It is Nautilus that automounts for you USB drives. I have little idea about configuring Nautilus. I never done this myself, except for some really simple customizations. The reason is: I rarely use window managers.
Re. HAL -- it is deprecated, Nautilus doesn't use it any more if I am right, for mounting/unmounting.
One immediate solution is to start using fluxbox. There is an excellent tutorial thread devoted to fluxbox in the Guides
area of the Fedora Forum. It encouraged me to dive into fluxbox a few days ago and in no time I was very happy with it: I realized that in fluxbox you can do anything you normally do in GNOME or KDE, usually even faster and more conveniently, if you are prepared to spend a few hours learning how to do that, or just following the instructions in that thread.
And replace the default style, whatever its name, initially with the preinstalled zimek blue style, and then go google for
fluxbox Equinox theme
(glorious GTK Equinox theme has been ported to fluxbox just 3 weeks ago), find it, download the archive (it's tiny), and unpack it in the ~/.fluxbox/style directory -- you will end up with a great looking, low footprint, very responsive, and powerful desktop.