The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is getting into the endangered species business. On July 29, the agency announced it is "streamlining" pesticide registration. Under the old rules, the EPA had to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries, the federal agencies that enforce the Endangered Species Act, before approving a new pesticide (HCN, 2/16/04: Salmon get a break from pesticides). Now, the EPA itself will determine if a new pesticide could endanger rare species.

Superstores are going to have a harder time getting off the ground in the City of Angels (HCN, 6/7/04: Wal-Mart’s Manifest Destiny). In August, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance requiring superstores such as Wal-Mart to conduct economic studies before they build: If superstores want to locate within the city’s "economic assistance zones," they’ll need to make sure the store won’t eliminate jobs, depress wages or cause neighborhood businesses to close.

This summer may mark the end of a 22-year-long effort by the Carson National Forest and the state of New Mexico to keep drillers out of the Valle Vidal, a 100,000-acre stretch of alpine meadows, trout streams and record elk herds (HCN, 7/19/04: Drilling done right?). In early August, the New York Times revealed that El Paso Corp. had asked the White House Task Force on Energy Streamlining to help open the area to coalbed methane drilling. Now, the Forest Service has developed a 20-year development scenario, which outlines four phases of drilling: sinking five to ten exploratory drills, building a pipeline, drilling on "every allowed surface" and finally, drilling "problematic locations" using deviated wellbores.

In August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the black-tailed prairie dog from the list of candidates for endangered species protection, saying it is no longer "threatened" and "is not likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future." Environmentalists who petitioned the agency to protect the animal say populations are less than 2 percent of what they were historically, and call the agency’s decision "reckless" (HCN, 2/28/00: Dog doesn’t get its day).

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