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The Planet

Sierra Club Insider

Mercury Rules Rigged
According to a February 3 report by the EPA's Inspector General Nikki Tinsley, EPA political appointees set the "modest" mercury pollution limits they wanted - which just so happened to coincide with those in President Bush's "Clear Skies" proposal - then told EPA scientists to work backwards to justify those limits.

Tinsley stated that the agency's first two "integrated planning model" computations found that mercury could be reduced from 48 tons a year to 27 to 29 tons. But those results were "not acceptable to senior management because they were not close enough to the 34-tons target." She also found that the EPA did not adequately evaluate the environmental health effects of the proposed rule on children.

The Washington Post reported that industry scientists said Tinsley exceeded both her mandate and her expertise with the report, but two staff members at the EPA said she accurately described how Bush administration political appointees influenced the development of the rule.

"Rather than basing its decision on good science, the administration stacked the deck to give its industry friends what they wanted," says the Sierra Club's Nat Mund. Mund says that, according to the EPA's own estimates, we have the technology to reduce mercury emissions to 5 tons by 2008.

One in six American women has mercury levels in her blood high enough to leave her baby at risk from mercury poisoning. For more on mercury, go to

Judge Upholds Wolf Protection
Not everyone is ignoring science. District Judge Robert E. Jones in Portland, Oregon, ruled on January 31 that the the actions of Interior Secretary Gale Norton to downlist the gray wolf and prematurely end the federal wolf recovery program in the eastern United States was unlawful. The Sierra Club and 18 other conservation groups argued successfully that the federal government has a duty to uphold the intent of the Endangered Species Act to recover populations of at-risk fish and wildlife. "This is a victory for science-based wildlife conservation," says Mike Smith, chair of the Sierra Club's Wildlife and Endangered Species Committee.

Anglicans Go Organic
Georgia Chapter leader Sam Booher forwards us a story about how the Church of England is moving to use organic bread and wine for Holy Communion, promote recycling more widely, offer "fair-trade" products at church fetes, and adopt other sustainable policies. Later this month at a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England, Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will challenge England to tackle global warming more aggressively.

Meanwhile, 1,000 religious leaders on this side of the Atlantic sent a letter to President Bush saying part of "God's Mandate" is to protect the environment.

Club Challenges Cheney Secrecy
On January 27, a week after the Bush inauguration, the Sierra Club's lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney and his Energy Task Force got a new hearing. Last June, the Supreme Court denied Cheney's request that the Club case be dismissed, and sent it back to the court of appeals. The Sierra Club is insisting that the vice president come clean about Enron and Big Oil. "Government by secret committee puts our nation's democratic tradition at risk," says Sierra Club Legal Director Pat Gallagher, "In Cheney's case, it has produced a backward-looking energy policy that fails entirely to address our reliance on fossil fuels."

Hanging at the Empire State Building
"Colors of the Season," an exhibit of prints by the photography committee of the Sierra Club's New York City Group, was recently on display in the lobby of the Empire State Building - that's John Wazeter's "Dogwood," above. The exhibition ended on January 10, but you can see it online at

- John Byrne Barry

Smokestack photo: Corbis/Royalty-Free; used with permission.
Wolf photo: Tracy Brooks/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; used with permission
Dogwood photo: John Wazeter; used with permission

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