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Daily News

October 15, 2001

Anti-nuclear activists have developed recommendations for broad policy changes at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to address heightened security concerns at the nation's nuclear power plants, which includes providing nearby residents with potassium iodide to protect against accidental radiation releases. The recommendations were developed in response to NRC efforts to review its security regulations in light last month's terrorist attacks.

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A federal district court has stopped nearly all cleanup activities at what could be one of the nation's largest Superfund sites, essentially agreeing with industry lawyers that EPA plans to expand the remediation effort could violate an earlier legal settlement.

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Environmentalists in West Virginia have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court decision in a mining case that the activists fear could limit their ability to bring citizen suits under several environmental laws.

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October 12, 2001

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Environmentalists are challenging the scope of EPA scientific reviews on the allergy-causing properties of several strains of genetically engineered corn that are expected to be reapproved by EPA next week, and say they are going to conduct their own reviews to provide more information on the corn. Several groups argue that the scientific studies performed by the crops' manufacturers are insufficient to prove that they will not trigger allergic reactions.

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After two months in existence, the state's power authority is slowing its hectic pace in order to build a stronger and more accountable decision-making process that will include advisory panels and working groups. The effort aims to ensure the authority does not rush decisions that could lead to long-term problems, including the overuse of natural gas-fired peaker power plants that may produce excess emissions.

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Oil and gas industry officials are pushing for broader exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to limit public access to safety data about pipelines, and urging the creation of a pipeline security office within the newly formed Office of Homeland Security.

The proposal has been presented to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) as part of his efforts to draft an energy infrastructure security bill that could be taken up by the full Senate within the next few weeks.

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EPA officials are preparing to release a new guidance granting states greater leeway in listing polluted water bodies, signaling the agency's intention to codify this flexibility in a controversial new impaired waters regulation due out next year, state and industry sources say.

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Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD) has come up with a plan that is an apparent attempt to resolve the political standoff over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Democratic leader has offered Republicans the opportunity to vote Monday (Oct. 15) on drilling in ANWR, while Daschle is proposing an alternative approach that includes the construction of a natural gas pipeline that he claims would boost U.S. energy supplies much sooner.

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A highly-publicized victory for environmentalists this summer appears to have been short lived, after congressional negotiators recently agreed to drop a requirement that President Bush implement a Clinton administration standard on mining operations.

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October 11, 2001

Nuclear power officials are urging Congress to clarify the roles of government and private industry in the war on terrorism, demonstrating the nuclear energy industry's fear that it will be solely responsible for strengthening the security of the nation's nuclear power plants against retaliatory attacks.

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In the wake of last month's attacks, EPA officials are considering providing New York City a waiver from federal Clean Air Act rules that require future road projects do not jeopardize air quality goals. Sources note that a key office charged with monitoring transportation projects was destroyed by the attack and that serious disruptions to the city's traffic patterns and public transportation system have made existing plans almost meaningless.

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Concern over the threat of bioterrorism could strengthen a push in the Senate to establish a new federal agency responsible for food safety, possibly taking away EPA's authority to set maximum levels for pesticides.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation on Oct. 4 that would set up a new agency known as the Food Safety Administration. The new office is meant to unify in a single entity the food safety functions that are currently spread across more than a dozen federal agencies.

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The threat of opening up the Arctic to oil and gas drilling has increasingly become a thorn in the side of Senate Democratic leaders, having enabled Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) to effectively kill legislation to provide economic relief to laid-off airline workers that was supported by Majority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD).

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Legislation is making its way through the House and the Senate that would establish new restrictions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to limit public access to information in the interest of national security.

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October 10, 2001

Senate Democratic leaders have announced that they will bring comprehensive energy legislation rapidly to a floor vote, avoiding a potentially divisive markup of the legislation at the committee level. The move is an apparent response to pressures from Republicans and energy industry officials who have been calling for quick action on a national energy policy following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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The Bush administration's pick to head the State Department's environmental office has been remarkably uncontroversial given the fact that property rights advocates and conservatives essentially killed the nominee's chances of being named deputy secretary of Interior during the initial months of the Bush presidency.

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Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham is encouraging American consumers to purchase fuel-efficient, low-emission vehicles as a way to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil. The push puts the administration in the awkward position of calling for greater fuel efficiency after rebuffing calls by environmentalists over the past several months to tighten national fuel economy standards.

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Senate Republicans have renewed a threat to attach energy provisions, that would include such controversial language as drilling in Alaska, to must-pass legislation this year, arguing that boosting energy supplies are an important national security concern.

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