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Daily News

May 14, 2002

EPA is working with state water officials and national trade associations in expanding public/private programs to provide more training for water agencies nationwide to assess the vulnerability of terrorist attacks, acknowledging that training is currently insufficient to meet the needs of thousands of facilities. The counter-terrorism effort is aimed primarily at ensuring larger drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities have completed vulnerability assessments by year's end, as EPA officials have requested.

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Opponents of constructing a national nuclear waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain say a recent federal court decision to delay the Energy Department's (DOE) controversial cross-country shipments of radioactive materials does not resolve long-term transport concerns. Critics of constructing the Yucca facility say the transportation of radioactive waste across the country to Nevada would put thousands of people at risk from possible accidental releases.

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EPA is funding six university studies to examine the impact of chemicals in the environment on children's health. The studies focus on exposures to several different chemicals, as well as methods of detecting toxic exposures. The studies include an effort to refine current models for estimating children's exposure to pyrethroid and organophosphate pesticides. Another study will look at the effects on offspring of maternal exposure to a combination of nicotine and the insecticide chlorpyrifos.

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Industry groups are raising concerns over an EPA proposal for determining when cleanup obligations are complete under hazardous waste laws, alleging that the inclusion of stringent groundwater standards exceeds the agency's statutory authority and would essentially make the guidance irrelevant at the majority of facilities covered by the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA).

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EPA is preparing to make it easier for states to gain emergency pesticide use exemptions, in a move that would also ease the agency's pesticide review burden. But environmentalists are already voicing strong opposition to the changes, which EPA would likely be able to implement under existing regulations without a new formal rulemaking process, top agency officials say.

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A decision by a California lawmaker to postpone a final vote on landmark legislation requiring automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions highlights the too-close-to-call nature of the bill's chances for passage.

Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D) delayed the legislature's consideration of the bill because three lawmakers who support the measure were absent at the time of the scheduled vote and she feared that the lack of the three votes might threaten final passage, sources say.

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A leading Democratic lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation that would force EPA to issue first-time regulations on indoor toxic mold. The bill proposes to dramatically expand EPA's regulatory role in overseeing indoor air pollutants.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, plans to introduce the measure, the United States Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act, within three weeks, a congressional source says.

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A coalition that includes some of the largest coal-fired utilities in the country is suggesting that it would only be willing to agree to legislative caps on utility emissions if Congress also includes more stringent tests for triggering a host of existing Clean Air Act programs for controlling air pollutants that migrate across state boundaries.

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The Bush administration and the chairman of the Senate environment committee have clashed over whether an international treaty on banning toxic substances requires that U.S. implementing legislation include a provision for adding new chemicals to the agreement. A high-ranking EPA official has argued that the provision is "not required to bring the U.S. into compliance" with the treaty, and that Congress should move quickly on passing the legislation.

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May 13, 2002

Environmentalists are seeking to open up a new legal front against polluters by making companies responsible for environmental violations committed by their contractors. In a case that could set a new standard for corporate liability, activists have sued a major food processing company for allegedly violating Superfund reporting requirements and community right-to-know laws that occurred at a facility owned by a contractor.

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Wastewater treatment officials are urging EPA to resist pressure from environmentalists to split up an upcoming sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) regulations into several parts in order to expedite promulgation of non-controversial portions of the rule. In a recent letter to EPA, the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) argues "any attempt to break up the different parts of the SSO rule and propose them in a piecemeal fashion . . .

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The Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) and EPA have apparently reached an impasse in discussions on how to improve state-federal environmental policy-making relations as the two struggled at a recent meeting to revamp an existing flexibility agreement known as the National Environmental Performance Partnership System (NEPPS), state sources say.

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Chlorine industry officials have reached a compromise with EPA that they argue will allow for a more balanced presentation of toxic release data on dioxin, after months of concern that the agency would present the data in a format that unnecessarily alarms the public by exaggerating the level of emissions. But the industry is still negotiating with EPA on more risk-based ways to present the data in upcoming years.

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Chemical makers and transporters are likely to raise serious objections to a proposed Department of Transportation (DOT) rule imposing new security requirements on the shippers and carriers of hazardous materials, with one key source arguing that some provisions in the rule could possibly make the industry liable for damages from a terrorist attack.

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The General Accounting Office (GAO) has concluded in a draft report that the Defense Department's (DOD) own data demonstrate that the military is ready to fight and that DOD failed to document to what extent, and at what cost, environmental laws affect the military's ability to train, congressional sources say.

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May 10, 2002

Leaders of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee are attempting to expand water security funding in sure-to-pass bioterrrorism legislation to address both wastewater and drinking water facilities. The current version of the bipartisan bill is limited to wastewater treatment, but sources say leaders from both parties are noting that facilities in many major cities are involved in both types of water treatment.

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Environmentalists and EPA officials say a court ruling last week upholding the agency's requirements for clean diesel fuel bodes well for an upcoming controversial standard to limit emissions from off-road equipment, such as farm tractors and construction vehicles.

"This victory is a good launch pad for doing something more on non-road," one environmentalist says. "If the judges had said EPA had no evidence to set these emissions standards, it would have complicated the effort."

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A key Senate Democrat is suggesting that Congress should eliminate a liability exemption for petroleum substances under the Superfund law if continued efforts to renew the tax on industry that funds the cleanup program eventually fail. Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) argues that the exemption was originally established in exchange for the tax.

But the tax expired in 1995, and industry officials have strongly opposed any attempt to reinstate the taxes.

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California fire chief have joined major industry groups in blasting a scaled-back state bill that calls for new regulations to reduce the vulnerability of chemical and industrial facilities to terrorist attacks. The fire chiefs argue that the revised bill is confusing and duplicates existing security and safety programs.

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Defense Department efforts to win a series of broad exemptions from environmental laws appears to have faltered badly after a key Senate committee passed only a narrow non-controversial provision that boosts DOD authority to negotiate agreements with private sector groups to create buffer zones around military bases.

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