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Know the West


  New rules that require retailers to label where fish come from have gone into effect — sort of. The new rules, which were mandated under the 2002 Farm Bill, require fish and shellfish to be labeled as "farm-raised" or "wild-caught," as well as identified by their country of origin (HCN, 3/17/03). The only catch is the rules won’t apply to processed fish, canned tuna, smoked fish or fish sold in restaurants and delis. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving grocery stores until April 2005 to comply.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is too big, according to the U.S. House of Representatives. In early October, the House voted 205 to 194 to split the traditionally liberal court into three smaller districts (HCN, 2/16/04). Under an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, the court — which currently serves 11 Western states and 56 million people — would continue to hear cases from California, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands. The new 12th Circuit would serve Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and Montana; the 13th Circuit would serve Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

Xcel Energy is committing its customers to coal: In September, the energy company submitted its 10-year "least cost resource plan" to Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission (HCN, 9/13/04). The utility — which opposes the state’s renewable energy initiative on the grounds that it will cost customers millions of dollars — plans to begin charging customers for a new coal-fired power plant. According to the plan, beginning in January 2005, residential customers will start paying 89 cents per month, and commercial customers $1.89 per month, to fund the plant’s construction. Xcel is also letting its "demand side management" plan expire at the end of 2005; the five-year, $75 million plan offers rebates to conservation-minded customers who install, for example, energy-efficient appliances.