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Daily News

July 17, 2001

Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT), the new chairman of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, is downplaying the chances of successfully passing a multi-utility-emissions bill, even as he laid out ambitious plans to push measures for capping greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels.

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July 16, 2001

EPA's Office of Water has released draft guidance to provide technical information to state, local and tribal officials on how to best control nonpoint sources of water pollution generated by logging activities. The guidance is intended to give program managers up-to-date technical information on the most cost-effective methods reducing polluted runoff forestry operations.

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EPA is in the final stages of drafting a proposal that could overhaul the agency's water pollution discharge standards, agency sources say. Possible elements of the plan range from reorganizing the agency's engineering and analysis division, which is responsible for developing the standards known as effluent guidelines, to setting new criteria for determining which discharge standards require review and possible revisions.

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A House subcommittee plans to begin moving legislation that would limit the president's unilateral authority to protect large parcels of environmentally-sensitive land by designating them national monuments.

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Utility lobbyists are cautiously supporting a move in the House and Senate to strip from "clean coal" legislation any amendments to the Clean Air Act. The industry is going along with this shift in strategy out of a sense of confidence that the Bush administration will make regulatory changes to the agency's embattled new source review program.

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Citing new findings about industry bias, a leading House Democrat has called on EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to suspend an ongoing cancer-risk assessment of a widely used chemical until the agency implements sweeping reforms. The allegations could have far-reaching policy implications for EPA and the Bush administration, which has been calling for "sound science" as the basis of environmental regulations. In a July 16 letter to Whitman, Rep.

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The administration has fallen short of its stated goal of developing a global warming strategy that relies on voluntary carbon dioxide emission cuts as an alternative to the Kyoto climate change treaty, and instead has outlined a plan that generally calls for more study on the issue. The Bush plan was released just days before international leaders began gathering this week in Germany to negotiate implementation mechanisms for the Kyoto protocol, and to put pressure on the U.S.

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July 13, 2001

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The state of Michigan is facing increased pressure to begin controlling polluted runoff from animal feedlots, with environmentalists expanding a lawsuit against a livestock company to include the state. The dispute has put EPA in the position of considering whether to yank the state's federally delegated authority under the Clean Water Act for refusing to require environmental permits from farms that are discharging manure into local waterways.

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California Energy Commission (CEC) officials say that planned expansion of ethanol production in the Midwest is expected to allow the state to meet its gasoline oxygenate needs beginning in 2003, when its ban on methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) kicks in. The state's ability to meet its oxygenate demands is being closely watched by other states, particularly in the Northeast, that are considering banning MTBE, which has been found to cause widespread groundwater contamination.

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The House energy and air quality subcommittee on July 12 easily approved energy legislation that contains mostly non-controversial items, including an amendment that would result in a slight increase in the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles.

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State environment officials are warning that unless EPA develops a way to ensure that states receive a "fair share" of federal funds each year to implement national requirements, then local officials will be forced to pick and choose which requirements to implement, and which to leave to the federal government.

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A House energy subcommittee handed petroleum marketers a major victory by adopting legislation that would eliminate EPA's current phase-in of a low-sulfur diesel fuel. The legislation would overturn an agreement between refiners and environmentalists brokered by EPA on implementation of the tougher diesel standards.

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House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and energy subcommittee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) are challenging California Gov. Gray Davis (D) to refute his earlier assertion that Clean Air Act changes are not necessary to promote quick construction of power plants to ease the state's energy woes. The chairmen argue that growing legal challenges to proposed power plants in the state substantiate the urgent need for a legislative "safe harbor" from air quality standards.

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The Bush administration's long-promised review of the Energy Department's nuclear cleanup program is set to begin now that the Senate has confirmed the White House's nominee to head up the program. Environmentalists have criticized the review as an attempt to justify budget cuts necessary to pay for the president's tax cut.

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July 12, 2001

Despite upcoming findings by congressional investigators on the federal government's risk assessment practices, which is expected to give EPA a passing mark, sources say House Energy & Commerce Committee Republicans are planning to ramp up their oversight of the agency's risk reviews in an effort to pressure EPA to provide what they see as "realistic" estimates, rather than worst-case scenarios. The General Accounting Office (GAO) is expected to soon release a report on federal agency risk practices that sources say offers little in the way of strong criticism of EPA's risk efforts.

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House Democrats are poised today to introduce a barrage of environment-related amendments to energy legislation beginning to move through the chamber, including new proposals to expand car and truck fuel efficiency standards as well as an amendment to exempt California from the Clean Air Act's oxygenate requirements.

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House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) has introduced legislation to elevate EPA to a Cabinet level position, and has begun preliminary discussions with House leadership on moving the legislation free of amendments or riders, congressional sources say. The legislation has the backing of the White House, and President Bush when he nominated Whitman to be EPA administrator indicated his interest in elevating EPA to a Cabinet position.

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EPA is preparing to make sweeping changes to its environmental permitting process to include environmental justice considerations, sources say. The effort would be the agency's first major step to ensure that minorities and low-income communities receive adequate protections early on in the regulatory process.

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A leading environmental group is contradicting the Bush administration's claim that implementing the Kyoto climate change treaty would be too costly for the United States. The World Wildlife Fund has released a report arguing that by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and complying with the Kyoto Protocol, the U.S. would actually save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next twenty years.

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A House energy subcommittee has put off until full committee markup next week an amendment that would dramatically boost fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. The subcommittee also postponed action on a proposal that would effectively overturn the Bush administration's rejection of a California request to be excused from federal reformulated gasoline standards.

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