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Daily News

August 01, 2001

The nation's largest labor organization has come out against a key Democratic priority on energy legislation: raising fuel economy standards on cars and trucks. The announcement was made as Democratic leaders were urging their rank-and-file to support this and other changes to a GOP legislative package on energy.

Democrats had been criticizing the administration and Republican leaders for weeks over their resistance to raising corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, while pushing an energy plan that promotes increased drilling in environmentally-sensitive areas.

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The White House is raising concerns about the budget implications of an energy bill backed by House Republicans, but urges quick passage of the plan and pledges to work with lawmakers to resolve the issue before final legislation is sent to the president. The move could provide political cover to Republican lawmakers who have come under attack for failing to explain how they plan to pay for the various tax incentives offered in the bill.

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A "foaming" shipment of nuclear waste entering Nevada has set off a hailstorm of accusations between the Department of Energy and the governor of Nevada, raising new doubts about federal plans to build a nuclear waste repository in the state.

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Senate Democrats appear to have rejected calls by environmentalists to delay consideration of a vote on Donald Schregardus -- the former Ohio EPA chief nominated by President Bush to serve as EPA's enforcement chief -- until after the agency releases preliminary results of an investigation into the Ohio EPA's ability to enforce federal environmental laws.

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July 31, 2001

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In what could be viewed as a poke in the eye of the powerful Midwest corn lobby, California Environment Secretary Winston Hickox has indicated that the state could turn to foreign sources of ethanol in meeting federal requirements for cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline. The possible foreign purchases would be necessitated by the Bush administration's rejection of a state request that was vehemently opposed by U.S. producers of ethanol, which is made from corn, that California be exempt from a two-percent oxygenate requirement for the cleaner gasoline.

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The chairman of the Senate energy committee, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), says the need for emergency energy legislation has passed, pointing to reduced natural gas prices and increased supplies of electricity, but notes that long-term solutions are still needed to avoid future shortages.

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A major labor union has thrown its support behind a Republican-backed energy bill, arguing that the bill is environmentally friendly and will stimulate the economy by creating jobs. Support from the Teamsters is a major victory for Republicans and President Bush, who are pushing the legislation as an important step in implementing the president's energy strategy, particularly on the divisive issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

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Environmentalists have wasted no time in blasting the recommendations of the National Academy Sciences (NAS) that national fuel economy standards should be overhauled to be based on a weight-based system. The activists claim that the new approach, which would establish a series of categories for various size vehicles, would allow automakers to avoid producing smaller, more efficient cars and focus on larger more profitable vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles (SUVs), while meeting the fuel economy standards for that class of vehicles.

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House Democrats are threatening to block energy legislation unless Republican leaders allow for a floor vote on an amendment that attempts to link the costs of the energy plan to President Bush's tax cut. The dispute may doom the highly-touted energy bill to the same procedural vote and defeat that the GOP suffered over campaign finance reform.

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July 30, 2001

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Industry and wastewater treatment officials are expecting EPA to drop metal finishers from its contentious draft regulation for limiting water pollution discharges from the metal products and machinery industries. Sources say EPA is being pressed to instead regulate the industry on a voluntary, sector-based approach that was developed by the Clinton administration as part of its "common sense initiative."

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A federal appeals court has rejected a utility industry lawsuit against EPA arguing that claims that the agency exceeded its authority in concluding that mercury emissions should be regulated were not ripe for judicial review. The ruling caps a years-long dispute between utilities and EPA about the need to set first-time controls on releases of mercury, which is suspected of causing cancer and serious health problems in pregnant women.

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A coalition of energy conservation advocates has sued California regulators over a fast-track approved environmental permit for Duke Energy to expand a power plant in Monterey. The litigation is the second to be filed challenging the state's efforts to speed up the construction of power plants to address energy shortages.

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In a victory for moderate Republicans in the House, GOP lawmakers have agreed to include air quality standards in provisions for boosting federal spending on so-called "clean coal" technologies as part of comprehensive energy legislation expected to be voted on this week. The legislation is intended to enact key elements of President Bush's national energy strategy, which emphasizes the benefits of clean coal technology but does not offer specific emission reduction goals.

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A leading Democrat in the House is drafting legislation that would essentially overturn a negotiated agreement between EPA and the wood treatment industry on the use and handling of products containing pesticides that include arsenic.

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July 27, 2001

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Environmentalists expect EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to call for a scaled-backed dredging plan to remove tons of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from New York's Hudson River. The announcement, which is expected to be made as early as today (July 27), would cap a decades-long battle over restoring huge contaminated portions of the river, which could turn out to be the nation's largest Superfund cleanup.

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The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is expected to endorse switching to a weight-based system for regulating the fuel economy of passenger vehicles, a recommendation that is likely to provoke the ire of environmentalists who support an across-the-board hike in the current corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards.

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The Republican-controlled House has handed President Bush a major defeat by approving legislation that would prohibit the administration from adopting an arsenic in drinking water standards that is less stringent than a Clinton-backed rule. The move is the latest development in a controversy that has dogged President Bush since his first few weeks in office when the administration suspended for further review a Clinton-developed standard to reduce arsenic in drinking water.

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Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) has reached an agreement with the Bush administration over allegations of industry influence in the administration's review and possible rollback of Clinton-era regulations, including the arsenic in drinking water standard. The senator has agreed not to follow through on his threat to subpoena documents in exchange for the White House allowing his staff from his Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to personally review records on the administration's regulatory review.

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