The U.S. Department of Energy is looking to save big bucks at New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (HCN, 2/17/03: The Latest Bounce). Last year, President Bush signed a law allowing the agency to relax its $3.1 billion program to check the contents of radioactive waste containers before they’re shipped to WIPP — despite a report by the National Research Council that shows the agency never studied whether such changes would affect "protection of workers, the public, or the environment." The agency also hopes to begin shipping waste in single- rather than double-walled containers.
What’s bad for wildlife may be bad for farmworkers, too. Environmental and public health groups are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approving pesticides that harm endangered species. The groups say the agency is giving chemical corporations "illegal special access" to the approval process. In a separate suit, farmworker unions are suing the EPA for approving two pesticides, azinphos-methyl and phosmet, that may harm not only workers themselves, but also their families (HCN, 9/29/03: Harvesting Poison).
Environmentalists scored a victory when Congress voted to keep drillers out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But the refuge’s less romantically named sister, the National Petroleum Reserve, is now open for business (HCN, 1/20/03: Refuge back in the crosshairs). The Bureau of Land Management has just opened 8.8 million acres of the reserve to oil drilling; leases will hit the auction block this spring.