Despite the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s argument that it is exempt from certain provisions of the Endangered Species Act, a federal court in Oregon says the agency must, in fact, comply with that law. At the end of January, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones ruled that the agency acted unlawfully when it downgraded the status of the gray wolf from "endangered" to "threatened" in 2003 (HCN, 4/14/03: Debate rages over ‘de-listing’ wolves). Calling the agency’s move "arbitrary and capricious," Judge Jones wrote that "exempting FWS from the duty to utilize its conservation authority is inconsistent with the Act."
According to the
Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency’s 2004 standard for mercury emissions from coal-fired
electric utilities was "compromised" by industry-friendly agency
higher-ups. The investigation found that EPA senior
management instructed staff to develop a mercury standard
that would allow utilities to each release up to 34 tons of mercury
annually — rather than allowing staff to base the standard on
actual emissions and real models (HCN, 12/20/04: Conscientious
Objectors). Had "unbiased" data analyses been allowed, the standard
could have been set as low as 8 to 10 tons per year. But, says the
February 2005 report, "an agency source indicated that these
results were not acceptable to senior management because they were
not close enough to the 34 tons target."
In January, J.
Steven Griles resigned as the deputy secretary of the U.S.
Department of the Interior, where he was under investigation for
conflicts of interest related to energy issues (HCN, 6/23/03: The
Bush administration - Sinister motives, or just
‘veracity-challenged’?)). But he isn’t going far:
In January, he signed on to the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying
firm, Lundquist, Nethercutt & Griles, LLC.
Griles joins Andrew Lundquist, director of Dick Cheney’s
National Energy Policy Development Group, and former Rep. George
Nethercutt Jr., R-Wash. The firm will provide "strategic business
development and government relations advice" to U.S. and
international clients within the electric power, oil and gas,
defense, minerals and mining industries. Lynn Scarlett has been
named as Griles’ replacement at Interior.