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Daily News

October 24, 2001

EPA air officials are cautiously moving away from their current, single source-based approach to air toxic controls and toward a new, facility-based approach that would provide industry with flexibility on how facilities comply with EPA's upcoming residual risk requirements. But there appears to be a split within industry on supporting the new approach.

The approach, known as the whole facility approach, would focus decisions on risk limits for whole facilities as opposed to making emitters comply with a series of individual rules on source categories.

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EPA has issued a study on possible changes to clean fuel regulations, including immediate steps the agency intends to take to streamline federal requirements and possible long-term changes to prevent gasoline price spikes and supply disruptions. The study was requested by the president's energy strategy after oil refiners had blamed the agency's reformulated gasoline program for summertime price spikes.

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The nuclear industry could face serious hurdles during the re-licensing process of its aging power plants following the Sept. 11 attacks as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) considers new security requirements and anti-terrorism legislation proposed in Congress could force the commission to significantly overhaul plant design requirements to harden nuclear power plants against attacks.

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October 23, 2001

The top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has announced his intention to run for governor of his home state of Alaska. Sen. Frank Murkowski (R) has been a leading proponent of oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a proposal vehemently opposed by environmentalists.

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EPA has formed a new counter-terrorism workgroup to be headed by Deputy Administrator Linda Fisher that will synchronize the agency's various national security initiatives. The group is expected to hold its first meeting this week.

The EPA workgroup includes representatives from EPA regions, and the air, water, toxics, research, information, enforcement and waste offices. In addition to coordination, the group will consider "activities that we may need to be doing in the future," according to an EPA official.

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EPA is urging the Department of Energy to slow down the review process for two proposed power plants in Mexico to allow the government time to properly assess the air quality implications of the new facilities, despite pressure for the additional power generation to address California's energy crunch.

The EPA request falls short of demands by California air regulators and two members of Congress from the state that DOE block the sale of electricity from the new plants to power companies in California.

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In the wake of anthrax threats that closed down congressional offices and the Capitol, moderate Democrats have proposed an emergency backup plan that would allow lawmakers and staff to continue with legislative business by using the Internet.

A source says the idea is partially in reaction to a White House proposal to give the president authority to appropriate funds and keep the government running in the event that Congress is forced to evacuate.

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Industry and environmental lawyers have joined with EPA in asking a federal appeals court to put off an earlier decision to vacate air toxic controls on hazardous waste incinerators to allow the agency time to develop new standards. Sources say that without court action the incinerators would be left unregulated.

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October 22, 2001

President Bush has nominated J. Paul Gilman to be the next EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development. Gilman would join the administration with extensive Capitol Hill experience. He served as chief of staff for Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and as staff director of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Gilman is currently the director of policy at Celera Genomics Inc., and worked at the National Academy of Sciences from 1993-1998.

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EPA's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) may abandon the agency's controversial guidance for investigating allegations of environmental racism because of a number of unresolved technical and political issues, one key Bush administration official says.

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At Yucca Mountain

The governor of Nevada has intensified his challenge to the Department of Energy's plans to build the nation's only high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

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Renewable energy advocates and former Clinton administration officials have formed a coalition to promote conservation and alternative energy as a patriotic duty in reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The new group, which will focus its efforts on public relations rather than lobbying, is part of a larger effort within the renewable energy community to do a better job of public education, sources say.

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A legal challenge to a Department of Energy proposal that would relax energy efficiency standards for residential air conditioners and heat pumps has gained new momentum as four states have joined a lawsuit originally filed by California, New York and Connecticut. The state attorneys general are suing to force the department to implement standards approved during the waning days of the Clinton administration.

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October 19, 2001


Scientists are raising questions about the effectiveness of injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) deep into the ocean as a way to reduce global warming, a method being touted by the Bush administration as part of its climate change policies. The new findings, released in the latest issue of Science, claim that CO2 sequestration would harm biodiversity and potentially kill off species of deep-sea marine organisms and other marine life.

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In a surprising move, California Gov. Gray Davis (D) has vetoed a bill requiring the state to study the impact of international trade agreements on environmental policies and regulations. The legislation, which supporters say is intended to protect existing environmental regulations from challenges by foreign companies under trade agreement provisions, had been significantly modified from an earlier version in order to address the governor's concerns, sources say, but appeared to still fall short of garnering his support.

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Allegations that Interior Secretary Gale Norton altered scientific conclusions by biologists in her own department in an apparent attempt to justify drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) are likely to dramatically reshape congressional debate over energy security legislation.

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White House officials are reportedly giving serious consideration to nominating Washington, DC, attorney Daniel Addison to be EPA's next assistant administrator of the Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance. Sources say Addison has emerged as a leading contender and that the administration is expected to make a formal announcement of a nomination within the next few weeks.

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A controversial proposal to limit public access to information submitted to the government appears to be picking up steam among industry lobbyists who are pushing members of Congress to roll back portions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The push is in response to heightened concerns about the availability of industry data that could be used by terrorists to target certain plants.

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October 18, 2001

A decision by EPA to approve Houston's plan for controlling ozone air pollution will likely result in the first ever legal challenge of the agency's controversial rule allowing cities to meet air quality goals in part through voluntary controls on cars, buses and other mobile sources of pollution, informed sources say.

The dispute will likely be the first legal test of the Bush administration's commitment to the use of voluntary measures for addressing environmental problems.

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