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Daily News

June 06, 2001

An upcoming EPA proposal offering states guidance on how to address visibility problems may provide an additional opening for industry to win relaxation of a Clinton-era proposal for a stringent presumptive emissions standard for utility boilers near wilderness areas, according to agency sources.

The upcoming plan will not commit the Bush administration to weaken the Clinton proposal, but is raising concerns among some observers that the White House may agree to scale back the proposal in the future.

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The leadership change in the Senate is likely to delay the movement of comprehensive energy policy legislation by several months, with a bill appearing on the floor in late summer at the earliest, congressional sources say. But a few quick-fix measures to the nation's energy crisis are expected to receive immediate attention from Democratic leaders.

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Democrats assuming control of the Senate have wasted no time in jumping on the oil industry over rising gasoline prices, and are looking at possible legislation to minimize market manipulation by the industry. Defenders of the oil industry have said that EPA's cleaner-burning gasoline requirements have contributed to rising prices.

Republican Senate leaders had conducted a review earlier this year which found that the oil industry had engaged in price manipulation, but exonerated refiners of any illegal activity or collusion.

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A coalition of electric utilities and energy distribution companies has drafted legislation that would impose a national emissions cap on four pollutants from power plants, including first-time controls on carbon dioxide (CO2), in exchange for far reaching flexibility for utilities to make modifications to their plants under EPA's new source review (NSR) permitting requirements.

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NEW ORLEANS, June 5 -- Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) said she is working to form a bipartisan coalition of members on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to move a middle-of-the-road agenda drawing from the less controversial elements of President Bush's energy strategy.

The junior senator from Louisiana told the Edison Electric Institute's (EEI) annual convention here that she has a proven record of working well with both the outgoing chairman of the committee, Frank Murkowski (R-AK), and the new Democratic chairman, Jeff Bingaman (NM).

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A recent Supreme Court decision refusing to award attorney's fees to plaintiffs in a disabilities case could have a chilling effect on the willingness of environmentalists to go to court, observers say. The ruling may deny environmental groups an important source of revenue and prevent future citizen suits seeking industry compliance with a number of environmental requirements.

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The new Senate majority whip, Harry Reid (D-NV), has lifted a hold on President Bush's nominees for key EPA and other environmental slots after the agency released a radiation safety standard for a proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But controversy over the rule appears far from over since the nuclear power industry has already filed a lawsuit challenging the groundwater requirements in the standard, and environmentalists are threatening to sue arguing that the rule is not strict enough.

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June 05, 2001

The Defense Department has slashed the Air Force's request for supplemental funds this year on behalf of all the military services for cleaning up closing bases. The Pentagon late last week sent a request to Congress for additional money that the department concedes is the minimum for meeting critical program needs.

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NEW ORLEANS, June 4 -- House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-LA) says he and other lawmakers are working on a package of bills to increase the supply of gasoline, reducing prices by standardizing federal requirements for cleaner-burning fuels in smog ridden cities.

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The Democratic takeover of the Senate promises major changes in the political landscape, and environmentalists are putting lawmakers on alert as to the key issues they plan to watch in ranking the voting records of congressional members in next year's election.

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EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are struggling to define their new curtailed jurisdiction over wetlands, following the Supreme Court's decision earlier this year that the Clean Water Act did not allow the agencies to regulate isolated water bodies.

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Environmentalists are claiming to have found common ground with the Bush administration on boosting renewable energy production over the next 20 years. Both sides have agreed to increase renewables to a 20 percent share of total domestic energy production, but the details of how to achieve that goal are expected to be worked out in upcoming meetings.

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A high-ranking Department of Energy official says the Bush administration will offer tacit support for congressional efforts to boost funding for energy efficiency and renewables, despite the president's proposal to cut spending in these areas. With Democrats assuming the reins of power in the Senate, sources anticipate congressional pressure to hike spending in these areas as part of a broader effort to address the nation's energy crisis.

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June 04, 2001

In anticipation of greater scrutiny from the Office of Management & Budget (OMB), EPA has drafted a regulatory development plan that will boost the role of political appointees in the regulatory development process, while also aiming to boost the scientific and economic quality of agency rules.

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The wood treatment industry, which is leading efforts to overturn EPA's standard for arsenic in drinking water, plans to launch a lumber labeling program to educate consumers about the dangers of lumber treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), a compound containing both arsenic and chromium-six.

Industry sources say they will formally announce the new proposal at a June 7 public meeting sponsored by EPA. The proposal will urge wood preservers to attach a warning label with a summary of "safe handling instructions" on every piece of lumber treated with CCA.

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Despite intense behind-closed-doors negotiations in California, sources say the Davis administration has failed to forge a consensus on the use of backup diesel power to help ease energy shortages. The dispute over diesel generators was ignited late last month when environmentalists protested what they called an imminent plan by Davis to pay companies to use the dirtier backup power source on a broader scale.

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Two key senators poised to play a prominent role on environmental policies following the Democratic takeover of the Senate are calling for a reexamination of government findings on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that could pose a challenge to the Bush administration's opposition to regulating the greenhouse gas.

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California utility regulators are expected to approve a proposal by San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) to pay companies to use backup diesel generators, despite objections by state air regulators over the air quality impacts of the plan. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is expected at its June 7 meeting to endorse a draft ruling on the SDG&E proposal, which is intended to reduce the state's power shortages.

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Congressional investigators claim the Army Corps of Engineers has not been able to track the effectiveness of a program it runs jointly with EPA and other environmental agencies aimed at mitigating wetland losses through the creation of alternative wetlands projects.

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June 01, 2001

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EPA's Inspector General (IG) is urging the agency's Superfund office to develop a new regulatory process for handling naturally occurring hazardous substances. But EPA officials reportedly are opposed to the idea, arguing that the agency lacks the requisite legal authority, the plan could spark a backlash from Congress and industry, and expanding the Superfund program would stretch already limited resources.

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