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Daily News

June 01, 2001

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Changes to a Texas air quality law have allowed state air regulators to reach a legal settlement with Houston industries on achieving federal emission-reduction requirements in one of the nation's smoggiest cities. But environmentalists expect to take the state back to court, arguing that the plan is not stringent enough.

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May 31, 2001

Two new studies questioning the ability of trees and plants to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could significantly undermine the Bush administration's upcoming proposals for dealing with climate change, which will likely rely heavily on the use of so-called carbon sinks, sources on both sides of the global climate change debate say.

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An effort by Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) to pass legislation phasing out the controversial fuel additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) is facing new uncertainties as the Senate prepares to shift over to Democratic control, sources say. While the bill has attracted the endorsement of the Senate's number two Democrat, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the anticipated chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee, Sen.

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Senate negotiations on a transfer of power to the Democrats appear headed for a showdown over the makeup of committees, which includes reorganizing the Environment and Public Works Committee. GOP sources anticipate somewhat lengthy negotiations that will include efforts to retain an even split on certain committees, while Democratic staffers argue that they have a clear majority which entitles them to an extra seat on each committee.

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New York state legislators are expected in the next few weeks to approve a bill that would establish the nation's first water discharge standards for mercury. But the effort has prompted wastewater treatment officials to mount an intense lobbying effort to kill the bill, fearing that it would set a nationwide precedent.

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Two key senators are calling on EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to resist pressure from the utility industry to delay the implementation of smog and haze controls.

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White House budget officials have proposed a broad new scheme to limit the impact of agencies' regulatory decisions on energy supply and production by setting stringent triggers for requiring agencies to analyze -- and "minimize" -- the energy impact of those regulatory decisions, according to a draft White House memorandum obtained by Inside EPA.

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May 30, 2001

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The chairman of a key House environment subcommittee, Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-OH), plans to hold hearings and move legislation to prevent the import of municipal solid waste from foreign countries, congressional sources say.

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The anticipated agenda of Sen. Jim Jeffords, who is expected to be the next chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, will pose a direct challenge to the Bush administration on energy and environmental issues. Based on the senator's recent legislative record, Jeffords is likely to push a boost to energy efficiency programs and first-time controls on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, which are both opposed by President Bush.

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Recent reports that a Texas energy executive pressed a key federal energy regulator to support certain policy initiatives have re-ignited allegations by environmentalists and other public health advocates about the undue influence of energy companies within the Bush administration.

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Environmentalists are planning to take legal action against an EPA decision that no new requirements are needed to protect groundwater from wastes injected underground. The environmentalists claim that EPA's own findings show that contamination can occur from the injection wells, and that federal health scientists recently said an increase in waterborne diseases can be traced to underground contaminants.

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EPA's Office for Policy, Economics & Innovations (OEPI) is taking a leading role on high-profile agency initiatives to boost non-regulatory compliance by industry and implementation of President Bush's energy strategy. Sources say the more visible role of the policy is a dramatic shift from the low-profile position it played under the Clinton administration.

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As the debate intensifies over crafting a national energy strategy, prominent conservatives have announced the formation of a new group intended to push for President Bush's proposals to boost supplies of fossil fuels and nuclear power. In announcing the group, members took a hard line against Democrats, who they accused of pandering to the interests of environmental groups.

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May 29, 2001

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EPA waste officials warn that if the Bush administration proceeds with its anticipated rollback of a Clinton-era mining rule, the agency could see a dramatic increase in mining-related Superfund sites. Such a development would be contrary to the expectations of Republican lawmakers and industry lobbyists who are planning for a downturn in the level of Superfund cleanup activities.

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Environmentalists are threatening to sue the Department of Energy, claiming that alleged secrecy surrounding the department's review of its radioactive waste cleanup program is in violation of federal law. The activists are also concerned about an internal memo, which they say shows DOE's own cleanup contractors are improperly influencing the process by conducting parts of the review themselves.

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EPA officials have announced guidelines for the cleanup of contaminated sediments that in part are intended to avoid the public relations fiasco experienced over the proposed restoration of the Hudson River in New York by pledging to work more closely with local residents on specific cleanup decisions.

The Hudson River cleanup plan has attracted national headlines and has sparked strong criticism of EPA by key lawmakers because of outcry by some local residents that the agency's proposal will spread PCB contamination throughout the state.

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Air regulators in central California are expected to ask EPA for an extension to smog reduction requirements to allow time for federal and state controls on diesel emissions, and other mobile source pollutants, to kick in. Sources say the request highlights the critical role that mobile source controls will play for a number of smog-ridden areas in achieving ozone reduction goals.

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Labor organizers are meeting next week to determine whether they should support President Bush's proposed energy strategy or a Democratic alternative. The position of labor leaders on energy issues could be critical to Democrats in keeping together a powerful coalition of labor activists and environmentalists.

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EPA's Inspector General (IG) has decided to investigate the legality of emissions trading programs for nitrous oxide (NOx) developed by several states and endorsed by EPA. The move could be a major blow for EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman who is a strong supporter of emission trading and was a key architect of one of the programs under investigation.

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