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Daily News

April 06, 2001

President Bush has selected Jeffrey Holmstead to become the new assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air & Radiation. Holmstead, currently an attorney with the law firm of Latham & Watkins, served as an associate counsel to former President Bush.

Holmstead is the first assistant administrator to be nominated by the new administration. Other recent key nominations include Linda Fisher, a former Monsanto Company official, to be deputy administrator and former Senate Environment & Public Works Committee staffer Tom Gibson to head the agency's policy shop.

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Lawyers for the city of Huntington Beach are dropping most of their objections to a proposed power plant expansion on the coast, based on environmental mitigation measures added to the energy commission's proposed project certification, according to sources. But city officials and environmentalists remain concerned that no provisions have been added to the certification requiring the power generated at the facility be used only in California, despite the applicants benefiting from streamlined and fast-tracked environmental reviews.

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A committee in the California Assembly has rejected two bold requests by lawmakers to waive the state's premier environmental protection law for energy-related projects, a move that may increase pressure on Gov. Gray Davis (D) to take action through executive orders.

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EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman's address to one of the nation's oldest environmental groups turned ugly when the group's president angrily urged Whitman, as she was exiting the room, to press President Bush to "call a truce on the environment."

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A leading Senate Republican is shopping around for Democratic support for a proposal that would exempt a commonly used method of gas extraction from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The proposal would revive a bill from last Congress, and comes at a time when other lawmakers are crafting legislative plans to increase oil and gas production as a solution to the nation's energy crisis.

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EPA's science office is working with states and its regions to develop a long-term strategy for the direction of the agency's water quality standards and criteria program, says an agency source. The source says the agency decided to develop the plan as a way to define program goals and anticipate concerns. The source explains the agency began actively working on the plan and seeking outside input early this year, and says that a draft version of the strategy will likely not be available for public comment for approximately six months.

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Democrats granted cautious support for a Republican-drafted amendment to a Senate budget blueprint in an effort to reverse proposed cuts in environmental spending. Democrats have criticized the amendment as offering only short-term guarantees but said that it was an important first step in staving off the Bush administration's onslaught on environmental protections.

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The Senate adopted two budget resolution amendments in defiance of the Bush administration's high-profile decisions on arsenic and global warming. In protest against President Bush's opposition to global warming controls, the Senate adopted an amendment to its budget resolution to increase funding for climate change programs. The chamber also backed an amendment that would have provided small communities with financial assistance to meet a strict arsenic in drinking water standard that has been suspended by the president.

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April 05, 2001

Democrats are vowing to kill any emergency California energy legislation authored by House Energy & Air Quality Subcommittee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) that would create a waiver for Clean Air Act permitting requirements for new power plants, congressional sources say.

In fact, partisan sparring over the issue of energy legislation has intensified sharply in recent weeks, and sources say the increasingly ugly tenor of political discourse on Capitol Hill could doom any serious efforts for a congressional fix to California's energy problems.

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President Bush is considering reversing two Clinton administration executive orders creating an interagency panel to develop national ocean protection policies and designating an 84,000 square mile area off the northwest Hawaiian islands as a marine sanctuary, sources close to the issue say.

But environmentalists are lambasting the potential move, charging the decision is the latest move in a Bush offensive aimed at dismantling Clinton-era environmental protections.

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Senate Democrats are taking a broad view on possibly using the Congressional Review Act to oppose attempts by the Bush administration to overturn recently approved environmental standards. The move would be a largely symbolic gesture, given the unlikelihood that President Bush would sign any congressional resolution overturning any regulatory delays issued by his administration.

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In an apparent effort to quell controversy over President Bush's decision to suspend an arsenic in drinking water standard, EPA plans to ask the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to reexamine the public health risks.

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Senate Democrats have launched a preemptive strike against anticipated spending cuts in environmental programs by President Bush. The senators offered an amendment to the Senate's budget blueprint that would restore, and in some cases increase, funds for environmental protections. Democrats say the anticipated cuts represent the misguided priorities of the Bush administration, which emphasize tax cuts for the wealthy over "protecting the quality of life."

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April 04, 2001

While a White House energy task force is expected to offer a long-term strategy to deal with the nation's energy shortages, the group is not considering immediate steps to ease California's power crisis. Yet the White House has formed a separate group to deal with the state's energy needs, some sources say.

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President Bush has named Thomas L. Sansonetti, who headed up the administration's transition advisory team for the Department of Interior (DOI), to be the environment enforcement chief for the Justice Department. The president on April announced that he will nominate Sansonetti to be Assistant Attorney General for the department's Environmental and Natural Resources Division.

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A group of 57 members of the House are challenging President Bush's assertion that carbon dioxide is not listed as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The lawmakers, some of whom were involved in writing the air act, point to a recent legal interpretation by EPA lawyers that the act supports regulation of CO2, which is regarded as a greenhouse gas.

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House Energy & Air Quality Subcommittee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) plans to unveil by the end of the week an emergency bill to relieve the power crisis in California, and to move the bill to markup shortly after Congress returns from its April recess. Barton said he will soon begin to circulate to other members of Congress a bill that will include temporary waivers to portions of the Clean Air Act, provisions to boost power from federal facilities and provide federal assistance for construction of transmission lines.

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The White House energy task force will ask Congress to allow the Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider raising automobile fuel efficiency standards as part of the administration's energy strategy. The task force yesterday accepted a proposal by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to ask lawmakers to effectively lift a six-year ban that prevented the department from altering current requirements, known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

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Environmentalists are preparing to file a lawsuit in anticipation that the Bush administration will attempt to roll back an energy efficiency standard on air conditioners and heat pumps, which was approved on the final day of the Clinton presidency. Also, Democratic members of Congress are urging the administration to implement the standard, arguing that any attempt to ease energy efficiency requirements would undercut efforts to address the nation's growing energy crisis.

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April 03, 2001

Federal researchers have issued global warming findings that are likely to quell concerns sparked by United Nations research on the link between increased disease and warmer temperatures. The latest findings claim that there are too many scientific uncertainties to accurately predict the impact of global warming on the spread of infectious illnesses.

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