The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general, Nikki L. Tinsley, plans to investigate allegations that bunk science led to her agency’s claim that hydraulic fracturing poses "little or no threat" to drinking water. "Frac’ing," a technique pioneered by Halliburton, increases the production of a gas or oil well by injecting it with liquid, which can include chemicals such as diesel fuel and benzene. Last October, EPA scientist Weston Wilson blew the whistle, saying that agency scientists’ environmental and health concerns were overridden by a peer-review panel, most of whose members had ties to the oil and gas industry (HCN, 12/20/04: Conscientious Objectors). Tinsley’s announcement came after Colorado Reps. Diana DeGette and Mark Udall, both Democrats, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., called for an investigation.

In California, U.S. District Court judge Manuel Real dismissed a lawsuit alleging that three Forest Service employees and a citizen activist conspired to prevent a real estate development at Big Bear Lake (HCN, 3/7/05: Forest Service employees and activist face racketeering charges). The Marina Point Development Associates sued Sandy Steers and the federal employees for criminal conspiracy after Steers’ group, Friends of Fawnskin, successfully challenged the company’s condominium-and-marina proposal in court. Marina Point’s lawsuit was filed under RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute that was originally created to break up the Mafia.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke for leasing Martin’s Cove, a historic site now managed by the BLM, to the Mormon Church (HCN, 12/22/03: Mormons win Martin’s Cove). Nearly 150 Mormon pioneers starved and froze to death at the Wyoming site while making the trek to Utah in the winter of 1856. After the church’s initial attempts to buy the land from the BLM failed, Congress directed the agency to lease it to the church instead. The ACLU says such an action would violate the constitutional ban on government endorsement of religion.

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