04/1999 News Briefs

Published April 1, 1999

Nuclear Waste Policy Act Introduced

Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and committee members Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Rod Grams (R-Minnesota) introduced the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1999 on March 15. The legislation authorizes development of a permanent, underground repository and establishment of an interim, above-ground storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste from defense facilities. Commented Joe Colvin, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, “it is imperative that the federal government fulfill its obligation to safely manage and isolate used fuel from . . . commercial nuclear power plants. The legislation introduced today puts that important environmental goal in sight.”

Feds, California Pay to Save Old-growth Redwoods

Some 10,000 acres of privately owned old-growth redwoods were sold in early March by Pacific Lumber Company to the federal government and state of California, who together paid $480 million to protect the trees from logging. Another 8,000 acres of the company’s land will be off-limits to logging for 50 years, and logging activities on the remaining 202,000 acres must respect buffer zones established to protect the stream habitats of endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout. The terms of the agreement are subject to change: Pacific Lumber can itself propose changes through a five-member peer-review panel that includes one company representative.

Ivory Sales to Help Elephant Conservation

Nearly 34 tons of elephant ivory from Namibia and Zimbabwe were shipped to Japan in March, closing a $5 million sale agreed to in principle 19 months ago. Although international trade in ivory was banned in 1989 by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, two-thirds of that group’s membership voted in July 1997 to resume limited trading.

According to Roger Bate, director of the environment unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, the 1989 ban led to increased poaching in some Southern African countries because funds from ivory sales were no longer available to pay for anti-poaching efforts. In a March 16 essay for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Bate notes: “Making elephants valuable to Africans by allowing them to own the animals and trade in their products is the best way to ensure the species’ sustainable existence.”

Supreme Court to Consider Takings Question

MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA–The U.S. Supreme Court will consider in its current term a property rights case that asks whether the Seventh Amendment’s guarantee of a civil jury trial extends to takings cases, and also whether land-use decisions should be subjected to the same exacting scrutiny applied to government actions that affect due process and equal protection rights. City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes Ltd. was brought after the owner of the property was repeatedly denied permission to develop it–even after revising the development plan several times to meet terms set by the city’s planning commission. The high court’s decision is expected by the end of June.

EPA: Military Base Pollution Is Navy’s Responsibility

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA–The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., created by the city, state, and Delaware River Port Authority to redevelop 825 acres at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, has received written confirmation that it will not be held responsible for environmental contamination at the site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has assured the group that the Navy is and will continue to be responsible for any required site cleanup or cleanup costs, as guaranteed under the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1990, intended to pave the way for redevelopment of retired military bases.

Inhofe Seeks Data on EPA Grants and Lawsuits

Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) has asked EPA to provide Congress with information on how lawsuits filed against the agency are being handled and how negotiated “consent decrees” are changing agency policies. Inhofe requested that the information be provided before a vote is taken on the pending appointment of Gary Guzy to the position of EPA general counsel. Inhofe expressed concern that the agency is “providing millions in grants to organizations who turn around and immediately sue the agency. . . . Then, EPA enters into backdoor negotiations with these groups, producing consent agreements that bind the agency outside the normal notice and comment process.”