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Daily News

June 19, 2001

House Republicans have drafted legislation to encourage the cleanup and redevelopment of urban industrial sites as an alternative to a bipartisan plan unanimously approved by Senate. The Bush administration has identified the cleanup of so-called "brownfields" as a top environmental priority.

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Advocates of alternative energy sources are confident they have enough votes in the House to restore and even increase research funds proposed for cuts by President Bush. The advocates have criticized the president for targeting funding cuts on alternative energy sources that could improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Conservative Democrats in the House have drafted energy legislation that includes oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is key element of President Bush's energy strategy and staunchly opposed by environmentalists and other key Democratic lawmakers.

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A Democratic member of the House from California claims to have broad support from communities across the country for legislation that would eliminate the military's exemption from environmental requirements. The legislation would require military operations in the U.S. to abide by the same environmental rules as private companies. The Pentagon is granted leniency to environmental and other federal regulations in the interest of ensuring military readiness.

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Despite the Bush administration's rejection of a request by California for a waiver from federal clean-fuel requirements, New York officials say the state is planning to move forward with its own waiver petition, likely arguing that engines would run smoother and cleaner without the required oxygenates.

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Leading Republicans have followed through on a threat to block a leading legislative priority of Senate Democrats, the patients' bill of rights, until the new majority agrees to set a date for action on a comprehensive energy bill based on President Bush's national strategy, which environmentalists and some Democrats have attacked as relying too heavily of fossil-fuel expansions and a revived nuclear industry.

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House Democrats are vowing to continue their push for electricity price caps in western states, saying that price controls imposed by federal regulators earlier this week encourages electricity wholesalers to use their dirtiest power plants the most.

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State attorneys general and environmentalists have filed the first in a series of lawsuits aimed at challenging the Bush administration's efforts to delay and revise environmental rules originally approved under the Clinton administration. The groups charge in their suits that the White House unlawfully altered a rule that set energy efficiency standards for air conditioners that the Clinton administration had already finalized.

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June 18, 2001

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Sources say Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is poised to offer a companion bill to House-passed legislation that would more than double current federal spending to restore the habitats of endangered species of salmon and steelhead throughout the West. The House bill would split $200 million over three years between five states and several tribal governments.

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EPA and Justice Department lawyers told a closed-door meeting of industry and environmental attorneys last week that the Bush administration is considering reopening a controversial Clinton-era rule for setting water discharge limits for polluted lakes, rivers and streams, sources close to the issue say.

The meeting was part of settlement discussions between EPA and a host of industry and environmental litigants, who filed suit last year over the so-called total maximum daily load (TMDL) rule.

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President Bush's surprise announcement last week that the Navy would cease training operations on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques by 2003 may put the administration in direct odds with key Republican members of Congress.

A halt in the training exercises, which have been opposed by environmentalists and local residents because of alleged health risks, would require an act of Congress, which may be difficult to achieve given the immediate reaction of GOP lawmakers to the president's decision.

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The House Republican leadership has organized a 20-member "energy action team" to move legislative pieces of President Bush's energy strategy and to blunt Democratic efforts to defeat it. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), who is the administration's designated point man on energy legislation, organized the team, and sources say they hope to have most of the administration's energy proposals on the floor by July 16, and voted on by the August recess.

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June 15, 2001

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Republican lawmakers defeated a Democratic attempt to impose price controls on California electricity rates, claiming that environmental extremism was in part to blame for skyrocketing energy costs in the West. The Democrats had attempted to attach a price cap amendment to a government-wide supplemental spending bill approved June 14 by the House Appropriations Committee.

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Despite European Union policy advisors reaching the same conclusion as President Bush that nuclear power is an important component to achieving energy security, many European countries are moving away from nuclear energy in search of alternative power sources that do not pollute the air.

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EPA has cleared for public notification a Region VI proposal to modify its water discharge requirements to allow offshore oil and gas drilling rigs to release untreated synthetic fluids along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. The proposal, which will ease waste disposal costs for industry, is also expected to be adopted by Region IV and applied throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

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The National Academy of Sciences says there is sufficient science to support regulation of impaired waters, but is urging EPA to amend its current program for setting total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) to make up for gaps in the science used in determining impaired water bodies and setting discharge limits. The report may provide guidance to EPA as it considers changes to its contentious TMDL rule, which has drawn opposition from lawmakers, industry, environmentalists and states. Congress requested the NAS study in response to concern over the rule.

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June 14, 2001

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled later this month to rule on a controversial wetlands taking case that could broaden property owners' ability to make takings claims in cases where states deny development permits to comply with environmental and other regulations.

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EPA's Office of Solid Waste is drafting revisions to its hazardous waste regulations to exempt waste streams treated with an innovative technology that destroys organic pollutants and produces an environmentally-benign gas that can be used in energy production and chemical processes, EPA officials and industry sources say. The rule, an expansion of a Clinton-era effort begun in 1999, represents the first time the agency has been willing to relax requirements under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) to encourage alternatives to incineration and landfilling.

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