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Daily News

August 30, 2001

HONOLULU -- State environment commissioners say they are extremely skeptical that a draft EPA strategy designed to promote innovation and regulatory flexibility will realize its goals, fearing the plan may promote only limited initiatives in specific areas rather than a broad shift within the entire agency toward a more flexible approach to environmental protection.

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EPA Deputy Administrator Linda Fisher has given agency environmental justice officials the green light to move forward with a controversial agency guidance creating criteria for analyzing and addressing complaints of environmental injustice, EPA sources say.

Office of Environmental Justice Director Barry Hill told Inside EPA that the agency is moving forward with upper management review of the policy, which was floated to stakeholders in February but stalled during the White House's review of Clinton-era policies and rules.

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EPA is poised to reject a call by environmentalists that the agency regulate a widely-used process for extracting natural gas from the ground, despite a four-year-old court decision that agreed with environmentalists that the process should be regulated under the the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

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HONOLULU -- State environment regulators adopted a series of resolutions in support of the Bush administration's controversial review and possible revisions to two Clinton-era regulations, but only after a raucous debate in which some state officials strongly argued against the move.

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Environmentalists are lamenting the departure of Rep. David Bonior (D-MI) as House minority whip in anticipation of his run for the Michigan governorship. The 13-term congressman is expected to announce in September whether he will stay on as whip through the remainder of his term, or step aside, prompting a party election that some expect to happen within weeks.

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A new California energy commission which has identified the promotion of renewable and clean-energy sources as top priorities is planning to defy efforts by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to exercise broad jurisdiction over the power authority, setting up a clear confrontation between federal regulators and the Consumer Power & Conservation Financing Authority (CPCFA), sources say.

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August 29, 2001

Two major U.S. ethanol producers are discussing possible partnerships with fuel makers in China, which has started to produce the gasoline additive and is becoming increasingly interested in its use as a means of reducing the country's air-pollution problems before the 2008 Olympic games are held in Beijing.

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HONOLULU -- The White House is launching a new effort to coordinate regulatory reinvention and flexibility programs in order to significantly boost use of environmental management systems (EMS) and other voluntary compliance approaches in order to allow federal officials to stop wasting resources "chasing after" companies that are already in compliance with environmental laws, according to the White House's top environment official.

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In a potentially precedent-setting case for the licensing of safer pesticides, a federal judge has dismissed two industry lawsuits and has thrown the controversy back to EPA, requiring the agency to make a difficult call in a dispute that could undermine industry participation in a highly-touted risk reduction initiative by the agency.

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EPA may be forced to drop plans to develop a national model to track emissions that cause haze because some of the five regional groups created to develop local plans fear the agency's proposed model may not meet their specific needs, sources say.

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The Bush administration's nominee to head EPA's enforcement office is facing diminishing prospects for winning confirmation because of dissatisfaction with the nominee's written answers to questions posed by Senate Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee, according to environmentalists and industry officials.

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Chemical manufacturers are arguing that EPA's long-awaited risk assessment of the chemical byproduct dioxin should be further delayed because the agency says that dioxin poses a much stronger risk than other public health agencies have found.

Manufacturers are fighting an escalating lobbying effort by environmentalists, congressional Democrats and others to persuade EPA to release the agency's dioxin reassessment by the end of the summer. EPA has worked on the 200-page risk assessment for dioxin since 1995.

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Environmentalists have drafted a series of reforms for the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) in anticipation of congressional action on reauthorization legislation in September. The reforms include establishing independent oversight of the bank's activities and placing environmental representatives on the bank's advisory committee.

Lawmakers are expected to push reauthorization legislation before Sept. 30 when the bank's current charter expires. Legislation in the Senate is awaiting floor consideration, and a House subcommittee is expected to begin markup in mid-September.

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A delegation of top officials from California's environment and energy agencies are planning within the next two weeks to visit several ethanol-producing states in the Midwest to assess the industry's ability to meet the state's growing demand for the fuel additive.

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August 28, 2001

EPA officials earlier this month floated a 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.

Chuck Sutfin, an official in EPA's Office of Wetlands, Oceans & Watersheds, outlined the proposed changes at the annual meeting of the Association of State & Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA) whose officials met in Minnesota earlier this month.

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Environmentalists have identified about 40 members of Congress who they think are sympathetic to their efforts in reviving campaign finance reform legislation on the House floor when lawmakers return from August recess next week.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), representing a broad coalition of environmental and other public interest groups, has sued the Defense Department (DOD) arguing that the administration needs to conduct a new environmental review of the president's highly touted missile defense program instead of relying on the assessments of past administrations. The legal complaint poses a new challenge to the centerpiece of the administration's missile and nuclear defense strategy, adding environment to the concerns being raised by critics of the unproven technology.

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EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman is strongly defending the Bush administration's nominee to become the nation's chief environmental cop despite growing pressure from environmentalists and Senate Democrats to drop the nomination. In an Aug. 24 letter to all 100 members of the Senate, Whitman argues that Bush nominee Donald Schregardus "will be a strong, capable and effective member of my team at EPA." Whitman also argues that the former Ohio EPA chief shares her commitment "to environmental results."

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Environmentalists are planning to request a seat on a new White House task force on speeding up permit reviews for energy projects. But at the same time, industry officials oppose the move, arguing that broadening the group to include members of the public would interfere with the administration's internal decision-making process.

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