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Daily News

February 05, 2001

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EPA deputy chief for the Office of Air and Radiation, John Beale, defends the use of "abatement orders" for air quality requirements as a way to boost California's energy supplies. The orders are being negotiated with utilities companies and state regulators to allow power plants to exceed current air emission controls so long as power companies agree to take more aggressive measures in the future. Beale described the approach as taking a new "path" to achieving the same air emission reduction goals.

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EPA officials have begun preliminary discussions with stakeholders on possible expansion of the agency's toxics release inventory (TRI) program in an effort to boost the amount of data on pollution and the risks associated with those emissions that are available to the public.

But EPA sources caution that no timeline for an expansion has been developed and that EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman may decide not to pursue the proposal.

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Environmentalists are keeping a close watch on the Bush administration's review of a host of regulations issued during the final days of the Clinton White House with some sources suggesting possible litigation depending on the steps the Bush team takes to delay the new requirements.

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In a landmark ruling, the California Supreme Court has ruled to limit cleanup insurance coverage to court-ordered damages and excluded from insurance coverage the cleanup costs under administrative orders. The ruling represents a major victory for insurers who will no longer have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to policyholders seeking coverage for compliance with administrative cleanup orders.

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EPA is poised to release updated emissions modeling on car and truck exhaust that will be used by state air regulators to develop steps for reducing smog. The agency also is developing regulations establishing deadlines for when states will be required to use the new model.

EPA plans to release a test version of its MOBILE6 emissions modeling software on Feb. 14, and will be accepting user comments on the updated software until Feb. 28. EPA hopes to announce in the Federal Register the availability of a final version of the model sometime in March.

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The leading Democrats on the government oversight committees in the House and Senate have put the Bush administration on alert that they are closely watching the White House as it delays the effective date of regulations approved during the final days of the Clinton presidency. In a Feb. 5 letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Rep.

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February 04, 2001

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Governors from the western half of the country have agreed to work to provide power generators relief from environmental regulations and to offer flexibility to comply with air quality rules as a way to boost the region's energy supplies. Some governors are indicating that short-term "waivers" from environmental requirements must be pursued throughout the region to allow plants to operate and pollute more than they are currently permitted.

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February 02, 2001

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EPA officials are strongly urging states to adopt financial responsibility for their underground storage tank programs because of concerns that federal funds will not be able to cover massive number of cleanup sites across the country.

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Environmentalists are defending the Clean Air Act against attacks by utility executives and some lawmakers that air quality controls are in part to blame for the country's current energy crisis. The environmentalists argue that economic uncertainties related to policy debates over deregulation of the electric industry are most responsible for a slowdown in power plant construction.

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Western governors are calling on state and federal officials to ease or relax environmental rules to enable to expeditious siting of new power plants and to increase power supply from existing plants. Four of the five governors kicking off a meeting today on the region's emerging power crisis in Portland, OR, suggested easing requirements in an effort to balance environmental protection with the region's increased demand for energy. The governors represent the states of California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Arizona.

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The Western Governors' Association is calling on states to quicken the review of environmental and other permits to get retired power plants back on line to alleviate power shortages. The recommendation is part of a 13-point plan issued by the governors to boost power supplies until much-needed generators can be constructed. The Feb. 2 recommendations were presented as a supplement to conservation measures proposed by the group late last year.

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In one of her first official actions as the new administrator of EPA, Christine Todd Whitman has asked the Justice Department to drop the agency's appeal of a case in which a federal jury awarded an agency employee compensatory damages for racial discrimination. In a Feb. 1 memo, Whitman calls on Wilma Lewis, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, to drop the agency's challenge to Coleman-Adebayo v.

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State air officials are recommending additional controls on sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions based on a study showing that the pollutant is the chief cause of visibility problems in the Northeast. The report will likely influence the implementation of EPA's controversial regional haze rule and possibly serve as an impetus for new laws and regulations curbing SO2, sources say.

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Senate Republicans have dropped plans to shuffle subcommittee chairmanships on the Environment and Public Works Committee, leaving Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) as the head of the Superfund subcommittee, instead of Mike Crapo (R-ID), who will remain on the fisheries, wildlife & drinking water subcommittee. Congressional and industry sources said last year that Crapo would likely take over the Superfund slot if Chafee moved over to head a new nuclear safety subcommittee.

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February 01, 2001

A trilateral commission is developing a study on the potential impact on air quality that increased trade by the U.S., Canada and Mexico could have on along the countries' borders. The study could be a first step toward developing methods to improve air quality along the borders, with several of those areas along the U.S. border already in violation of Clean Air Act ozone standard largely due to cross-border traffic of diesel trucks and other vehicles exporting and importing supplies, officials say.

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An early draft of a Senate Republican bill outlining a national energy policy contains a host of provisions shifting authority for environmental regulation away from EPA to the Department of Energy (DOE), a move that has many environmentalists privately saying the measure could be dead on arrival without serious changes.

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The top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. Harry Reid (NV), has challenged incoming EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman to finalize a controversial groundwater radiation rule that would set environmental standards at a proposed national nuclear waste disposal site. The rule, which would limit radionuclides in groundwater to 4 millirems, has been the focus of a dispute between EPA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has argued against the need for a separate groundwater standard for radiation.

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A coalition of roughly 30 companies is calling for the creation of a separate office at EPA to assist businesses with environmental compliance. The request is part of a set of recommendations to the Bush White House for overhauling the federal government's approach to environmental enforcement.

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A federal court has at least temporarily relieved for now former EPA Administrator Carol Browner from providing legal testimony in a case brought by a conservative think tank that is attempting to prove that the Clinton administration provided environmentalists inappropriate access in the development of regulations. The court ruling comes on the heels of a recent decision by the same court that prohibited EPA from destroying or removing documents that the plaintiff claims would show the agency's favored treatment toward environmentalists.

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Secretary of State Colin Powell is reportedly looking to pick as Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs a moderate Republican, despite pressure from a handful of groups to pick someone with conservative views on abortion and climate change, sources close to the issue say.

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