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Exxon Valdez spill payments reach claimants

The millions of dollars Exxon Mobil Corp. has surrendered as punishment for the Prince William Sound oil spill have started hitting the streets, nearly 20 years after the disaster.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs and Exxon continue to battle in court over whether the oil company owes interest on the punitive damages award. If so, the interest could roughly double the total payout.

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EPA to gut mountaintop mining rule protecting streams

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday approved a last-minute rule change by the Bush administration that will allow coal companies to bury streams under the rocks leftover from mining.

The 11th hour change before President George W. Bush leaves office would eliminate a tool that citizens groups have used in lawsuits to keep mining waste out of streams. Mining companies had been pushing for the change for years.

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Bush administration quietly works to torpedo global warming regulations

Top Bush administration figures have been e-mailing sympathetic mayors and other allies encouraging them to oppose Environmental Protection Agency rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The Supreme Court last year ordered the EPA to craft a proposal to limit the emissions under the Clean Air Act, but the White House made clear it doesn't like the idea.

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Rich countries launch great land grab to safeguard food supply

Rich governments and corporations are triggering alarm for the poor as they buy up the rights to millions of hectares of agricultural land in developing countries in an effort to secure their own long-term food supplies.

The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf, has warned that the controversial rise in land deals could create a form of "neo-colonialism", with poor states producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people.

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New Rule Would Discount Warming as Risk Factor for Species

The Bush administration is finalizing changes to the Endangered Species Act that would ensure that federal agencies would not have to take global warming into account when assessing risks to imperiled plants and animals.

The main purpose of the new regulations, which were first unveiled in August, is to eliminate a long-standing provision of the Endangered Species Act that requires an independent scientific review by either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of any federal project that could affect a protected species. Under the administration's proposal, individual agencies could decide on their own whether a project would harm an imperiled species. 

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Government warns of "catastrophic" U.S. quake

People in a vast seismic zone in the southern and midwestern United States would face catastrophic damage if a major earthquake struck there and should ensure that builders keep that risk in mind, a government report said on Thursday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said if earthquakes strike in what geologists define as the New Madrid Seismic Zone, they would cause "the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States."

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EPA Proposal Would Loosen Rules for Air in National Parks

The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing new air-quality rules that would make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wilderness areas, even though half of the EPA's 10 regional administrators formally dissented from the decision and four others criticized the move in writing.

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