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Daily News

November 09, 2001

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At a time when many policymakers are supporting curtailing public access to environmental data, a top EPA data official told House lawmakers that the agency maintains a "strong commitment" to providing the public access to environmental information through its website while officials assess the potential security sensitivities of information resources.

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Signaling an emerging strategy in renewed efforts to oppose nuclear power, anti-nuclear activists are arguing that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) should halt all ongoing re-licensing hearings for nuclear reactors at least until the commission completes its assessment of possible heightened security requirements.

The activists argue that any potential changes in security requirements should be included in pending industry requests to extend the licensed operation of a nuclear power plant.

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Congress should create a new office at EPA that would be responsible for shoring up the agency's reputedly poor cost analyses of environmental regulations, a former Bush and Clinton economic analyst has told a House small business panel.

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After abandoning his bid to become EPA's enforcement chief, Donald Schregardus has been appointed as a top environment official for the Navy. President Bush has named him the Navy's deputy assistant secretary for environment, according to Navy officials. He is expected to start in his new position on Nov. 13, these sources say.

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Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) is leaning toward attaching energy legislation that includes oil and gas drilling in the Alaskan wilderness as part of an economic stimulus package slated for Senate consideration on Nov. 13. The move would be the latest attempt by Murkowski to force a vote on controversial energy provisions, with the senator locked in a high-profile standoff with Democratic leaders who oppose drilling in the Arctic, among other provisions in the GOP-backed plan.

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November 08, 2001

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Efforts to boost security requirements at chemical facilities appear to be gaining ground in Congress amid disclosures last week that 400 pounds of the potentially lethal pesticide methyl bromide was stolen from a chemical wholesale warehouse in Florida.

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The FBI is pressing chemical makers and suppliers to more closely scrutinize individual sales of chemicals and specialized equipment, and has sent industry leaders a list of potentially suspicious order requests or specifications. The FBI alert, developed as part of the government's efforts to ensure chemical industry security, include warnings that ammonia, chlorine and cyanide lead the list of potentially dangerous chemicals.

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Capitol Hill observers say President Bush's nominee to head the environment enforcement office at the Department of Justice faces intense scrutiny over his involvement in several controversial environmental decisions by the former Bush administration.

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Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD) and several other prominent senators from both sides of the aisle are reportedly close to an agreement on an energy legislation package that would include a required level of renewable fuels in the nation's gasoline supply, a waiver of the Clean Air Act oxygenate requirement, and a phase out of the controversial gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), lobbying sources say.

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A former EPA official and health expert told members of Congress that the government needs to set an acceptable exposure level for anthrax, arguing that such a move would be an important step in helping the government's decontamination efforts throughout the country.

The recommendation was made at a Nov. 8 hearing by the House Science Committee on a range of anthrax-related issues, including questions about how and when to declare an anthrax decontamination complete.

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November 07, 2001

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The White House is considering moving forward with administrative reforms to Clean Air Act permitting requirements without proposing new emission controls on power plants. The move would undercut an EPA stance that linking the two proposals could soften potential criticism by environmentalists about easing the permitting requirements, referred to as new source review (NSR).

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The Bush administration's decision to implement a Clinton-developed standard for reducing arsenic in drinking water could force a number of states to impose sweeping new disposal restrictions on pressure treated lumber, which can contain about 22 percent arsenic.

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The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development have released a first-of-its-kind accounting and reporting protocol for determining greenhouse gas inventories that EPA and some industries are already putting to work. The protocol could be helpful in developing first-time regulations to control greenhouse gases by quantifying carbon dioxide (CO2) releases, a leading contributor to global warming.

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EPA is conducting a major review of its monitoring network that sources say could lead to less tracking of criteria pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide and lead, and tighter scrutiny of air toxics and fine particulate matter. The effort represents the agency's first broad review of its monitoring network since it was established more than 20 years ago.

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November 06, 2001

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The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee has asked the Bush administration for its position on pending legislation that would require EPA and other federal agencies to assess the national security implications of proposed regulations and enforcement actions.

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A number of Northeast state attorneys general are concerned that Ontario is not fulfilling its requirements under a U.S.-Canada air quality agreement, and are expected to ask EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to urge Canadian environment minister David Anderson to ensure the province's plan to reduce pollution from its five largest coal-fired plants complies with the agreement, sources say.

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EPA has proposed allowing the continued use of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) in medical devices and the Space Shuttle, representing an agency determination that these applications constitute "essential uses" under the Clean Air Act.

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