Top Forestry Official May Face Jail Time Over Fish Killing Toxin

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As if it wasn't bad enough for the Bush Administration already, contempt charges are flying in Montana.

The Administration's top forestry official has been ordered to explain why the US Forest Service failed to analyze the environmental impact of dropping a fish-killing flame retardant on wildfires -- or face contempt of court.

Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey would then face jail unless the Forest Service assented to a court order enjoining the environmental review.

"Noting that Rey had blocked implementation of an earlier review, U.S. District Judge Donald W. Malloy ordered Rey to appear in his court Oct. 15 unless the Forest Service completes the analysis before that time," Associated Press reporter Jeff Barnard wrote.

Forest Service spokesman Joe Walsh told AP the agency was working on the analysis, but couldn't say if the Secretary would meet the deadline; Rey did not respond to requests for comment.

An environmental group, "Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics," filed the lawsuit in 2003, after Forestry Service chemicals killed more than 20,000 fish in central Oregon.

Adds Barnard, "In 2005, Malloy ruled that the Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it failed to go through a public process to analyze the potential environmental harm of using ammonium phosphate, a fertilizer that kills fish, as the primary ingredient in fire retardant dropped on wildfires."

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