Friday news roundup: repeals and drying rivers

 

As we reach the end of a week that seems rife with repetitions, and as candidates continue to wax and wane in popularity like so many moon cycles, we're holding steady. Resignations have also been running amok, with some so fed up they leave their company, their zoo or even their empire, but fear not gentle reader; we're in it for the long haul.

So, it seems is the fight over medical marijuana. In California, federal prosecutors forced a model Berkeley dispensary to close. Montana and Colorado have experienced similar crackdowns. In Colorado, where 22 dispensaries were closed late last month, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett has written U.S. Attorney John Walsh in the hopes of persuading the attorney that his state's regulations are sufficient and that the government has bigger fights to pick. "I can see no legitimate basis in this judicial district to focus the resources of the United States government on the medical marijuana dispensaries that are otherwise compliant with Colorado law or local regulation," he writes.

In other news from California, Congressman Devon Nunez is pushing water politics in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta backward. The U.S. House passed a Nunez-conceived bill that would defy decades of environmental regulation and a century of legal precedent. Under the regulation, farmers would be guaranteed more water than they can now take, limit the power of the Endangered Species Act and curtail state authority. Some illuminating lines from The Sacramento Bee

Water law experts are incredulous over the bill's scope and its apparent disregard for more than a century of state legal sovereignty.

'This thing should basically be entitled the 'San Joaquin Valley Farmer's Wish List,' " said Gregory Weber, a professor and water law expert at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. "This gives them just about everything they could possibly hope for."

It's unlikely the bill will get through the Senate, but regardless, the chutzpah involved in its mere existence is marvel-worthy.

Energy

Of course, we can still hope for change. The atmosphere may be ripe for removing oil and gas industry tax breaks. Early last week the Congressional Research Service reported that, after years of resistance, the Congressional climate may permit tax allowances, such as the enhanced oil recovery credit, to be repealed.

Efforts to speed new energy transportation infrastructure are also stalling out. Last week the Senate rejected, 56-42, a Republican plan to approve construction of the full Keystone XL oil pipeline. And to the north, first nations in British Columbia are opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline, which would take oil from Alberta's tar sands to the west coast of Canada. A tribal delegation, who says the federal government is using 'bully tactics,' warns that Ottawa may be headed for a legal showdown.

And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new rules for cleaner gasoline, a move supported by the auto industry and opposed by oil refineries. While cleaner fuel would help auto-makers reach higher fuel-economy standards, it will raise the cost of refining gas. How much that hike will add to gas prices depends on whom you ask. The American Petroleum Institute estimates a generous 25 cents per gallon (although their calculation factors in standards the EPA does not plan to include in its rule), while the EPA estimates the rules will add all of 1 cent per gallon. 

Wildlife

Nevada greater sage grouse maps are now available for public comment. The maps, to be

used as planning tools for resource managers, are meant to secure critical grounds for the imperiled bird, and were compiled by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. The state's creation of maps outlining priority habitat echoes the work of Wyoming, whose sage grouse initiative directed no surface disturbance within a mile of breeding areas called leks, by mining, drilling or other activity. Utah has recently came up with its own sage grouse plan as well.

In wolf news, a federal appeals court upheld the Congressional decision to remove Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves from the endangered species list. Howling from afar, wolves in the Great Lakes region were also recently removed from the federal endangered species list. Less than two months after the removal, the Wisconsin State Assembly voted to legalize wolf hunting in the state.

Danielle Venton is an intern at High Country News.

Images: 1) Windy Cove, in the Sacramento River Delta, California, courtesy of David Monniaux; 2) Greater Sage Grouse courtesy of NDomer73/Flickr.