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Daily News

July 27, 2001

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The Bush administration has announced its intention to nominate Kimberly Nelson, a key information official with the state of Pennsylvania, to head EPA's Office of Environmental Information.

The announcement ends a months-long search by Bush administration officials to find a state official for the key slot as the agency comes under increasing pressure to reform its data management. Several former and current state officials rejected early offers from the Bush administration to fill the post, sources say.

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A recent bipartisan compromise is likely to improve the prospects of House legislation to tighten fuel economy standards. Legislators from both sides of the aisle want to amend a pending energy bill to raise corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for light-duty trucks and sport utility vehicles, making the requirement for these vehicles the same as the 27.5 miles-per-gallon (mpg) standard for passenger cars.

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House Republican leaders have introduced an omnibus energy bill, H.R. 4, composed of four energy bills recently passed by the Energy and Commerce, Science, Resources and Ways and Means committees. The bill will now proceed rapidly through a series of legislative steps before floor debate to take place at the end of an unusually busy week.

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July 26, 2001

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At the request of EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, EPA staff are developing a new package of proposals for a voluntary pollution reduction initiative (VPRI) to be unveiled as part of the agency's fiscal year 2003 budget request. The initiative is being modeled after a pollution reduction program developed by former EPA Administrator William Reilly, according to a preliminary staff proposal obtained by Inside EPA.

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The House Republican leadership has reportedly agreed to allow at least two major amendments, one on drilling in the Arctic and another on raising fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, when energy legislation is brought to the floor as early as next week.

Environmentalists have pointed to both issues as key in raising objections to President Bush's energy strategy, which they see as relying too heavily on increasing the use and supply of fossil fuels.

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Senate Republicans Larry Craig (ID) and Jon Kyl (AZ) are threatening to hold up EPA's fiscal year 2002 appropriations bill to pressure Democratic leaders to confirm nearly 130 Bush nominees before the August recess. Craig and Kyl's list includes several EPA nominees, including the proposed heads of the agency's air, water, enforcement, general counsel and international activities offices.

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Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (D-CT) is investigating a Department of Justice (DOJ) review of EPA's enforcement actions against the oil refining and utility industries to ensure that the administration stands firm on the government's allegations regarding Clean Air Act violations. The DOJ review was requested by the president to examine the energy implications of the enforcement effort as part of his national strategy to boost energy supplies.

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EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told a Senate panel that a comprehensive bill to address utility emissions would render key Clean Air Act programs unnecessary, sparking what could be a new round of confrontation with environmentalists over proposals to curb power plant pollution.

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EPA is considering modifications to its reformulated gasoline (RFG) rules to ease the oil industry's transition from wintertime to summertime fuel blends, a move intended to address concerns that the rules in place may be contributing to gasoline shortages and high prices.

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July 25, 2001

Possible children's health concerns have stalled an EPA air office plan to remove a chemical solvent from a list of substances that the agency must regulate as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) under the Clean Air Act.

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Federal spending projections by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) due out in late August may complicate efforts by House lawmakers on energy legislation.

Some congressional sources say that opponents to the measure may be put in the awkward position of arguing against the costs of the legislation without the benefit of the latest government estimates on what is generally expected to show a dwindling surplus, while other sources indicate a growing concern among supporters that they will likely have to defend the measure before having the latest numbers on available funds.

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Environmentalists and industry officials agree that EPA is likely to extend its landmark registration for genetically modified corn, cotton and potato plants, but both groups are anxiously waiting to see what conditions the agency may attach to the permits. Environmentalists who are opposed to the approved use of genetically altered crops are already weighing their legal options in challenging the review process, which they say has been rushed and conducted behind closed doors.

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Brazilian officials have assured the California Energy Commission (CEC) that they could supply the state with 200 million gallons of ethanol per year beginning as soon as within a few months. The claim is good news for California officials who have been scrambling to figure how they will meet federal reformulated gasoline requirements after the Bush administration rejected the state's request to be exempt from a two percent oxygenate requirement.

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Indicating an emerging Democratic legislative strategy, leading senators are drafting legislation that would attempt to more closely link environmental policies and public health protections, with a particular emphasis on risks to children.

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Senate Democrats on the environment committee have shuffled the jurisdictions of the panel's subcommittees by handing oversight of nuclear power to one of the industry's most vocal critics, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), after Republicans unsuccessfully argued that the issue should remain with the clean air subcommittee on the grounds that nuclear energy is an important tool for reducing greenhouse gases.

The shuffle is also a blow to the Bush adminisration, which has made the same arguments about the zero-emission benefits of nuclear power plants.

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July 24, 2001

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Environmentalists are raising cost concerns about energy legislation intended to enact key elements of the Bush administration's energy strategy, arguing that the legislation offers huge subsidies for well established industries such as nuclear power and oil companies. The cost concerns are an opening shot in what is expected to be an intense battle over the legislation, which is expected to reach the House floor next week.

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Two key House committee are headed for a showdown this week over setting emission reduction goals for increased spending on the development of so-called "clean coal" technologies, which is key element of President Bush's energy strategy. The dispute stems from efforts to combine a number of separate energy bills approved last week by various committees in anticipation of GOP plans to bring comprehensive energy legislation to the House floor next week.

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EPA's Inspector General (IG) has launched an investigation into the causes of delays in issuing comprehensive operating permits under the Clean Air Act, with the findings expected to feed into longstanding agency efforts to eliminate its backlog of permit applications.

The investigation, which could produce results by the end of this year, according to a source with the IG's office, is the latest review of difficulties regulators have confronted for years in fully implementing a core requirement of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments.

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The chairman of the Senate energy committee is pointing to a recent Department of Energy report as a possible roadmap for promoting energy-efficiency technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The chairman, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), referred to the report in his opening statement at a July 24 hearing on global warming, where the lawmaker lambasted the Bush administration for its abandonment of the Kyoto climate change treaty.

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A federal appeals court handed environmentalists a major victory by throwing out an EPA emissions standard on incinerators, which some observers say undercuts the agency's entire process for establishing air toxic controls. While the ruling would leave the affected incinerators without any air toxic controls, the court left open the door to put off implementation of the decision so that EPA and environmentalists can come up with an alternative standard.

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