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Daily News

April 12, 2001

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman appears ready to suspend a controversial rule that would significantly lower the reporting threshold for lead until the agency's science panel can review the scientific criteria used by the agency, according to EPA, industry and environmental sources.

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EPA officials working on a major water discharge standard have agreed to meet with iron and steel industry representatives who argue that the agency should drop the proposed rule because of compliance costs. Industry officials claim EPA used incomplete data in developing the standards, leading the agency to overestimate the environmental benefits and under-represent the costs to iron and steel plants.

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April 11, 2001

BOISE, Idaho -- Federal energy regulators appear headed for a showdown over price caps following a meeting yesterday attended by energy officials from western states faced with rising power costs. The move is opposed by the Republican chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but the group's two other members, both Democrats, see increased support for price controls as a way to ease the region's energy crisis.

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EPA has asked a federal appeals court to dismiss two utility industry lawsuits seeking to challenge the agency's decision last year to regulate mercury emissions from power plants.

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The Bush administration is ramping up efforts to decide on California's request for a waiver from the Clean Air Act oxygenate requirement, with some sources suggesting that a decision could be issued as part of a national energy policy expected in the next several weeks. Sources say the administration is considering whether to propose a waiver of the gasoline requirement similar to a plan that was under consideration by the Clinton EPA before it left office.

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New Hampshire lawmakers have stalled landmark legislation that would establish multi-pollutant controls on power plant emissions. Lawmakers say President Bush's recent statements on rejecting carbon dioxide controls have sapped momentum for certain elements of the state bill, and controversy over an emissions trading scheme that would allow swapping among such pollutants as mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide needs to be worked out between environmentalists and the coal and utility industries.

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Petroleum refiners are warning that EPA's low-sulfur diesel requirements will result in serious fuel shortages when the rule takes effect in 2006. In a legal document filed with a federal appeals court, the National Petrochemical Refiners Association (NPRA) lays out for the first time the industry's challenge to the rule, refuting EPA claims that the new standards will not impact diesel supplies. NPRA tells the U.S.

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SACRAMENTO, California -- Federal lawmakers came this week to examine in part the impact of environmental requirements on the state's power crisis. At the first of a three-hearing tour through the state, lawmakers heard from agricultural business representatives who argued that potential blackouts threatened the economic viability of many farms.

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April 10, 2001

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EPA has decided to grant state and local governments broad flexibility in determining how wastewater treatment plants meet federal standards before discharging, including allowing the use of controversial treatment methods opposed by most environmentalists. The decision is good news to municipal sources who have long argued for greater flexibility to deal with wet weather treatment issues, such as overflows from heavy rainfalls.

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BOISE, Idaho -- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Western energy regulators meeting April 10 struggled to find a near-term solution to skyrocketing energy prices in the West, with observers saying they sense a move toward some form of short-term price restrictions for electricity and natural gas.

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President Bush's selection of Jeffrey Holmstead to head EPA's air office is being viewed by industry groups as a reassuring signal, while environmentalists are expressing concern that the nomination may foreshadow an anti-regulatory bent by the agency's air program.

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Koch Petroleum Group and the federal government have reached a major agreement resolving criminal allegations against the company for alleged clean air violations at its oil refinery in Corpus Christi, TX.

The agreement concludes a high-profile criminal prosecution by federal and state officials against the company. Koch pleaded guilty to covering up Clean Air Act violations that occurred in 1995 at its refinery. Specifically, the company was accused of failing to control emissions of benzene, a toxic air pollutant, from its waste stream.

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A bipartisan group of House lawmakers plans to restart a campaign for so-called "second generation" legislation that would authorize EPA and states to implement innovative alternatives to environmental regulations. Similar bills have failed in previous sessions of Congress, but Capitol Hill sources say another bill will be introduced this year after lawmakers gauge whether the Bush administration endorses such a non-regulatory approach to environmental standards.

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EPA and Justice Department officials are considering tightening a Clinton administration draft plan to limit public access to chemical industry data about the potential dangers from accidental releases, sources say.

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While saying it is aggressively developing more fuel-efficient sport utility vehicles (SUVs), General Motors (GM) is also pushing wider commercial availability of a Hummer SUV that is so heavy, federal fuel economy standards do not apply to it. Company officials say the vehicle will get about 14 miles per gallon (mpg) without specifying city and highway mileage.

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April 09, 2001

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EPA is expected by the end of the week to detail its legal authority to establish controversial water quality standards. The argument will be laid out in a lawsuit by county officials in the state of Washington who claim that EPA has exceeded its statutory authority by imposing a total maximum daily load (TMDL) water standard on local officials.

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"font-size: 14pt;" COLOR="#000000" FACE="Times New Roman">PG&E Bankruptcy May Fuel Opposition To Price Caps

The decision last week by Pacific Gas & Electric to file for bankruptcy is being jumped on by key Republicans in Washington in opposing efforts by Democrats to impose price controls on wholesale power in California. The announcement also has raised doubts about Gov. Gray Davis' (D) ability to manage the California power crisis, according to informed sources in Sacramento and in Washington.

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Concerns over environmental requirements has led California lawmakers to stall one of the most substantive bills proposed during the state's emergency energy legislative session. The lawmakers are concerned that the environmental provisions will restrict power when the state needs it most, and that out-of-state power generators will gain considerable advantage in the market because of the environmental protection requirements.

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Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham told Inside EPA that the Bush administration plans to weaken the fuel efficiency goals of a government-industry program to develop a new generation of passenger vehicles. The administration plans to restructure the program to include sport utility vehicles, and the stated fuel efficiency goal of 80 miles per gallon (mpg) will have to be lowered, according to Abraham.

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EPA has proposed stripping its enforcement office of $25 million for use in state grants without yet having in place guidelines on how the money should be spent. EPA sources say the agency will soon begin negotiating with states wishing to receive the new grants on eligibility requirements and spending constraints.

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