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Daily News

June 27, 2001

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EPA officials are hoping to broaden the agency's use of a groundbreaking hazardous waste risk assessment methodology to identify all possible sources of a contaminant, a move that could lead to stricter controls on air and water emissions, as well as hazardous waste controls, industry and agency sources say.

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Seeing their best opportunity in decades, the nuclear power industry is pressing the Senate energy committee to offer permanent renewal of a federal law that provides liability coverage for power plant accidents.

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Clearly feeling the weight of public opinion, congressional Republicans are reportedly pressing the auto industry to accept raising the fuel economy standards of light trucks, which include sport utility vehicles, to close the gap in requirements between the popular selling trucks and smaller passenger vehicles.

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Sen. Richard Durbin (D- IL) has lifted a "hold" on a Bush administration pick for a key regulatory review post that the senator opposed because of nominee's vocal anti-regulatory views and his ties to industry as an academic researcher. Staff for Durbin say the two-week hold was dropped after the White House's Office of Management & Budget (OMB) issued an assurance that the agency's current policies on the transparency of its regulatory review process would not change.

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June 26, 2001

The auto industry wants the government to provide consumer tax credits if lawmakers make good on suggestions of a possible hike in fuel economy standards. While the industry adamantly opposes any adjustment to the standard, the call for purchase incentives indicates an acknowledgement of an increasing interest by lawmakers to hike the decades-old requirement to address the nation's energy needs.

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Environmentalists are pleased by a recent request by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for additional information from an energy consortium that has applied for a license to convert weapons-grade plutonium into a fuel for commercial nuclear reactors at what would be a first-of-its-kind facility in the United States.

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Anti-nuclear activists are almost certain to file a lawsuit challenging the Department of Energy's (DOE) environmental impact assessment on the construction of a national nuclear waste repository in Nevada. The potential litigants claim DOE has short-changed public input on the massive environmental assessment by failing to provide adequate time to review and comment on the document.

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In an apparent attempt to resolve long-standing allegations that EPA's reformulated gasoline requirements contribute to fuel shortages, the agency has sent out a series of questions to the petroleum industry seeking input on ways to increase flexibility in the clean-fuel standards. The questions were developed in response to President Bush's energy strategy, which directed EPA to study the environmental benefits of using oxygenates in gasoline.

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House Democrats revived arguments about arsenic in drinking water to successfully block Bush administration efforts to revoke a Clinton-backed regulation on hardrock mining. The argument demonstrates the continued political mileage of an issue that has presented the Bush administration with one of its greatest environmental challenges to date.

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June 25, 2001

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House Democrats are planning to employ an unusual legislative device this week to force a floor vote on stiffer energy price caps for the West, arguing that controls recently imposed by federal regulators would encourage use of the dirtiest and least efficient power plants.

The move indicates the high-stakes political issue that energy prices have become, with Democratic sources arguing that Republican leaders will eventual have to concede as public pressures mount throughout the high energy-consumption months of summer.

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California is considering legislation on indoor mold concentrations that could set the nation's first mandatory standards for an indoor air contaminant. Sources say the legislation could serve as a model for other states to begin regulating indoor air contaminants such as molds, fungi and toxins.

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EPA's Superfund and water offices are beginning to work together on addressing contaminated sediments, which contribute to the pollution of lakes, streams and rivers, by developing controversial water discharge limits, referred to as total maximum daily loads (TMDLs).

The effort, which water office officials first suggested during the Clinton administration, would aid states in developing TMDLs that they say have been particularly difficult to establish at sediment sites because of the uncertainty surrounding how to coordinate water quality and Superfund requirements.

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Two Senate Republicans are calling on EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to launch an Inspector General investigation into "procedural errors and mismanagement" by the agency of its highly-publicized enforcement of clean air permitting requirements, known as the new source review (NSR) program.

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The city of San Francisco and environmental groups have filed lawsuits that represent the first legal challenge to California's relaxation of air pollution rules for "peaking" power plants that was intended to boost electricity supplies in the state. The lawsuits may undercut implementation of two executive orders issued earlier this year by Gov. Gray Davis (D) that allow districts to relax their pollution rules related to power generation.

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Congressional investigators have threatened the possibility of legal action against the office of Vice President Cheney over the White House's energy task force. The threat stems from a standoff between Cheney's office and the General Accounting Office (GAO), which has requested information about the task force amid allegations of undue influence by energy companies regarding development of President Bush's highly-touted energy strategy.

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June 22, 2001

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General Motors officials told Vice President Cheney that raising fuel economy standards by as little as three miles-per-gallon would force the auto maker to halt production of some its hottest selling sport utility vehicles (SUVs), trucks and vans, totaling 1 million vehicles each year.

The claim was made as an apparent warning to the Bush administration, which is awaiting a national study on fuel efficiency standards before making a decision on possibly raising the standards, about the economic fallout of even a minor adjustment to the requirements.

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EPA's deputy administrator announced that the agency will accelerate its work on a study on clean-fuel requirements in an attempt to influence congressional efforts to reduce the number of so-called "boutique" fuels used in smog-ridden areas. The report was called for by President Bush's energy strategy to examine the feasibility of streamlining fuel standards that refiners say are in part responsible for driving up gasoline prices.

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The Republican-led House has handed President Bush a major defeat on key elements of his energy agenda. Lawmakers have adopted provisions as part of an Interior Department appropriations bill that would ban offshore drilling along much of Florida's coastline, prohibit department spending on a possible rollback of hardrock mining standards, and block fossil-fuel extraction in wilderness areas that have been designated as national monuments.

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EPA is expected to step in and resolve a brewing controversy over air quality standards established by Los Angeles regulators that conflict with an executive order by Gov. Gray Davis (D) intended to ease the state's power crisis by promoting the construction of new power plants.

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