The Latest Bounce

  During President Bush’s 2000 election campaign, he promised that any decision about whether to store high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada would be based on "sound science." Now, his administration seems to be junking science altogether. In August, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it will cut the U.S. Geological Survey’s budget for evaluating the geological integrity of Yucca Mountain by 89 percent next year. Earlier this year, a series of e-mails was released that indicated USGS scientists may have falsified quality-assurance data in order to meet deadlines (HCN, 4/18/05: 'Sound science' in doubt at Yucca Mountain). USGS officials say that the budget cut, which will leave them with just $940,000 next year, may force their agency to abandon its scientific work on the project entirely.

A federal judge has halted logging on some 2,000 acres in California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument (HCN, 6/9/03: Giant sequoias could get the ax). The logging project was originally approved just before President Clinton’s April 2000 designation of the monument, which was formerly part of Sequoia National Forest. The Forest Service has touted the logging as a fire-prevention project — but the judge noted that it was odd that the agency "waited five years to execute this contract because of unfavorable timber prices."

Three powerful New Mexicans are trying to put the kibosh on the El Paso Corporation’s efforts to open the Valle Vidal to oil and gas drilling. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., has introduced a bill to prevent leasing in the Valle, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and lies northeast of Taos (HCN, 3/1/04: Oil and gas drilling could oust elk — and Boy Scouts). On Sept. 20, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., introduced a similar bill in the Senate. New Mexico’s attorney general, Patricia Madrid, is vowing to fight as well if the U.S. Forest Service decides to lease the area for drilling. Pennzoil Corporation donated the land to the Forest Service in 1982.