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Daily News

June 14, 2001

Congressional investigators are asserting their authority to investigate the Bush administration's energy task force amid allegations about undue influence by industry.

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Environmentalists in New York are split on whether to support a draft state plan to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from power plants. Some activists are hailing the state's effort, while others are arguing that the plan does not adequately reduce emissions to protect human health and the environment.

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Internal industry memos released by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) show that oil refiners worked to tighten fuel supplies and boost profits, and then blamed costly environmental requirements for rising fuel prices. The senator says the documents undercut the industry's recent calls for a rollback of environmental controls and financial incentives contained in energy legislation being backed by the White House.

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Cal/EPA officials may sue EPA and likely will delay the state's planned 2003 ban of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in gasoline in response to the Bush administration's denial this week of the state's request for a waiver from federal oxygenate requirement in gasoline.

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June 13, 2001

New findings by the Department of Energy claim that oil refiners will have to exceed EPA's controversial sulfur-in-diesel rule to compensate for possible sulfur contamination during the transportation of fuels through pipelines. The conclusions may embolden industry opposition to the rule, which already faces a lawsuit by refiners who claim the requirements are too stringent.

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Environmentalists are claiming that Georgia officials are inappropriately using federal funds for highway construction projects, which could throw into jeopardy the state's smog-reduction plan for the Atlanta area.

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Department of Energy officials and auto industry representatives working on revamping a Clinton-Gore program to develop a new generation of environmentally-friendly cars say they have dropped for now a fuel-efficiency goal.

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In what could be the first battle of political wills in the reshuffled Senate, Republicans have vowed to block a leading legislative priority for Democrats, a patients' bill of rights, until the new majority leader sets a definitive date for bringing to the floor a comprehensive energy bill. Republican Senators are pushing key elements of President Bush's energy strategy, which emphasizes boosting energy supplies, while Democrats and environmentalists have stressed a broader approach that favors more energy conservation measures.

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In a direct challenge to the Bush administration's strategy for enforcing environmental requirements, environmentalists are claiming that a number of key states are failing to ensure industry compliance with operating permits under the Clean Air Act. The shortcomings of these states undercuts the Bush administration's plan to grant states the primary role in enforcing clean air requirements, according to environmentalists.

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June 12, 2001

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EPA and the state of Washington's attorney general are prepared to enforce cleanup deadlines agreed to by the Department of Energy at its Hanford nuclear waste site, sources say. State officials have rejected a DOE request for an extension of a July 31 cleanup deadline, and sources say federal and state enforcement officials are poised to take action to ensure that the cleanup proceeds as planned at the massive nuclear weapons facility.

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EPA Region IX officials may launch an assessment of southern California's landmark nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions trading program, known as RECLAIM, to determine whether it is living up to its promises when it was adopted as a national model seven years ago, sources say.

"We're thinking about spending more time looking at the program and how well it is working and not working," says an EPA source. "We're working with the [air] district and reviewing changes to the program."

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The Democratic members of the New York Assembly have upped the stakes in a political battle with Republican Gov. George Pataki over the state's energy policies. The lawmakers have introduced a package of ten bills that includes tough conservation measures, as well as a major restructuring of the state's Public Service Commission, which regulates electric utilities.

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EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told the nation's manufacturers that the agency will launch a "second generation" of environmental protections that will rely upon cooperation with industry to ensure sustained economic development.

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The Bush administration's decision to deny California's request for a waiver from a Clean Air Act requirement that cleaner-burning gasoline contain two percent oxygenates may put pressure on state officials to reconsider a planned ban on the use of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE). The decision may also add new momentum to congressional efforts to strip the oxygenate requirement from the Clean Air Act.

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In a direct challenge to the Bush administration's energy strategy, consumer advocates argue that nuclear power is the most expensive source of energy, with states relying on nuclear generation paying 25 percent higher electricity rates than states that have no nuclear power plants.

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June 11, 2001

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EPA sources say the agency will soon release a guidance intended to encourage on-site evaluations and decision making at Superfund cleanup projects as a way to reduce costs and speed site work. Sources say site managers could save time and money by conducting sample analyses on-site rather than having to travel back-and-forth to laboratories.

But opponents of on-site sampling say the findings could be difficult to defend in court without verification by laboratory scientists.

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EPA is expected to announce on June 12 that it will deny California's request for a waiver from the Clean Air Act's requirement that cleaner-burning gasoline contain at least two percent oxygenates. California had requested the waiver to eliminate the use of a common fuel additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), which has been found to contaminate drinking water sources.

EPA officials say the announcement will be made tomorrow after oil refiners have been claiming for days that the administration was poised to reject the waiver.

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The House Appropriations Committee is expected to approve spending legislation this week that deals a serious blow to President Bush's energy and environment agenda. The Republican-led panel is expected to reject the administration's attempt to prevent future lawsuits to protect endangered species and restore proposed cuts to conservation and energy efficiency funds.

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EPA enforcement officials have decided to retain their current priorities for the next two years, winning praise from state environment officials who say the move will encourage greater consistency between state and federal efforts.

According to the agency's draft FY02-03 enforcement priorities, EPA will focus on:

* wet weather sewer rules and run-off controls on concentrated animal feeding operations under the Clean Water Act;

* microbial rules under the Safe Drinking Water Act;

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