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Daily News

August 15, 2001

EPA officials this week floated the Bush administration's preliminary set of changes to the agency's controversial impaired waters rule, which includes scrapping a requirement for states to submit implementation plans for their discharge programs and limiting the time states have to implement their programs.

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August 14, 2001


The Bush administration is proposing legislation that would allow the Pentagon to put off some future military base closures if it finds that cleaning up environmental contamination at the base would be too expensive. But the administration is, for the first time, also proposing to include some Department of Energy (DOE) and other federal facilities in future rounds of base closures that might result in more cleanup at these facilities.

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New research supports the Bush administration's reorganization of a fuel economy partnership with the auto industry, with a new emphasis on sport utility vehicles instead of economy cars, according to a new report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

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The Bush administration is poised to release an executive order on federalism later this month that will likely increase the role of states in the development of new rules and give them greater freedom in deciding how to comply with existing water, waste, and air laws, sources say.

The new order, which will replace one issued by President Clinton in 1999, will likely direct executive branch agencies to work more closely with states in developing policy, and give local governments more flexibility in complying with federal regulations, sources say.

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EPA Region V officials are preparing to approve Illinois' emissions trading program for air pollutants, despite an ongoing investigation by the agency's Inspector General (IG) over the legality of such programs, according to internal agency documents.

Regional officials' almost certain approval of the program is raising serious doubts among environmentalists and some agency officials over whether EPA will adhere to the findings of the IG's upcoming investigation, sources say.

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August 13, 2001


State environmental commissioners are pressing EPA to broaden its analysis of funding for water infrastructure projects to include the cost of managing water quality programs under the Clean Water Act , a move which could boost future water infrastructure needs by as much as $500 million over the next 10 years, state sources say.

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California Gov. Gray Davis (D) is asking a federal appeals court to overturn EPA's oxygenate requirement for reformulated gasoline (RFG), saying that the Bush administration's decision earlier this year to reject a waiver request from the state is based on "politics" and forces California to buy hundreds of millions of gallons of ethanol each year.

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Unique circumstances on the California-Mexico border may lead EPA to utilize special provisions in the Clean Air Act limiting emissions control requirements for areas that can demonstrate they are impacted by non-U.S. emissions. Region IX officials last week issued an unusual proposal for the determination of whether California's Imperial County is in violation of air quality standards, noting that pollution transported from Mexico appears to be the primary reason the violations are occurring in the border county.

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In an effort aimed at further boosting coal production, EPA is proposing to expand an existing proposal to give states flexibility in setting water discharge standards for abandoned coal mining operations that are seeking to reopen.

The remining plan would allow a company to reopen abandoned mines and recover coal that was missed using modern mining techniques. In return, EPA would require the company to restore the land around the mine to present-day environmental standards.

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A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is pressing EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to release by the end of summer the agency's long-awaited risk assessment of dioxin, but outside sources say that the agency will have a difficult time meeting that deadline.

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August 10, 2001

State air regulators in California are worried that cross-border emissions will increase as a result of two new natural gas power plants that may be built in Mexico to bring electricity to California. As a result, local officials are negotiating with the plant owners to encourage the use of emission controls more stringent than those normally imposed in Mexico.

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Oil companies and California officials have convinced the federal government to launch two inquiries into the validity of five reformulated gasoline (RFG) patents held by Union Oil Co. (Unocal) that are nearly identical to the state's fuel formula. The inquiries were launched despite the fact that the oil companies and government agencies lost a court battle over the issue earlier this year.

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In an effort that may allow states to bypass the costly and time-consuming task of setting discharge limits for impaired waters, EPA regional officials have given the green light to a program created by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that aims to clean impaired water bodies through voluntary methods.

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Environmentalists say they plan to use the August congressional recess to lobby House and Senate lawmakers to oppose pending legislation that would allow the Bush administration to negotiate new free trade agreements. Environmental sources say they oppose the legislation because it does not require the Bush administration to include in any new trade agreements environmental protection provisions.

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Congressional appropriators and members of an EPA advisory panel are pressing the agency to develop compliance assistance guidance for new rules at the same time as the rules are written, turning over a significant amount of compliance assistance responsibilities to the agency's program offices, sources close to the issue say.

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August 09, 2001

EPA officials are suggesting that once they have completed their current review of the impact of the controversial new source review (NSR) program on the energy sector, they will conduct a broader review that will examine the program's impact on the manufacturing sector.

Agency officials have also announced that they are considering a move to include industrial boilers at manufacturing facilities in upcoming legislation to reduce emissions of multiple pollutants from electric utilities, in exchange for significant regulatory relief from NSR and other Clean Air Act programs.

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Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys reviewing EPA's Clean Air Act new source review (NSR) enforcement actions have reportedly expanded their investigation to determine whether EPA has been consistent in its interpretation of Clean Air Act regulations, a move that sources say indicates the White House is preparing to back industry arguments that EPA has unfairly changed its interpretation of NSR in enforcement efforts.

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A coalition of manufacturers is doubling its efforts to obtain relief from EPA's new source review (NSR) program, arguing that the current program is a barrier to the competitiveness of domestic manufacturers in the global marketplace.

Auto manufacturers and an association representing several manufacturing groups have also drawn up a discussion paper for upcoming meetings with EPA and other agency officials, outlining examples of common maintenance activities that the groups say receive too much oversight under the current NSR program.

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EPA officials are attempting to boost support for the Bush administration's controversial state enforcement grant program, even though the Senate has declined to fund the program in the agency's fiscal year 2003 budget.

The agency last week floated to states, EPA regions and other stakeholders a draft guidance for implementing the program and called for comment on the measure by Sept. 5.

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