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Daily News

August 24, 2001


A disagreement between EPA and the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) over the scope of proposed changes to federal toxics and pesticide laws needed to implement a recently negotiated international toxics agreement may prevent the treaty from taking effect by the end of the year -- as promised by President Bush.

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- Supportive of flexible, market-based program to reduce and cap SO2, NOx and Hg emissions. However, technical and policy concerns; recommend significant new analyses to determine cap levels within a 3-P strategy that balance National Energy Policy (NEP), economic and environmental goals.

- Economic Assumptions Need to be Reconsidered

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The Department of Energy (DOE) is dismissing EPA's proposed legislative plan to cut utility emissions, saying the agency's proposal lacks adequate scientific and human health data to support the steep emissions cuts envisioned, and includes faulty economic and energy supply projections, according to a summary of the department's concerns obtained by Inside EPA. A summary of DOE's concerns is reprinted below.

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August 23, 2001

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has intervened in a federal district court case to defend the constitutionality of lawsuits brought by private citizens to enforce federal environmental laws at a time when some conservative commentators fear that federal courts may "go too far" in allowing citizen suits to proceed.

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Ohio's enforcement of federal environmental laws appears to have dropped by as much as 66 percent under the leadership of Donald Schregardus, President Bush's pick to head the federal EPA enforcement office, according to an Inside EPA review of EPA data obtained as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. Senate Democrats have put a hold on Schregardus' nomination pending the outcome of an EPA investigation into Ohio's enforcement of federal laws during the nominee's tenure as director of the Ohio EPA from 1991-1999.

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EPA is considering a host of Superfund reforms that include overhauling both the agency's financial management of the program and the process for selecting sites to be cleaned up, according to a draft "action plan" obtained by Inside EPA. The reforms also address increasing concerns about the ability of states to afford their portion of the cleanup program.

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ry Farms

Environmentalists have threatened to file suit against nearly one hundred large factory farms throughout Michigan in a move that ups the ante in a long-standing dispute with the state over whether these agricultural operations should be covered by discharge requirements under the Clean Water Act. The dispute has attracted widespread attention, with national environmental groups having long argued that these factory farms, referred to as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), pose an increasing danger to the environment and should be more strongly regulated.

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August 22, 2001

Renewable fuels industry officials are arguing that a recently released EPA rule allowing increased volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from ethanol-blended gasoline should be extended from its current focus on the Midwest to be applied nationwide. The rule, Regulation of Fuel and Fuel Additives: Reformulated Gasoline Adjustment, provides refiners with some flexibility by recognizing the benefits of ethanol, said an official with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

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Auto industry officials say they are confident the Bush administration will overhaul a Clinton-era program intended to promote the development of fuel-efficient vehicles by allowing automakers to use federal assistance dollars on technological refinements to large, commercially successful vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles (SUVs). A key anticipated change will be abandoning the goal of creating an 80-miles-to-the-gallon car, which experts agree is not technologically feasibility for SUVs.

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Environmentalists have obtained internal EPA data that the activists say support their call for a strict off-road diesel-exhaust standard. The data, obtained by Environmental Defense (ED) through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that cancer risks from diesel emissions are about 10 times higher than the cancer risks from all other hazardous air pollutants combined, and cutting diesel exhaust should be a top priority, an ED analysis says.

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Citing air quality and water consumption concerns, Tennessee has joined Kentucky and Georgia in placing a hold on issuing any new environmental permits for "merchant" power plants. Environmental regulators in these states have become worried that the region will have to bear the burden of pollution caused by power plants that sell their electricity for use in faraway areas.

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Senators opposed to the Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed construction of a national nuclear waste disposal facility in the state of Nevada are signaling a renewed focus in fighting the project by raising concerns about the shipment of radioactive wastes throughout the country to the facility.

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August 21, 2001


EPA has set an unprecedentedly strict cleanup standard for rocket fuel contamination found throughout the country. While the cleanup decision is limited to a site in California, the issue has attracted broad attention because of the widespread problem that rocket and jet fuels pose nationwide.

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has granted an exemption to regulations on the handling of non-contaminated components at nuclear power plants as part of the agency's regulatory reform efforts intended to save the nuclear power industry millions of dollars in operational costs. The regulatory reforms have prompted concerns by environmentalists and nuclear power opponents who argue that easing industry burdens could jeopardize public safety.

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ng On State Inadequacies

New Jersey officials are moving forward with a voluntary program to address environmental justice complaints, while state lawyers are challenging a recent court decision that found the state's permitting process failed to adequately consider the health impacts of new industrial facilities on nearby minority communities. State officials say the voluntary approach may help stave off future lawsuits from civil rights activists.

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The Department of the Interior (DOI) has filed a notice to challenge a federal court ruling that blocked approval of four oil drilling projects off the coast of California. The dispute poses a major challenge to the Bush administration's energy strategy by possibly delaying hundreds of offshore drilling projects throughout the country.

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A number of Northeast senators, including Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), are warning the Bush administration not to drop a series of Clean Air Act lawsuits against Midwestern power plants, citing reports that the administration may drop the federal suits as part of its review of EPA's new source review (NSR) program. The senators and Northeast state officials fear that it would be more difficult to proceed with similar state suits against the power companies if the federal suits are dropped.

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August 20, 2001

A leading EPA advisory panel on compliance assistance is expected to call on the agency to develop a more holistic approach to integrating voluntary pollution reduction efforts into more conventional enforcement and regulatory programs. The recommendations are likely to be a major boost to the Bush administration, which has tagged voluntary pollution reduction efforts as a policy priority.

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