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Daily News

July 30, 2001


A federal appeals court has rejected a utility industry lawsuit against EPA arguing that claims that the agency exceeded its authority in concluding that mercury emissions should be regulated were not ripe for judicial review. The ruling caps a years-long dispute between utilities and EPA about the need to set first-time controls on releases of mercury, which is suspected of causing cancer and serious health problems in pregnant women.

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A coalition of energy conservation advocates has sued California regulators over a fast-track approved environmental permit for Duke Energy to expand a power plant in Monterey. The litigation is the second to be filed challenging the state's efforts to speed up the construction of power plants to address energy shortages.

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In a victory for moderate Republicans in the House, GOP lawmakers have agreed to include air quality standards in provisions for boosting federal spending on so-called "clean coal" technologies as part of comprehensive energy legislation expected to be voted on this week. The legislation is intended to enact key elements of President Bush's national energy strategy, which emphasizes the benefits of clean coal technology but does not offer specific emission reduction goals.

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A leading Democrat in the House is drafting legislation that would essentially overturn a negotiated agreement between EPA and the wood treatment industry on the use and handling of products containing pesticides that include arsenic.

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July 27, 2001


Environmentalists expect EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to call for a scaled-backed dredging plan to remove tons of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from New York's Hudson River. The announcement, which is expected to be made as early as today (July 27), would cap a decades-long battle over restoring huge contaminated portions of the river, which could turn out to be the nation's largest Superfund cleanup.

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The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is expected to endorse switching to a weight-based system for regulating the fuel economy of passenger vehicles, a recommendation that is likely to provoke the ire of environmentalists who support an across-the-board hike in the current corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards.

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The Republican-controlled House has handed President Bush a major defeat by approving legislation that would prohibit the administration from adopting an arsenic in drinking water standards that is less stringent than a Clinton-backed rule. The move is the latest development in a controversy that has dogged President Bush since his first few weeks in office when the administration suspended for further review a Clinton-developed standard to reduce arsenic in drinking water.

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Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) has reached an agreement with the Bush administration over allegations of industry influence in the administration's review and possible rollback of Clinton-era regulations, including the arsenic in drinking water standard. The senator has agreed not to follow through on his threat to subpoena documents in exchange for the White House allowing his staff from his Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to personally review records on the administration's regulatory review.

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The Bush administration has announced its intention to nominate Kimberly Nelson, a key information official with the state of Pennsylvania, to head EPA's Office of Environmental Information.

The announcement ends a months-long search by Bush administration officials to find a state official for the key slot as the agency comes under increasing pressure to reform its data management. Several former and current state officials rejected early offers from the Bush administration to fill the post, sources say.

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A recent bipartisan compromise is likely to improve the prospects of House legislation to tighten fuel economy standards. Legislators from both sides of the aisle want to amend a pending energy bill to raise corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for light-duty trucks and sport utility vehicles, making the requirement for these vehicles the same as the 27.5 miles-per-gallon (mpg) standard for passenger cars.

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o Floor

House Republican leaders have introduced an omnibus energy bill, H.R. 4, composed of four energy bills recently passed by the Energy and Commerce, Science, Resources and Ways and Means committees. The bill will now proceed rapidly through a series of legislative steps before floor debate to take place at the end of an unusually busy week.

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July 26, 2001


At the request of EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, EPA staff are developing a new package of proposals for a voluntary pollution reduction initiative (VPRI) to be unveiled as part of the agency's fiscal year 2003 budget request. The initiative is being modeled after a pollution reduction program developed by former EPA Administrator William Reilly, according to a preliminary staff proposal obtained by Inside EPA.

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The House Republican leadership has reportedly agreed to allow at least two major amendments, one on drilling in the Arctic and another on raising fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, when energy legislation is brought to the floor as early as next week.

Environmentalists have pointed to both issues as key in raising objections to President Bush's energy strategy, which they see as relying too heavily on increasing the use and supply of fossil fuels.

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Senate Republicans Larry Craig (ID) and Jon Kyl (AZ) are threatening to hold up EPA's fiscal year 2002 appropriations bill to pressure Democratic leaders to confirm nearly 130 Bush nominees before the August recess. Craig and Kyl's list includes several EPA nominees, including the proposed heads of the agency's air, water, enforcement, general counsel and international activities offices.

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Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (D-CT) is investigating a Department of Justice (DOJ) review of EPA's enforcement actions against the oil refining and utility industries to ensure that the administration stands firm on the government's allegations regarding Clean Air Act violations. The DOJ review was requested by the president to examine the energy implications of the enforcement effort as part of his national strategy to boost energy supplies.

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EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told a Senate panel that a comprehensive bill to address utility emissions would render key Clean Air Act programs unnecessary, sparking what could be a new round of confrontation with environmentalists over proposals to curb power plant pollution.

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EPA is considering modifications to its reformulated gasoline (RFG) rules to ease the oil industry's transition from wintertime to summertime fuel blends, a move intended to address concerns that the rules in place may be contributing to gasoline shortages and high prices.

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July 25, 2001

Possible children's health concerns have stalled an EPA air office plan to remove a chemical solvent from a list of substances that the agency must regulate as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) under the Clean Air Act.

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Federal spending projections by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) due out in late August may complicate efforts by House lawmakers on energy legislation.

Some congressional sources say that opponents to the measure may be put in the awkward position of arguing against the costs of the legislation without the benefit of the latest government estimates on what is generally expected to show a dwindling surplus, while other sources indicate a growing concern among supporters that they will likely have to defend the measure before having the latest numbers on available funds.

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Environmentalists and industry officials agree that EPA is likely to extend its landmark registration for genetically modified corn, cotton and potato plants, but both groups are anxiously waiting to see what conditions the agency may attach to the permits. Environmentalists who are opposed to the approved use of genetically altered crops are already weighing their legal options in challenging the review process, which they say has been rushed and conducted behind closed doors.

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