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Daily News

June 05, 2001

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A high-ranking Department of Energy official says the Bush administration will offer tacit support for congressional efforts to boost funding for energy efficiency and renewables, despite the president's proposal to cut spending in these areas. With Democrats assuming the reins of power in the Senate, sources anticipate congressional pressure to hike spending in these areas as part of a broader effort to address the nation's energy crisis.

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June 04, 2001

In anticipation of greater scrutiny from the Office of Management & Budget (OMB), EPA has drafted a regulatory development plan that will boost the role of political appointees in the regulatory development process, while also aiming to boost the scientific and economic quality of agency rules.

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The wood treatment industry, which is leading efforts to overturn EPA's standard for arsenic in drinking water, plans to launch a lumber labeling program to educate consumers about the dangers of lumber treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), a compound containing both arsenic and chromium-six.

Industry sources say they will formally announce the new proposal at a June 7 public meeting sponsored by EPA. The proposal will urge wood preservers to attach a warning label with a summary of "safe handling instructions" on every piece of lumber treated with CCA.

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Despite intense behind-closed-doors negotiations in California, sources say the Davis administration has failed to forge a consensus on the use of backup diesel power to help ease energy shortages. The dispute over diesel generators was ignited late last month when environmentalists protested what they called an imminent plan by Davis to pay companies to use the dirtier backup power source on a broader scale.

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Two key senators poised to play a prominent role on environmental policies following the Democratic takeover of the Senate are calling for a reexamination of government findings on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that could pose a challenge to the Bush administration's opposition to regulating the greenhouse gas.

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California utility regulators are expected to approve a proposal by San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) to pay companies to use backup diesel generators, despite objections by state air regulators over the air quality impacts of the plan. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is expected at its June 7 meeting to endorse a draft ruling on the SDG&E proposal, which is intended to reduce the state's power shortages.

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Congressional investigators claim the Army Corps of Engineers has not been able to track the effectiveness of a program it runs jointly with EPA and other environmental agencies aimed at mitigating wetland losses through the creation of alternative wetlands projects.

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June 01, 2001

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EPA's Inspector General (IG) is urging the agency's Superfund office to develop a new regulatory process for handling naturally occurring hazardous substances. But EPA officials reportedly are opposed to the idea, arguing that the agency lacks the requisite legal authority, the plan could spark a backlash from Congress and industry, and expanding the Superfund program would stretch already limited resources.

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Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) has emerged as a leading Democrat in the Senate on hammering the Bush administration over its environmental policies. And the anticipated shift in control of the Senate over to the Democrats will give the former vice presidential candidate greater authority to expand ongoing investigations of his election rivals on an issue that was prominent during the campaign: environmental protection.

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Speedier motor vehicle trips in California are decreasing exhaust emissions from cars, according to new data from the mobile source analysis branch of the state's air board. The staff is drafting its newest emission inventory for vehicles, which is used to develop new regulations to reduce pollution. The staff is finding that motor vehicles are traveling much faster for longer periods of time than in the past, which is causing a significant drop in exhaust emissions, including hydrocarbons.

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EPA opposition to offshore drilling may derail Interior Department efforts to boost oil and gas exploration. EPA is being joined in its opposition by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), resulting in gridlock over a proposed drilling permit that the industry views as an important test case on the administration's resolve to expand the number of offshore projects.

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Incoming Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) told reporters that the proposed construction of a nuclear waste repository in the state of Nevada is "dead" as long as the Democrats control the Senate.

Daschle made the statement after arriving in Nevada for a fund-raiser for incoming Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid (D-NV), who has been vocally opposed to proposals to site the facility in his home state at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

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Changes to a Texas air quality law have allowed state air regulators to reach a legal settlement with Houston industries on achieving federal emission-reduction requirements in one of the nation's smoggiest cities. But environmentalists expect to take the state back to court, arguing that the plan is not stringent enough.

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May 31, 2001

Two new studies questioning the ability of trees and plants to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could significantly undermine the Bush administration's upcoming proposals for dealing with climate change, which will likely rely heavily on the use of so-called carbon sinks, sources on both sides of the global climate change debate say.

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An effort by Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) to pass legislation phasing out the controversial fuel additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) is facing new uncertainties as the Senate prepares to shift over to Democratic control, sources say. While the bill has attracted the endorsement of the Senate's number two Democrat, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the anticipated chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, Sen.

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Senate negotiations on a transfer of power to the Democrats appear headed for a showdown over the makeup of committees, which includes reorganizing the Environment and Public Works Committee. GOP sources anticipate somewhat lengthy negotiations that will include efforts to retain an even split on certain committees, while Democratic staffers argue that they have a clear majority which entitles them to an extra seat on each committee.

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New York state legislators are expected in the next few weeks to approve a bill that would establish the nation's first water discharge standards for mercury. But the effort has prompted wastewater treatment officials to mount an intense lobbying effort to kill the bill, fearing that it would set a nationwide precedent.

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Two key senators are calling on EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to resist pressure from the utility industry to delay the implementation of smog and haze controls.

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White House budget officials have proposed a broad new scheme to limit the impact of agencies' regulatory decisions on energy supply and production by setting stringent triggers for requiring agencies to analyze -- and "minimize" -- the energy impact of those regulatory decisions, according to a draft White House memorandum obtained by Inside EPA.

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