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Daily News

March 08, 2002

Chemical industry representatives say that a proposal floated this week by California health officials to ease compliance with the state's landmark toxics labeling law falls far short of providing basic fairness in the administration of the chemical warning law and fails to reasonably protect companies from lawsuits by public health advocates. The chemical industry plans to detail its concerns with the proposal at an Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) public workshop scheduled for March 18 in Sacramento.

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House clean air subcommittee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) next month will launch a series of hearings aimed at laying the groundwork for a potentially major overhaul of the Clean Air Act, congressional sources and industry officials say.

A House GOP source confirms Barton's desire to take up the nation's air laws, explaining the lawmaker hopes to look "broadly at what the Clean Air Act has accomplished in the last 12 years" in order to identify "what challenges remain ahead and what changes need to be made."

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Industry officials are hailing EPA's development of a proposed rule for controlling how utilities pump cooling water into new power plants, saying it shows the agency's commitment to a controversial Bush directive intended to minimize the effect of environmental rules controls on energy production. The proposed rule would establish regulations for cooling water intake structures at power facilities that withdraw a minimum of 50 million gallons per day from water bodies.

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A prominent member of Congress from New York City has accused EPA of violating federal law by turning over responsibility for indoor air quality testing and cleanup to city officials following the Sept. 11 attacks. The allegations are the latest criticism by Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-NY) of the agency's handling of the World Trade Center site cleanup, and include charges that high-ranking EPA officials, including Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, of misleading the public by assuring residents that the air around ground zero was safe.

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Key Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are asking President Bush to explain how the administration plans to pay for Superfund cleanups in anticipation of the program's funds running out at the end of the next fiscal year. The push is being viewed as a way to jumpstart efforts to reinstate Superfund taxes on the petroleum and chemical industries as a way to offset federal expenditures under a national energy strategy being debated in Congress.

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California regulators are considering weighing in on a dispute over restrictions for a commonly-used herbicide that could force changes in national labeling requirements. Regulators are considering a ban on certain uses of a product by Dow AgroSciences in response to claims by compost manufacturers that the herbicide, clopyralid, is hurting their business.

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Environmentalists have released a report identifying four chemicals, which include ammonia and chlorine, that pose the greatest threat to public safety in the event of a terrorist attack, while arguing for legislation to promote the use of safer alternatives. The report is being hailed by members of Congress who are pushing for tougher national controls despite the objections of the chemical industry.

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March 07, 2002

Led by Majority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD), Senate Democrats have included controversial language in their energy legislation that would limit producers of fuels blended with ethanol from future product liability suits in an effort to keep ethanol from being caught in a legal morass similar to the one that has ensnared manufacturers of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), ethanol's chief competitor.

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Donald Schregardus, President Bush's rejected nominee to head EPA's enforcement office, has been appointed as the newest member of the agency's Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC), a group which advises the agency air policy. Schregardus withdrew his name from contention for the EPA slot last year after Democratic senators blocked his confirmation, based on questions about his record when he headed Ohio's environmental agency.

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EPA is considering a Texas plan aimed at providing the state with flexibility to meet the agency's strict eight-hour ozone standard, apparently reversing course on a proposal that EPA last year rejected for fear it would violate the Clean Air Act.

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EPA appears to have quietly decided not to implement a controversial rider to an appropriations bill that encouraged the agency to prioritize Superfund cleanups based on their location. Sources say EPA has chosen not to rank the sites in part because the rider contradicted a prior congressional directive to prioritize cleanups based on health and ecological risks, agency officials say.

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A first-time conference between the United States and Vietnam on Agent Orange and other herbicides sprayed during the war is expected to lead to comprehensive studies on the health impacts from exposure to the chemicals. The new research could provide important information on the risks from dioxin, which is present in Agent Orange, and may contribute to possible new regulatory controls in the U.S.

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EPA's independent waste investigator, referred to as the ombudsman, plans to turn over to the Justice Department and the FBI documents and information relating to conflict-of-interest allegations against Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, signaling a possible escalation of an investigation into whether Whitman's financial holdings have affected her policy decisions.

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In an effort intended to defend the Bush administration's environmental record, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has instead prompted new concerns that critics say undermine EPA's ongoing clean air enforcement actions against a host of utilities and refineries by suggesting to industry lawyers to take a "go-slow approach."

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Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) have reached an agreement to raise federal fuel economy standards to 36 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2015 as part of a comprehensive energy bill. The agreement could break a standoff in Congress over how to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil as part of a national energy policy the Senate began debating this week.

Environmentalists have raised some concerns about the agreement, but appear to be supporting the deal overall as an alternative to a Bush administration plan to allow for oil drilling in the Arctic.

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March 06, 2002

Citing an inadequate ethanol infrastructure and lingering uncertainties about effects on air quality, the Connecticut Bureau of Air Management is recommending that the state delay for two years its scheduled ban on the controversial fuel additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). The move is the latest example of increasing concerns among state officials nationwide about adequate clean-fuel substitutes to a ban on MTBE based on groundwater contamination concerns.

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In response to heightened security concerns, EPA is considering separating out an electronics reporting section of a broader record-keeping reform rule for the transport of hazardous materials so that the overall streamlining plan can move forward. EPA officials are concerned that the streamlining effort, which is strongly supported by industry, may get bogged down by new security concerns about electronic submissions.

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In response to heightened security concerns, EPA is considering separating out an electronics reporting section of a broader record-keeping reform rule for the transport of hazardous materials so that the overall streamlining plan can move forward. EPA officials are concerned that the streamlining effort, which is strongly supported by chemical and other industry groups, may get bogged down by new security concerns about electronic submissions.

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Environmentalists will likely sue EPA for approving a rule this week that effectively extends for two-years a Clean Air Act deadline for issuing air toxic regulations for a variety of industry sectors. Environmentalists argue that any extension beyond the statutory deadline would be illegal, with critics adding that the move is nothing more than an attempt to relieve states of having to develop their own standards in the absence of federal requirements.

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Efforts in the Senate to develop a renewable fuels standard as part of a comprehensive energy bill are breathing new life into a long-standing push by Brazilian officials to end a U.S. tariff on imported ethanol, according to sources.

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