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Daily News

July 25, 2001

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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Brazilian officials have assured the California Energy Commission (CEC) that they could supply the state with 200 million gallons of ethanol per year beginning as soon as within a few months. The claim is good news for California officials who have been scrambling to figure how they will meet federal reformulated gasoline requirements after the Bush administration rejected the state's request to be exempt from a two percent oxygenate requirement.

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Indicating an emerging Democratic legislative strategy, leading senators are drafting legislation that would attempt to more closely link environmental policies and public health protections, with a particular emphasis on risks to children.

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Senate Democrats on the environment committee have shuffled the jurisdictions of the panel's subcommittees by handing oversight of nuclear power to one of the industry's most vocal critics, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), after Republicans unsuccessfully argued that the issue should remain with the clean air subcommittee on the grounds that nuclear energy is an important tool for reducing greenhouse gases.

The shuffle is also a blow to the Bush adminisration, which has made the same arguments about the zero-emission benefits of nuclear power plants.

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July 24, 2001

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Environmentalists are raising cost concerns about energy legislation intended to enact key elements of the Bush administration's energy strategy, arguing that the legislation offers huge subsidies for well established industries such as nuclear power and oil companies. The cost concerns are an opening shot in what is expected to be an intense battle over the legislation, which is expected to reach the House floor next week.

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Two key House committee are headed for a showdown this week over setting emission reduction goals for increased spending on the development of so-called "clean coal" technologies, which is key element of President Bush's energy strategy. The dispute stems from efforts to combine a number of separate energy bills approved last week by various committees in anticipation of GOP plans to bring comprehensive energy legislation to the House floor next week.

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EPA's Inspector General (IG) has launched an investigation into the causes of delays in issuing comprehensive operating permits under the Clean Air Act, with the findings expected to feed into longstanding agency efforts to eliminate its backlog of permit applications.

The investigation, which could produce results by the end of this year, according to a source with the IG's office, is the latest review of difficulties regulators have confronted for years in fully implementing a core requirement of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments.

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The chairman of the Senate energy committee is pointing to a recent Department of Energy report as a possible roadmap for promoting energy-efficiency technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The chairman, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), referred to the report in his opening statement at a July 24 hearing on global warming, where the lawmaker lambasted the Bush administration for its abandonment of the Kyoto climate change treaty.

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A federal appeals court handed environmentalists a major victory by throwing out an EPA emissions standard on incinerators, which some observers say undercuts the agency's entire process for establishing air toxic controls. While the ruling would leave the affected incinerators without any air toxic controls, the court left open the door to put off implementation of the decision so that EPA and environmentalists can come up with an alternative standard.

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The senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee is considering several options to tie the costs of upcoming energy legislation backed by GOP leaders to the president's recently passed tax cut. Critics of the legislation, which offers large tax incentives for major energy companies, say it would throw the government back into deficit spending and erode Medicare and Social Security surpluses.

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July 23, 2001

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The Superfund program is running out of money, but administration and congressional sources do not expect a renewal of the industry tax that supports the trust fund as long as President Bush is in office. Warnings about the critical status of the program have been heightened over the past several weeks with the release of a congressionally-mandated study, which concluded that there are insufficient funds in the Superfund trust fund to cover the program's costs over the next 10 years.

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Industry lobbyists are mounting a major campaign to jump start congressional efforts for wholesale reforms of EPA's regulatory process, which includes a greater emphasis on market-based incentives.

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National public policy experts are calling on EPA and states to place a renewed emphasis on reforming their enforcement data collection and management systems to promote more accurate assessments on the effectiveness of their enforcement efforts.

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Frustrated with failed government attempts at streamlining the environmental review process of transportation projects, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is considering drafting legislation that may set firm deadlines for the review and approval of construction plans.

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July 20, 2001

Several EPA program offices reportedly are at odds over the scope of a scientific review on the agency's lead emissions reporting rule, which may push a long-awaited analysis of the regulation by the agency's science advisors. Sources say EPA officials are debating whether to conduct a full-scale review of the process for identifying a substance as a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) pollutant, or conduct a narrower review of just the lead rule.

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The Senate confirmed President Bush's selection of Harvard Professor John Graham to head the White House's regulatory review office, after a three-hour long debate that focused on the government's appropriate use of cost-benefit analyses in setting environmental and public health standards.

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Environmentalists are pointing to a written statement by EPA warning a Florida doctor against consuming a genetically engineered corn, arguing the letter indicates that the government should not approve the corn for human consumption. EPA has been pressed by the corn's manufacturer, Aventis, to approve a safe consumption level after the corn was found to have accidentally made its way into various consumer food products.

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Congressional investigators are blasting a Bush administration plan to establish a $25 million state environmental enforcement grants program, arguing that EPA lacks sufficient data on how the money should be spent to ensure that alleged violators are challenged.

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The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is scrambling to complete cost estimates on four energy bills approved earlier this week by various committees. Finding a way to pay for the legislation, which is expected to be at least in the tens of billions of dollars for the full package of bills, is expected to be critical for Republican leaders in pushing it through the House.

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