The Daily Grist: Feb. 20

A More Perfect Union
Sierra Club and Auto Workers Unite Against Bush Fuel-Economy Plan

Bush's new fuel-economy plan is even ticking off the United Auto Workers union. The UAW has often been at odds with enviros over auto efficiency standards, but now it's teaming up with the Sierra Club to fight the administration's proposal. In a joint op-ed published in The New York Times this week, the heads of both groups make the case that the plan would threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Americans working in plants that manufacture small cars and would increase pollution and worsen the nation's dependence on foreign oil. The op-ed concludes, "The Bush administration's proposal would destroy American jobs, reduce fuel economy, and increase global warming emissions -- and add to the burdens of an already struggling auto industry." Perhaps Bush is a "uniter not a divider" after all!

To Your Health!
Science Panel Okays Pesticide Testing on Humans

A National Academy of Sciences panel said yesterday that testing of pesticides and other toxic chemicals on human subjects -- including, in appropriate circumstances, children -- is ethical as long as such tests meet stringent safety and scientific standards. The decision came as a surprise to environmental groups, who immediately protested, claiming such testing is never justified. Controversy over the issue first arose in 1996 when Congress passed the Food Quality and Protection Act, which tightened safety standards on pesticides. The chemical industry began submitting human studies to the U.S. EPA, arguing that animal-based research was inadequate and alarmist. In 1998, enviro groups persuaded the EPA to pass a moratorium on such tests. Pressure from the Bush administration to lift the moratorium led the EPA to request the NAS study. The results are expected to play a significant role in the formation of government policy on toxic chemicals. Sounds fun -- where do we sign up?

Barton Fink
Big Recipient of Industry Money to Head House Energy Committee

With Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) retiring at the end of this year, the plum leadership spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee is poised to go to Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), a true friend of the energy industry if ever there was one. Barton has received more campaign contributions from the energy sector than any other single House member -- $1.6 million since 1989, when the Center for Responsive Politics began keeping records, the group said in a report this week. His biggest contributor in the current election cycle has been Anadarko Petroleum, a company that's now drilling in Alaska, among other spots. As it so happens, Barton's a big supporter of plans to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration, and he's a fan of President Bush's energy bill, which is packed with perks for industry.

Prize and Shine
Prizes Go to Community Programs Doing Environmental Good

Competition for the U.N.'s Equator Prize -- rewarded for community initiatives that reduce poverty and preserve environmental health -- was so intense this year that there were seven winners instead of the normal six. The prize, awarded by the Equator Initiative, amounts to $30,000 -- plus a dose of international recognition. Announced yesterday, the winners range from a community seed supply system in Karnataka, India, to a forest conservation project in the Rufiji area of Tanzania. There are six criteria for winning the award: impact on biodiversity and poverty reduction, community empowerment, transferability, partnerships, gender and social inclusion, and sustainability. Grist would like to offer hearty kudos to the winners, whose initiative and innovation not only improve their communities but offer our editors a ray of light in their sometimes gloomy slog through bad news.

For more environmental news and humor visit Grist Magazine

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