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Daily News

March 19, 2002

A recent federal court ruling will allow EPA to permit generic chemical manufacturers to produce a widely-used pesticide that the agency had planned to phase out as part of its highly touted "reduced risk initiative," which promotes the development and use of less-toxic alternative pesticides.

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Alabama environment officials are raising fears that an EPA agreement with liable parties to clean up PCB-contamination in Anniston sets a dangerous national precedent by using the agency's Superfund cleanup authority to usurp the state's delegated authority under federal waste management law.

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The ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee has vowed to fight a narrow pipeline-safety bill that is being co-sponsored by the panel's chairman. The powerful Democrat, Rep. John Dingell (MI), argues that the bill fails to correct a current system that he says allows industry to regulate itself. The lawmaker's assertions foreshadow a major showdown in the House over pipeline safety standards.

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March 18, 2002

A coalition of health advocates, environmentalists and animal rights activists are challenging a testing plan for a widely used chemical under EPA's high production volume (HPV) program. The challenge marks the group's latest efforts to argue that the program encourages the chemical industry to perform unnecessary and redundant tests on chemicals that are already known to pose substantial risks to public health and the environment.

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A House Science Committee staffer says committee staff are looking at a bill introduced during the last Congress by Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-PA) as a model for reforming EPA's permitting process. The source notes that recent separate reports by the General Accounting Office and the environmental think tank, Resources for the Future, which are critical of the agency's permitting process, are helpful in "ensur[ing] that this remains on the agenda."

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EPA is considering a set of sweeping changes to the way it manages sites in its Superfund program by developing methods to limit the number of cleanups by focusing on the highest priority sites. EPA officials say the changes are needed because remaining Superfund cleanups are more complex than in the past and the program faces dwindling funds.

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Chemical industry officials have developed a process to help facility operators rank the plants that pose the greatest risks of being targeted by terrorists. The process is being presented as a way to show government officials that the industry is capable of ensuring the safety of its own facilities, while some lawmakers are considering imposing mandatory security standards.

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U.S. senators from California have drafted an amendment to strip from a Democratic energy bill a broad liability exemption for renewable fuels manufacturers, potentially jeopardizing industry support for the measure. The exemption is the lynchpin to a tenuous agreement between the petroleum and renewable fuels industries to support the bill, and eliminating the waiver could collapse the unique coalition cobbled together last month by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD).

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March 15, 2002

Lawmakers and the biotechnology industry are trying to make it easier for small companies to work with the government to develop counter-terrorism products. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) plans to introduce legislation in a couple weeks that would establish a clearinghouse and a central government office to determine how biotech products, such as vaccines and other health care products, can be used in the war on terrorism.

Moreover, biotechnology company officials are meeting April 30 with leaders of defense and health agencies to discuss procurement priorities.

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An influential public policy group is drafting new guidance to state officials on how they can develop programs to effectively handle environmental justice concerns as part of a larger EPA effort to address longstanding complaints of discrimination against minorities and low-income communities, agency sources say.

The report, which is being written by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) under an EPA grant, is expected to act as a companion guide to a study NAPA completed last year on how EPA could craft an effective national environmental justice policy.

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The drinking water industry is pressing Congress to provide liability protections if water utilities are complying with state and national standards, in an effort to stop a rising tide of tort and personal injury lawsuits tied to water pollution.

Several organizations representing drinking water facilities are pressing for revisions to the Safe Drinking Water Act that would prohibit wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits if the facilities can prove they are following state or national standards.

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Among the flurry of Senate activity this week on a national energy plan, lawmakers approved without a floor vote two little-noticed amendments strongly supported by the nuclear power industry.

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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has hired a private consulting firm to review the adequacy of an industry-developed assessment on the vulnerability of chemical and hazardous material shipments on the nation's rail system. The confidential study was initiated by the industry to take the lead on possible counter-terrorism measures and avoid the need for new federal controls.

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KEYSTONE, CO -- Assistant Attorney General Thomas Sansonetti, the Bush administration's chief environmental law enforcer, says that over the next year he hopes to counter Democratic and environmentalists' criticisms and overcome a public perception that the Bush administration has done an inadequate job of enforcing key environmental and public health protections.

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KEYSTONE, CO -- EPA air chief Jeffrey Holmstead says agency officials will likely recommend that President Bush veto any clean air legislation based on the administration's Clear Skies Initiative if it does not eliminate controversial new source review (NSR) requirements on utilities.

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Several environmental groups are drafting legislation that aims to reinstate the authority of EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers over all wetlands after the Supreme Court last year handed down a controversial decision that reined in the federal government's power to regulate "isolated" and "nonnavigable" wetlands.

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Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) offered an amendment this week during Senate debate on energy legislation to promote the use of renewable power sources that is based on a Texas program, in an apparent attempt to gain the support of the Bush administration.

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California Gov. Gray Davis (D) March 15 issued an executive order delaying for one year, until Jan. 1, 2004, the state's ban of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in gasoline. Davis said that without the one-year delay, California would very likely be hit with gasoline shortages and price spikes next year because of inadequate supply and transport of ethanol from the Midwest.

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March 14, 2002

A Senate vote this week to leave the issue of fuel economy standards for cars and trucks to the Bush administration dealt a major blow to environmentalists, who felt they had the best chance in years to push an increase in efficiency standards given the nation's heightened interest in reducing U.S. dependence on Mideast oil.

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Faced with a lack of statutory authority, EPA and state officials are joining forces to develop a national multi-media strategy to control mercury releases. The effort, which has the strong backing of EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, will have implications for a number of ongoing agency initiatives to consider mercury air emissions when setting water discharge limits and address the long-term handling and disposal of mercury wastes.

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