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Daily News

February 21, 2001

Air regulators in Nevada are expected to unveil next month an unusual plan to allow construction of a power plant without subjecting surrounding businesses to tougher air quality standards. The plan would create a new local air quality planning district specifically around the proposed power plant to avoid extending federal emissions reporting requirements to other businesses in the area.

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Electric utilities have made good on a long-standing threat by filing suit in federal appeals court, challenging an EPA decision to establish first-time mercury emission controls on power plants. The industry argues that EPA's decision to list mercury emissions as a hazardous air pollutant effectively requires new power plants to install tougher emission controls even before an industry-wide standards is established by EPA. The litigation claims that EPA's decision is a violation of the Clean Air Act.

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A narrow ruling by the Supreme Court on the disability claims of employees is being viewed as clearing the way for several lawsuits seeking tougher environmental protections to move forward under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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February 20, 2001

As the debate heats up over boosting the nation's energy supplies, the natural gas industry is stepping up its pressure for more drilling and pipeline construction, arguing that only quick action will ensure that supply meets demand.

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The Senate is considering legislation that may pave the way for an expanded look at electricity generation fueled by wood and agricultural scraps, known as "biomass." The measures would extend an incentive tax credit to include so-called 'open-loop' biomass -- potential fuel not necessarily intended solely to be used for power generation.

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A major energy policy battle has begun over whether or not the federal government should promote the development of "clean coal" as a solution to increasingly urgent electric power generation needs over the next decade. A recent Senate bill and a new initiative from the Department of Energy indicate a renewed interest in developing cleaner coal technology. But environmentalists are warning that even discussing clean coal is a threat to the Clean Air Act.

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Industry sources are pressing the White House to issue a draft rule making technical amendments to EPA's emission controls for hazardous waste incinerators, fearing that the revised standard could be snagged by a Bush administration suspension of all regulations approved during the final days of the Clinton presidency. Industry lobbyists say they support the regulatory changes, which were negotiated with the Clinton administration, and want the rule the issued as soon as possible so that facilities have time to prepare for the new emissions controls that take effect in two years.

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The House Nuclear Energy Caucus is urging Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mitchell Daniels and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to resist cutting the department's environmental management funds to ensure that it meets legally binding cleanup schedules and avoids litigation for failing to do so. The caucus is responding to reports that President Bush plans to cut the Department of Energy's budget as part of an across-the-board reduction to pay for the administration's proposed tax cut. In a Feb.

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Industry officials are pressing the Bush administration to withdraw a last-minute decision by the Clinton EPA to designate an ubiquitous cyanide compound as hazardous. The designation will subject a host of industrial sectors, including aluminum, cosmetics and pharmaceutical manufacturers, to new environmental reporting and cleanup requirements.

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An unprecedented report by an international panel of scientists predicts catastrophic weather shifts and flooding throughout the world as a result of global warming. The findings are likely to put pressure on international negotiators later this summer to take quick action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Consumer activists argue that President Bush's response to California's energy crisis has been influenced by major energy companies that have contributed to his campaign. The activists claim that Bush received large contributions from power companies that have a vested interest in opposing price controls on electricity and advocating eased environmental requirements for power plants. In a Feb.

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February 16, 2001

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In an apparent challenge to the Bush administration's efforts to develop a national energy strategy that relies heavily on boosting fossil fuel supplies, a key House Republican is advocating alternative fuels and energy efficiency as a centerpiece to meeting the nation's rising energy demands. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), chairman of the House Science Committee subcommittee on energy and environment, also says he will try to institute tax credits for research into energy-efficient technologies.

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A high-ranking EPA official has entered the fray over arsenic cleanup standards at a former military installation demonstrating the agency's commitment to oversee and review cleanup efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers, according to sources following the dispute. Acting EPA Region III Administrator Thomas Voltaggio testified before a local group charged with overseeing the cleanup of a former military testing site in a northwest residential neighborhood in the District of Columbia.

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The following is an excerpt of a Feb. 15 floor statement by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) outlining his anticipated energy bill. The bill is being drafted in coordination with the Bush White House in response to the nation's energy crisis. In his floor remarks, Murkowski defends key controversial elements of his proposal, including oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and increased consideration of nuclear power.

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Environmentalists are deciding how to weigh in on a legal dispute over an EPA rule to ratchet down sulfur in diesel fuel. The rule is being challenged in court by petroleum refiners, and environmentalists are considering whether to back the rule or ask the court to force EPA to tighten some requirements.

What the environmentalists decide could have major implications in the case. If the activists choose to seek changes to the rule, that could put EPA and the court in an awkward spot by pulling the agency in opposite directions over the rule.

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A proposal by European leaders to overhaul environmental and safety regulations on thousands of chemicals has U.S. chemical makers reeling and environmentalists claiming the move is a sign of things to come. The proposal would dramatically alter the chemical approval process by increasing demands on the chemical industry.

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In response to California's energy crisis, the top air official in Los Angeles has issued two emergency orders that implement changes to emission limits on power plants that local regulators have been considering but have not yet approved. The orders suspend air quality rules on certain power facilities allowing them to continue operating if they pay the local government for the right to exceed emission limits.

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EPA has delayed the effective date of a controversial Clinton rule that would expand the number of facilities required to report lead releases under the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), opening up the possibility that the agency could revise or even drop the standard. The regulation has come under attack from industry groups and some lawmakers, including Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Christopher Bond (R-MO), who say that the rule would be expensive for small businesses.

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February 15, 2001

The Bush administration has delayed the effective date of a controversial Clinton regulation that critics say is an attempt to circumvent a Supreme Court decision that limited federal authority to regulate wetlands. The delay is part of a broader regulatory review by the administration and indicates possible changes to the rule, which is intended to extend the federal controls on discharges to wetlands.

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