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Daily News

October 29, 2001

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson says the success of his department to expedite the decision-making process for smallpox vaccine delivery is a model for the quick review and approval of biotech products in the future.

Thompson promised the CEOs of various biotechnology companies that he will cut regulatory red tape, but at the same time urged the biotech industry to be active in coming up with new products to address bioterrorism.

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EPA's waste chief Marianne Lamont Horinko is preparing to create a new position within the Office of Solid Waste & Emergency Response (OSWER) to coordinate the agency's various cleanup efforts to redevelop contaminated properties, according to industry and agency sources.

Sources say that EPA Superfund chief Steve Luftig will likely become the first redevelopment "czar", though Luftig has said that no final decision has been made.

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EPA is squaring off with the Department of Energy (DOE) over a proposed energy efficiency standard for air conditioners, with the agency favoring the implementation of a rule issued by the Clinton administration instead of a new, less stringent standard that DOE recently proposed. The agency's recent comments mark the latest round in an ongoing battle over energy efficiency standards that has attracted the attention of Congress and is the focus of a court challenge by environmentalists and state government officials.

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President Bush will nominate Linda Morrison Combs, a veteran of the Reagan and previous Bush administrations, to be the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at EPA.

Under former president Bush, Combs served as Assistant Secretary for Management and CFO at the Department of the Treasury. During the Reagan administration, Combs was the Associate Administrator for Management at the Department of Veterans Affairs from 1987-1989. She also worked at the Department of Education from 1982-1986.

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Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) will this week introduce a Farm Bill that will likely lift a cap -- that Harkin helped create -- on the size of animal feeding operations that are eligible to receive federal funding to meet current and upcoming Clean Water Act and state environmental regulations, informed sources say. Harkin's move will likely help large-scale agricultural operations fund compliance with a series of new EPA regulations.

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October 26, 2001

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Health experts are criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the anthrax scare, arguing that administration officials have added to public mistrust and confusion by failing to follow generally accepted principles of public risk communications.

"There is a lot of blame to go around. Federal spokesmen have basically broken every rule in the book," according to a leading health risk expert at a major university.

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As part of the Senate's economic stimulus package, Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) will likely propose attaching an additional $20 billion in infrastructure spending to one of the 13 fiscal year 2002 appropriations bills, including new money for water infrastructure projects, according to a source in the Senate Finance Committee.

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EPA and utility industry officials appear unlikely to reach a major agreement on revising the agency's Clean Air Act new source review program, with both sides so far apart that sources say the industry is likely to be forced to offer a revised compromise plan. A major sticking point in the negotiations is the extent to which investments in power plants should be exempt from permit review requirements.

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Environmentalists are preparing to sue the Interior Department (DOI) over Secretary Gale Norton's decision to roll back portions of a hardrock mining regulation developed by the Clinton administration. The mining industry has attacked the Clinton rule as overly broad and providing the federal government the authority to essentially block any mining project based on environmental concerns.

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Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) is strongly considering pushing for passage of a comprehensive energy bill approved earlier this year by the House, instead of introducing a scaled-back version of his own energy security legislation, informed sources say. Murkowski has been engaged in a high-stakes political standoff with Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD) over bringing energy legislation to the Senate floor this year.

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October 25, 2001

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A number of core EPA environmental programs are facing budget cuts in fiscal year 2003 as a result of Bush administration efforts to find funds to pay for a host of new measures aimed at beefing up infrastructure security and emergency response efforts in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

However, which programs are currently facing cuts is unclear, although EPA officials and some industry sources say a number of water and waste programs could be affected.

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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is pressing her colleagues to adopt a House-passed plan that essentially would force President Bush to implement an arsenic-in-drinking-water ruled developed by the Clinton administration. Boxer's position on the controversial water standard is significant because she was the author of a proposal adopted by the Senate that fell far short of forcing implementation of the Clinton rule.

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Environmentalists are calling for a Senate investigation into allegations that Interior Secretary Gale Norton misled Congress in testimony that differed from findings by the Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) about the effects of proposed in drilling in the Arctic in her testimony to lawmakers.

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Key members on the House Resources and Armed Services committees are pressing the Pentagon to employ national security exemptions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to avoid environmental requirements from interfering with military training.

The lawmakers, in a recent letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, ask DOD for a clarification of its policy regarding possible use of the exemptions.

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New York's top environment official has warned EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman that the state will withhold its support for the agency's landmark cleanup plan for the Hudson River if EPA adopts a proposal supported by General Electric to include "performance standards" in the final decision document.

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Leading Republican senators expect to introduce a scaled-back version of a House-passed energy bill by Oct. 29, arguing that the legislation is intended to force quick action on an issue that is critical to national security. The bill would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and is expected to draw a filibuster by key Democratic senators.

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Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Jeffords (I-VT) is expecting to receive by Oct. 31 a long-awaited EPA report on the economic impact of a four-pollutant clean air bill. Sources say the report is expected to indicate some economic benefits from controlling the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2), despite earlier assertions by President Bush that establishing CO2 controls would harm businesses.

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October 24, 2001

Environmentalists are promising to sue EPA if the agency approves as planned a Texas clean air operating permit program -- known as Title V -- saying the proposed state program is deficient and offers a legal test case for 98 other interim state Title V permit programs nationwide that EPA is required to approve by Dec. 1.

In related developments, environmentalists are threatening to file separate lawsuits on any agency approvals of state programs that they say fail to adequately respond to citizen comments.

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Citing new national security concerns, the electric utility industry is renewing its push to impose limits on public access to electricity data, telling White House officials that a scaled-back regulation by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on utility emissions and other data would still make too much information available.

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