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Daily News

May 10, 2002

California rice growers are scrambling to prevent EPA officials from listing a widely-used herbicide, molinate, as a reproductive toxin. An EPA conclusion that the chemical is a reproductive risk could push California regulators to list it on the state's toxics labeling law, known as Proposition 65.

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May 09, 2002

A federal district court in West Virginia appears to have handed environmentalists a major boost in their likely challenge of the Bush administration's contentious rule allowing mountaintop mining waste to be dumped in U.S. water bodies, handing down a ruling that activists say exposes the rule's blatant inconsistency with the Clean Water Act.

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The senior Democrat of the House, Rep. John Dingell (MI), rejected claims that a vote in support of moving toward a nuclear waste dump at Nevada's Yucca Mountain is a vote against the environment. Dingell argued that House backing for the waste facility would simply allow the licensing process to move forward, during which environmentalists and other critics of Yucca would have an opportunity to be heard.

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In response to a growing number of citizen petitions that seek to strip states of their delegated authority to implement the Clean Water Act, EPA has drafted a "checklist" of requirements state agencies must meet so that regulators can make adjustments to their programs before being hit with a citizen challenge.

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Industry officials are expressing increasing skepticism over a soon-to-be unveiled EPA initiative to encourage companies to voluntarily reduce the use and disposal of a host of chemicals, raising concerns about the methods used in developing the list of compounds covered by the strategy.

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Environmentalists are quietly discussing the possibility of filing lawsuits against a host of industries over the next several years that would seek potentially billions of dollars in compensation from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

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An administrative law judge at the Labor Department has ruled in favor of a former U.S. environmental prosecutor and his claim that the Justice Department (DOJ) under the Clinton administration systematically barred him from pursuing environmental infractions by the federal government. The case is significant because it may set a new standard that federal prosecutors are protected by whistleblower protections.

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May 08, 2002

EPA communications staff is reportedly holding up the long-awaited release of the agency's air toxics data in an effort to prepare responses to possible public concerns about the controversial findings, which for the first time will include information about both the cancer and non-cancer risks from 33 urban air toxins.

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EPA evidence appears to be mounting against the ethanol industry over alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. EPA Region 7 officials say that an inquiry of approximately 50 ethanol facilities begun nearly two years ago has recently yielded self-audit data that show violations in that region.

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A joint EPA-U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) panel on agricultural air emissions has formally recommended that EPA create a voluntary pilot program to include irrigation pumps and crop burning into emissions trading programs nationwide. But the move is raising concerns among environmentalists that the administration may be laying the groundwork for avoiding strict mandatory controls on farm-related air emissions.

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Pesticide makers throughout North America are criticizing an international free-trade policy group for overemphasizing environmental programs at the expense of working to reduce trade barriers under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The industry is calling for a major overhaul of the group, which is charged with implementing key elements of the trade agreement.

But it is unclear to what extent these recommendations will be taken up by the working group, with one official arguing that environmental concerns continue to be a key component of their mission.

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EPA is developing a new cleanup target for asbestos remediation as part of the agency's highly publicized plan for treating thousands of residences around the World Trade Center site for possible contamination.

While agency officials emphasize that the new levels are site-specific for Manhattan, the impact of the risk-based "benchmark" remains to be seen with numerous other high-profile asbestos cleanup plans pending before the agency.

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EPA political managers, including Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, are reportedly trying to take greater control over the agency's public message because of Bush administration frustration over media reports on the president's Clear Skies policy, and after political appointees in the agency were embarrassed by regional officials who recently questioned the administration's proposed policies affecting the air quality of national parks, sources say.

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May 07, 2002

Democrats this week are planning an attempt on the House floor to strike out provisions included in the fiscal year 2003 defense authorization bill that would ease environmental requirements for the military. The planned effort comes in the wake of a failed attempt last week by more than 100 House members, including Democratic leaders, to convince the House Armed Services Committee to drop the exemptions.

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Spray foam industry sources say EPA has pledged to grant some form of exemption to an upcoming production phaseout of an ozone depleting substance (ODS) widely used in foam insulation. The claim is likely to spark controversy among officials with the plastics and foam industry, which is divided over the need for a delay in the phaseout.

Meanwhile, EPA officials deny that any decision has been made in response to industry's request for regulatory relief.

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EPA is preparing to establish a process for crop growers to seek exemptions from the phaseout of methyl bromide, a widely used, ozone-depleting pesticide. The move will likely trigger opposition from environmentalists concerned that industry will seek widespread, unwarranted extensions on use of the controversial pesticide.

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The Bush administration is moving forward with two rulemakings that will remove regulatory barriers for the practice of mountaintop mining, in what some environmentalists say appears to be an attempt to avoid a slew of new citizen suits challenging the legality of Clean Water Act permits that have allowed coal mining companies to dump substantial quantities of waste rock in stream beds.

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A new industry report is calling for a dramatic increase in federal funding for the development of clean-coal technologies as a way to ensure the continued viability of coal-fired electricity generation. The report was requested by the Bush administration, which has argued the virtues of coal-powered electricity in ensuring the nation's energy security, and was released as members of the House and Senate prepare for negotiations on a final energy bill that includes federal funds for clean coal.

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John Peter Suarez, the Bush administration's nominee to head EPA's enforcement office, is defending his qualifications for the post after Democratic senators and environmental groups questioned the relevance of his background as an enforcer of gambling law.

Suarez most recently served as the director New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement, which oversees the enforcement of a law regulating the state's casino industry. Before that, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey.

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