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Know the West

Election Bounce


Ranchers will continue to be forced to pay $1 per cow to corporate beef marketers. In early November, U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull in Billings, Mont., ruled against Montana ranchers Steve and Jeanne Charter and upheld the constitutionality of the "beef checkoff" rule (HCN, 9/30/02: Independent ranchers fight corporate control).

It's another victory for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - and another loss of habitat for an endangered species. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled in favor of the agency and the Home Builders Association of Northern California, and cut 3.8 million acres from the California red-legged frog's critical habitat (HCN, 10/14/02: Wildlife Service bows to home builders). The decision is part of a trend, says Peter Galvin with the Center for Biological Diversity. "While people focus on the stock market and the war on Iraq, there's a war at home on the environment, being led by industry groups and the Bush administration."

A lawsuit by Benton County officials in Washington has halted the Department of Energy's plans to shut down the Fast Flux Test Facility at Hanford Nuclear Reservation (HCN, 11/11/02: Washington citizens fight to save aging Hanford reactor). U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson boosted the county's cause when he expressed concerns that the shutdown would imperil the nation's ability to produce radioisotopes for cancer treatment.

Neal McCaleb will resign as the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the end of the year. In November, McCaleb stated he has "been disappointed to learn that a contentious and litigious environment obscures the hard work that remains before us." This fall, McCaleb and Interior Secretary Gale Norton were held in contempt of court for mishandling the Indian trust accounts containing millions of dollars owed to Native Americans from oil, gas and grazing royalties on Indian lands (HCN, 2/4/02: Indian trust is anything but).

Getting permits for coal-fired power plants will be easier, thanks to new Environmental Protection Agency rules. According to the EPA, its New Source Review program - enacted in 1977 to minimize air pollution - has actually "impeded" emissions reductions. The agency's new plans will "remove perverse and unintended regulatory barriers."