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Daily News

March 30, 2001

Republican plans in Congress to overturn a controversial water toxic standard issued by the Clinton administration suffered a major blow when the House parliamentarian determined that the rule was outside the reach of the Congressional Review Act. Sources say Republican lawmakers had been thinking about repealing a number of environmental rules issued during the final months of the Clinton presidency, including EPA's total maximum daily load (TMDL) standards, which would set limits on discharges into water bodies from a variety of industrial sources.

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The Army Corps of Engineers has been granted an extension until May 17 by a federal court to develop a plan for bringing the operation of four dams on the Snake River into compliance with the Clean Water Act. The Corps sought the extension to allow time to coordinate its final plan with the various federal agencies responsible for regulation of the Columbia River basin, according to a source at the Department of Justice.

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March 29, 2001

Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN) have drafted a bill to phase out use of a common fuel additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), and establish a national renewable fuels standard.

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The Clinton administration's top energy efficiency official has been hired by Senate Democrats on the environment committee to help link environmental legislation with energy policy. Democrats are gearing up for what promises to be a major legislative battle on the nation's energy infrastructure and environmental regulation.

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German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder suggests the rest of the world will have to proceed without the United States in an effort to implement an international agreement on climate change. The statement was issued in response to President Bush's announcement earlier this week that he would drop his pursuit of the yet-unratified Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gases.

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A novel plan by Northwest energy officials to boost regional power supplies while protecting endangered salmon in the Columbia River has prompted environmentalists to consider a legal challenge. The officials have drafted a plan to dramatically reduce water spillage over hydropower dams that is normally used to help juvenile salmon migrate downstream, while proposing to ship captured salmon downstream in trucks and barrages.

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Senate approval of a hike in individual campaign contributions as part of campaign finance reform legislation has led one major environmental group to split ranks with other public advocacy organizations.

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March 28, 2001

The fate of an agreement between environmentalists and U.S. trade officials rests in the hands of a federal court. A federal district judge is expected to rule as early as next month in a case brought by chemical industry representatives who oppose allowing environmentalists to provide advice to U.S. trade negotiators.

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A legal expert has told members of Congress that the Bush administration's suspension of Clinton-approved regulations is illegal, leading Democrats and environmentalists to assert that Bush is violating the Administrative Procedures Act.

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The Department of Energy is studying whether fuel supplies from foreign refiners could help alleviate potential gasoline shortages in the U.S. resulting from EPA low-sulfur requirements. The standards are slated to go into effect in 2006, and U.S. refiners are already raising concerns that the low-sulfur gasoline and ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel requirements will drive up prices and result in shortages.

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Environmentalists are alleging widespread problems with EPA's Clean Air Act operating permits program, setting the stage for a potentially awkward showdown between the agency and states over potential remedies. The controversy may pose a policy headache for EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman who has touted improving state relations as a top priority for her administration. Meanwhile, industry groups are arguing that any attempt by EPA to reopen the programs would be a violation of the agency's own standards.

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President Bush's decision to abandon the Kyoto Protocol on climate change has thrown the future of international efforts to address global warming into serious doubt, with some expecting the Europeans and possibly other countries to move ahead with greenhouse controls without the U.S. Bush's surprise decision this week has sent international negotiators scrambling to the assess the potential impact of the new U.S. position on the next round of climate change talks in Bonn, Germany, later this summer.

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Senators with close ties to the Bush administration are calling for a suspension of EPA's highly-publicized enforcement actions against the utility and petroleum refining industries. The lawmakers argue that a series of lawsuits filed by the Clinton administration could thwart efforts to boost domestic energy supplies.

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March 27, 2001

Federal researchers have issued initial findings in what is expected to be an annual effort to measure chemical pollutants in humans, which experts say will help policymakers assess the effectiveness of regulatory controls. The findings have already attracted the attention of environmentalists who have petitioned the Bush administration to move forward with planned controls on mercury emissions.

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EPA's Office of Water has drafted a strategy for overhauling Clean Water Act programs, which may lead to new watershed-based permits. The draft strategy lists a number of goals for the discharge permitting over the next several years, including an effort to restructure the program to promote regulatory decisions on a watershed basis.

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President Bush has nominated Jessie Hill Roberson to be the Energy Department's (DOE) assistant secretary for environmental management. If confirmed, Roberson would be responsible for overseeing a more-than-$5-billion annual program to clean up the nation's nuclear weapons production facilities.

Roberson is currently a member of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. From 1996 to 1999, she managed DOE's Rocky Flats field office at the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site in Colorado. Previously, she has held positions with Georgia Power Company and DuPont.

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Top congressional Democrats are promising to fight an anticipated request by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to extend a legislative deadline for issuing a new standard for arsenic in drinking water.

Whitman told the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee March 27 that she would soon ask Congress to "push back" a deadline Congress set last year requiring EPA to issue a final arsenic standard by June 22, though Whitman did not indicate how long of an extension the Bush administration would seek.

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The Bush administration has abandoned the Kyoto climate change treaty negotiated by the Clinton administration, and White House officials are drafting a set of proposals for a new global warming agreement, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told reporters March 27.

In response to repeated questions on the fate of the Kyoto treaty, Whitman said the administration "has no interest implementing that treaty" and that the administration will prepare a set of new recommendations for an international approach to climate change.

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March 26, 2001

EPA Region X has formed a task force to deal with the Northwest's power shortage by looking at ways to expedite environmental reviews of energy-related projects. The group is intended to bring together officials responsible for various aspects of permit reviews, such as air, waste and water regulation, to streamline the process and avoid potential misunderstandings.

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A policy advisor to President Bush recommends that the administration could help pay for its $1.6 trillion tax cut by eliminating the Department of Energy's (DOE) nuclear waste cleanup program and redesignating the contaminated sites as wildlife preserves.

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