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Daily News

May 29, 2001

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman announced that the agency will proceed with a long-anticipated proposed rule that guides state efforts to control haze problems near wilderness areas.

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May 25, 2001

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A shift in Senate control to the Democrats will put Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in a key position over nuclear waste issues, giving him greater authority to undercut Department of Energy efforts to construct a nuclear waste repository in his home state of Nevada. Nuclear power advocates have argued that construction of the site is critical to the continued viability of the industry.

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In an apparent attempt to recast the debate over California's request for a waiver from EPA's clean-fuels requirement, Gov. Gray Davis is arguing that granting the waiver would help bring down gasoline prices.

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Underground storage tank owners and operators have launched a campaign to head off the possibility of stricter EPA rules intended to prevent leaks, while pushing legislation on Capitol Hill that instead would boost cleanup efforts.

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The Senate has approved by unanimous consent Linda Fisher to be Deputy Administrator of EPA. Fisher is only the second Bush administration appointee to EPA to be confirmed by the Senate, following Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

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May 24, 2001

A leader in the nuclear power industry is downplaying the impact that a shift in Senate leadership will have on the industry's efforts to push legislation to bring 50,000 megawatts of nuclear generation online by 2020, a move that is vehemently opposed by environmentalists.

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PORTLAND -- Senior EPA waste officials are making the case that the Superfund program may have to be expanded because of the need to clean up large, complex contaminated sites, such as mining sites, as well as dealing with new categories of polluted sites, containing asbestos and pesticides, that may have to be added to the program.

These arguments may contradict the findings of an independent study expected to be released next month that lawmakers expect will back industry and Republican plans to ramp down the program.

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A federal judge is encouraging a conservative think tank to file contempt of court charges against a host of high-level former EPA officials, including former Administrator Carol Browner, for allegedly violating a January court order barring the agency from destroying files or deleting computer hard drives. The dispute stems from litigation filed by conservatives claiming that the Clinton administration provided environmentalists with undue influence in racing through regulations during its final months in office, which critics have labeled as "midnight" rules.

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Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont cited energy and environment concerns as among the reasons for his decision to leave the Republican Party, a move that shifts control to the Democrats. The senator's statement is likely a reference to major differences between Jeffords and the GOP and the White House in the upcoming debate on a national energy strategy, which will include legislation to impose air emission controls on power plants. Transcript of Jeffords' Statement

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The chairman of a House subcommittee responsible for writing emergency energy legislation told Inside EPA that provisions in the bill to ease environmental controls on power plants are not open to negotiations with Democrats.

The chairman made the remarks as he was going into talks with Democrats after the House Energy and Commerce Committee postponed markup on the bill. Some Democrats on the committee have opposed the provisions, and are threatening to offer an amendment that would strip them out of the bill.

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Environmental groups are blasting an anticipated plan by California Gov. Gray Davis to pay businesses to fire up backup diesel generators in emergency power alerts this summer to avoid blackouts. According to the groups, Davis is expected to issue an executive order to pay companies 35 cents per kilowatt hour to ease demand on the state's power grid by running backup diesel generators during "stage three alerts."

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A broad coalition of groups representing states and environmentalists filed a lawsuit against EPA claiming that its rule to reduce air toxics from cars and trucks falls short of the agency's responsibilities under the Clean Air Act. The standard was approved by the Clinton administration, but the lawsuit may set the schedule for mobile source air toxic controls by the Bush EPA. The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S.

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Sources say Senate Republican leaders are racing to try and bring to a floor vote before a change in power takes place two controversial nominations opposed by environmentalists.

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EPA enforcement officials have decided that they will not take action against herbicide and pesticide users despite a recent federal appeals court ruling that requires the sprayers to obtain Clean Water Act discharge permits.

The timing of the decision is critical as sprayers prepare for pest control and crop irrigation steps for this summer. But the move falls short of protecting chemical users from third party lawsuits, which has been an issue that EPA has been grappling with for weeks, sources say.

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May 23, 2001

EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has identified five proposed themes for revamping the agency's basic regulatory development process, including placing a greater emphasis on small business concerns and setting a new regulatory prioritization regime, sources say.

These sources say Whitman has asked the agency's acting assistant administrators to submit specific project ideas to help implement these themes into agency rulemakings.

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Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit told the nuclear industry that it must lobby the Bush administration to accept carbon dioxide controls as a way for the industry to gain some level of acceptance from environmentalists on expanded use of nuclear power.

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A senior Senate Republican has introduced a bill aimed at speeding the licensing and construction of nuclear power plants by building privately-owned reactors on Department of Energy property. The measure is intended to avoid protracted battles with local communities and environmentalists about the siting of new nuclear plants by constructing them in areas are already used to the presence of a nuclear facility.

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Because of the number of high-level vacancies at EPA, the agency is falling behind on an array of agency initiatives, including implementing reforms outlined by the Bush transition team and promulgating non-controversial rules and guidances, sources say.

In fact, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told Inside EPA last week that she is running the agency with "one hand tied behind [her] back."

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The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee has approved White House nominees for several key environmental posts, but failed to act on President Bush's selection of Jeffrey Holmstead to head EPA's air office. Hohmstead's nomination has sparked demands by Democrats for documents pertaining to work Holmstead did as White House counsel during the former Bush administration. Sources say the request has gone unanswered by the White House.

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