbance regimes of forests due to fires and pests;
-- some aspects of human health, such as heat-related mortality in Europe, infectious disease vectors in some areas, and allergenic pollen in Northern Hemisphere high and mid-latitudes;
-- some human activities in the Arctic (e.g., hunting and travel over snow and ice) and in lower elevation alpine areas (such as mountain sports);
-- settlements in mountain regions are at enhanced risk to glacier lake outburst floods caused by melting glaciers. Governmental institutions in some places have begun to respond by building dams and drainage works;
-- in the Sahelian region of Africa, warmer and drier conditions have led to a reduced length of growing season with detrimental effects on crops. In southern Africa, longer dry seasons and more uncertain rainfall are prompting adaptation measures;
-- sea-level rise and human development are together contributing to losses of coastal wetlands and mangroves and increasing damage from coastal flooding in many areas.

The last observation should be of particular concern to the insurance industry, as it is in the front line as far as underwriting the ever increasing risks inherent in rising seal levels and coastal development. For a thoroug analysis of the impact climate change potentially has on the industry consult Lloyds ''360 Report," which is detailed in the following article.
  Lake Superior Warming RapidlyApril 06, 2007 08:56 Lake Superior has been warming even faster than the climate around it since the late 1970s because of reduced ice cover, according to a study by professors at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Summer surface temperatures on the famously cold lake have increased about 4.5 degrees since 1979, compared with about a 2.7-degree increase in the region's annual average air temperature, the researchers found. The lake's "summer season" is now beginning about two weeks earlier than it did 27 years ago.

"It's a remarkably rapid rate of change," Jay Austin, an assistant professor with the university's Large Lakes Observatory and Department of Physics, told the Star Tribune newspaper. Austin co-authored the study with geology professor Steve Colman.

The study is based on data collected by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration buoys on the lake and on 102 years' worth of daily temperature readings at a hydroelectric plant near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Austin said the surface temperature increase is not only "a symptom of climate change," but also could reinforce itself. A trend toward warmer winters would mean less winter ice cover, which would allow more solar radiation of the lake and continued warming, he said.
  Bush Worst Environmental President in HistoryApril 03, 2007 22:58 Careful placement of corporate insiders from the oil, gas and mining industries into key federal government offices that oversee environmental regulations - coupled with a complacent press that no longer concerns itself with looking seriously at government and corporate cronyism - has left today's environment worse off that it's been in decades, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told an audience at Mississippi State University Monday night.

“This is the worst environmental White House that we've ever had in American history,” said the environmental lawyer/activist and the son of one of America's first families. Kennedy is the author of the book “Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy.”

Kennedy went on to cite more than 400 pieces of environmental legislation that have been rolled back by the Bush White House, “as part of a deliberate concerted effort to eviscerate 30 years of environmental laws.”

The tactic used by the Bush White House, said Kennedy, is the careful placement of industry insiders - often those industries which have served as the most severe polluters - into all branches of federal government.

And through policy manipulation, these cherry-picked leaders such as former Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton who in the early 1980s helped to file lawsuits to dispute federal grazing limits and founded the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, a right-wing think-tank funded by industry groups like Coors, Amoco, the American Forests and Paper Association and the Chemical Manufactures Association, have nibbled away at environmental policy by leading the same agencies enlisted to protect citizens against corporate waste and abuse.

 
  Supreme Court Rules Against Bush In Global Warming CaseApril 02, 2007 10:10 In a defeat for the Bush administration, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a U.S. government agency has the power under the clean air law to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that spur global warming.

The nation's highest court by a 5-4 vote said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "has offered no reasoned explanation" for its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions from new cars and trucks that contribute to climate change.

The ruling came in one of the most important environmental cases to reach the Supreme Court in decades. It marked the first high court decision in a case involving global warming.

Greenhouse gases occur naturally and are also emitted by cars, trucks and factories into the atmosphere. They can trap heat close to the earth's surface like the glass walls of a greenhouse.

Such emissions have risen steeply over the past century and many scientists see a connection between this rise and an increase in global average temperatures and a related increase in extreme weather, wildfires, melting glaciers and other damage to the environment.

Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the court majority, rejected the administration's argument that it lacked the power to regulate such emissions. He said the EPA's decision was "arbitrary, capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law."
  Bush Tries Three Environment Nominations AgainApril 01, 2007 23:10 The White House has renominated three people for top jobs affecting the environment who previously were blocked in Congress because of their pro-industry views.

If necessary, said industry lobbyists and Republican aides in Congress, Bush intends to skirt the Senate approval process by making recess appointments to put the three nominees in the posts.

All three have ties to industries that face costly Environmental Protection Agency restrictions, and all three previously have bypassed or questioned EPA's scientific process.

They are William Wehrum, who would head the air office of the EPA; Alex Beehler, to be the EPA's inspector general; and Susan Dudley, who would become White House regulations czar.

The White House believes all three nominees "are highly qualified and well versed in their areas," said spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore. She said she "would not speculate" on possible recess appointments.

Although Democrats control Congress and have placed environmental protection high on their agenda, the White House plans for the key regulatory jobs demonstrate that the administration still has plenty of tools at its command.

 
  Draft Of Climate Report Maps Out 'Highway To Extinction'April 01, 2007 09:11 A key element of the second major report on climate change being released Friday in Belgium is a chart that maps out the effects of global warming, most of them bad, with every degree of temperature rise.

There's one bright spot: A minimal heat rise means more food production in northern regions of the world.

However, the number of species going extinct rises with the heat, as does the number of people who may starve, or face water shortages, or floods, according to the projections in the draft report obtained by The Associated Press

Some scientists are calling this degree-by-degree projection a "highway to extinction."

It's likely to be the source of sharp closed-door debate, some scientists say, along with a multitude of other issues in the 20-chapter draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While the wording in the draft is almost guaranteed to change at this week's meeting in Brussels, several scientists say the focus won't.