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Daily News

June 22, 2001

EPA's deputy administrator announced that the agency will accelerate its work on a study on clean-fuel requirements in an attempt to influence congressional efforts to reduce the number of so-called "boutique" fuels used in smog-ridden areas. The report was called for by President Bush's energy strategy to examine the feasibility of streamlining fuel standards that refiners say are in part responsible for driving up gasoline prices.

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The Republican-led House has handed President Bush a major defeat on key elements of his energy agenda. Lawmakers have adopted provisions as part of an Interior Department appropriations bill that would ban offshore drilling along much of Florida's coastline, prohibit department spending on a possible rollback of hardrock mining standards, and block fossil-fuel extraction in wilderness areas that have been designated as national monuments.

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EPA is expected to step in and resolve a brewing controversy over air quality standards established by Los Angeles regulators that conflict with an executive order by Gov. Gray Davis (D) intended to ease the state's power crisis by promoting the construction of new power plants.

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Industry officials expect EPA this fall to propose a series of regulations for pesticides and insecticides as the agency 's first attempt to set standards under the amended Safe Drinking Water Act.

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Staff on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are expecting that jurisdiction over the construction of national nuclear waste repository will be shifted to the transportation and infrastructure subcommittee, which is expected to be headed by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), a staunch opponent of the facility proposed for construction in his home state.

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EPA officials say they are delaying implementation of a key waste minimization program until the agency conducts a scientific review of its methods for determining whether substances covered by the program are persistent bioaccumulative toxics (PBTs), agency sources say.

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The chairman of the House energy and air quality subcommittee said he is seriously considering introducing legislation that could close the gap in fuel efficiency requirements between cars and light trucks, which includes sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

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June 21, 2001

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A federal district court's ruling last week that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can only be used in environmental cases where intentional discrimination can be shown could prove disastrous for broader efforts by civil rights and environmental groups to use federal civil rights protections in the environmental arena, attorneys close to the issue say.

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A new study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) requested by Democrats on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee suggests that an economy-wide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be more cost effective than limits placed solely on power plants. The report is likely to expand the heated debate on global warming to address a wide range of emission sources.

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House Democrats are blasting a draft brownfields redevelopment bill circulated last week by the Energy & Commerce Committee's Republican leadership, claiming it goes too far in limiting EPA's ability to take enforcement actions at state-led cleanups. Democrats also argue that the bill goes beyond the scope of brownfields in easing certain environmental requirements, including provisions to streamline permitting requirements.

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Conservative Democrats in the House who are drafting an energy plan that is expected to include key proposals by President Bush, reportedly have dropped their support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is arguably one of the most controversial proposals in the president's energy strategy.

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EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has told top agency officials that she is creating a special task force under the auspices of the Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance to eliminate a backlog of nearly 70 environmental justice complaints pending before the agency. The move has prompted concerns by industry officials who say it would hand EPA enforcement officials added leverage in forcing compliance.

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President Bush has announced the nomination of Marianne Lamont Horinko as EPA's Assistant Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. Horinko is the president of Clay Associates, an environmental policy firm. From 1990 to 1993, Horinko was an attorney/advisor to the office that she has been tapped to head.

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June 20, 2001

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EPA's decision to deny California's request for a waiver from the oxygenate requirement under the Clean Air Act's reformulated gasoline (RFG) program relies significantly on new agency analyses done under EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman's tenure suggesting that granting the plea would produce greater emissions of some pollutants than previously thought, with uncertain consequences for air quality, according to agency sources.

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EPA has rebuffed a request by diesel-engine makers for a postponement of a 2002 deadline to meet strict emission limits under a landmark legal settlement between the agency and several engine manufacturers for alleged Clean Air Act violations. In a letter to engine maker Detroit Diesel, EPA and the Department of Justice announced that they will not agree to a request for a 12- to 15-month extension of the deadline for meeting tougher emission limits for diesel engines.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to make available up to 100,000 tons of government surplus sugar to ethanol producers as a way to ease rising prices of reformulated gasoline used in smog-ridden areas.

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The Department of Energy (DOE) is pressing EPA to roll back its controversial proposal for regulating cooling water intakes, charging that the plan contradicts key elements of the president's energy strategy for promoting offshore oil and gas drilling. DOE says EPA has underestimated the energy implications of the rule, and the department has developed its own modeling which challenges the agency's assessment process, an issue that is likely to reemerge in other upcoming regulations.

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Senate Republicans have abandoned efforts to block a leading Democratic legislative priority, the patients' bill of rights, even though the new majority refused to offer concessions on passing comprehensive energy legislation. The energy bill is intended to enact key elements of President Bush's national strategy, which has been criticized by environmentalists and some Democrats for relying too heavily on fossil fuels and nuclear power.

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Key Democratic members of Congress from Michigan have initiated what amounts to a public relations campaign against the state's governor to pressure him to hold off on approving oil and gas drilling along Great Lakes. The Democrats have introduced legislation in both the House and Senate that sources concede is not likely to reach the president's desk, but is intended to raise a national debate on the water quality dangers of drilling in the Great Lakes.

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