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Daily News

November 01, 2000

A federal agency responsible for promoting U.S. investments in developing countries has released a first-of-its-kind report that is intended to encourage investors to back low-emission energy projects. The report concludes that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation's energy portfolio is dominated by projects emitting relatively low doses of carbon, and that the agency is not a major contributor to worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

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A group of more than 200 scientists is pressing President Clinton to extend federal protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to include the area's coastal plain, a move that would essentially end a politically-charged debate over drilling for oil off the Alaskan coast. The scientists claim that decades of evidence shows that the coastal plain is a vital component to the overall biodiversity of the refuge and should enjoy the same strict protections.

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The House is expected within the next few days to approve a massive restoration program for the Everglades as part of broader legislation on water development projects nationwide, clearing the way for the measure to be sent to President Clinton. The House action comes on the heels of Senate passage on Oct. 31 of a compromise package that stripped dredging provisions opposed by environmentalists.

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October 31, 2000

EPA is poised to launch a widespread investigation into a commonly used household and industrial chemical that has been found in human blood samples worldwide and that has been shown to cause adverse health effects in laboratory animals, agency sources say.

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EPA has warned Maine environmental officials that a new state radiation cleanup law sets standards less stringent than the federal counterpart and may "lead to future problems because it could allow concentrations for most radionuclides to exceed" federal Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL's).

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President Clinton has vetoed legislation that would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to report on the annual costs and benefits of federal regulations. The legislation has fallen victim to a political showdown over appropriations legislation on health and education issues. The veto has sent lawmakers scrambling to revise the appropriations bill, as Congress continues to feverishly work on completing a handful of spending bills before heading home in time to campaign for the election.

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President Clinton is poised to sign legislation that is expected to lead to a streamlining of the federal approval process for hydroelectric generating plants, which supporters of the measure say would boost use of the zero-emission source of power. The legislation calls for a six month investigation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the federal permit approval process.

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In an apparent attempt to boost their efforts to block California's diesel exhaust rules, lawyers for the California Trucking Association (CTA) have pulled a lawsuit from the San Diego Superior Court and re-filed in a Fresno court. The industry group is challenging a decision by the California Environmental Protection Agency to list the release of particulate matter (PM) from diesel engines as a toxic air contaminant.

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The Supreme Court will likely take a limited approach in determining the federal government's authority to regulate wetlands by offering a strict ruling on the requirements of the Clean Water Act, rather than addressing broader constitutional questions raised under the interstate commerce clause. The justices focused almost exclusively on statutory issues during their questioning of lawyers on the case, offering a glimpse into the likely scope and approach that the justices will take in their ruling.

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October 30, 2000

Despite the apprehension of state water regulators, military officials say the Pentagon's experiment with privatizing base cleanups is going well, and additional sites are being considered. But state officials continue to argue that placing the cleanup of former military installations in the hands of private companies excludes local involvements and should be limited to certain types of contamination.

The topic was a point of lively discussion at a recent meeting of the Association of State & Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) in Arlington, VA.

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Environmentalists are planning to press for greater attention to aircraft emissions at climate change talks next month in The Hague, arguing that the impact of the aerospace industry has been overlooked in international discussions on reducing greenhouse gases.

Industry and environmental sources agree that aircraft emissions are expected to increase significantly in the coming decades, and environmentalists are expected to call on international negotiators to factor emissions from international flights into calculations of countries' baseline emissions.

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EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection have announced an agreement with a pharmaceutical company that will allow it to avoid shipping low-level radioactive waste off-site for incineration.

The agreement, negotiated under EPA's Project XL, enables Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical to use a high-temperature catalytic oxidation process it has developed, which EPA says will destroy the hazardous waste component in the material and trap the remaining low-level radioactive material onsite, making it available for reuse

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EPA has received what it characterizes as an overwhelmingly positive response from the petrochemical industry to the agency's offer to forgo possible enforcement actions if storage facilities voluntarily adopt emission controls. The offer was extended after a federal court agreed with EPA that a petroleum storage facility had failed to adequately implement Clean Air Act requirements.

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EPA and the electric utility industry have joined forces in repelling efforts by environmentalists to have coal ash regulated as a hazardous waste. Agency and industry lawyers have asked a federal court to reject environmentalists' arguments that EPA violated federal waste laws by deciding to exclude coal ash and other utility wastes as hazardous under federal waste management requirements.

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Pepco Energy Services is selling combustion-generated electricity fueled by natural gas as a "clean" source of power. The company claims it's the first competitive electricity supplier in Maryland to offer electricity with emissions significantly below the regional average.

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Green Party Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader and the Sierra Club are trading accusations over the upcoming election, with the environmental group accusing Nader of working toward a victory for Republican George W. Bush, and Nader accusing the environmental group of sacrificing its principles for Vice President Al Gore.

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October 27, 2000

The European Union has agreed to a set of principles for reducing greenhouse gases that puts the international body far out ahead of a majority of the world's countries -- particularly the United States -- in adopting measures to comply with emission reduction deadlines laid out by the Kyoto climate change treaty.

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A decision next month by EPA and the Department of Transportation on the environmental impact of a proposed oil pipeline expansion in Texas may spark a legal battle that government lawyers fear could establish a precedent that broaden federal obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

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A coalition of environmental groups is pressing Senate Majority Trent Lott (R-MS) to honor a pledge he made last year to overturn an exemption for radioactive materials from Superfund liability that was included as part of a recently-enacted legislation that excused certain recyclers from cleanup responsibilities. The effort is intended to correct what Lott says was an oversight in developing the recycling exemption.

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