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Daily News

February 28, 2002

A senior Democrat in the House appears to be laying the groundwork to push for provisions during a Senate-House conference committee on bioterrorism legislation to reduce the use of chlorine at water treatment plants and dramatically expand EPA's authority to assess the vulnerability of these facilities. In a letter to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, Rep.

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A senior Democrat in the House appears to be laying the groundwork to push for provisions during a Senate-House conference committee on bioterrorism legislation to reduce the use of chlorine at water treatment plants and dramatically expand EPA's authority to assess the vulnerability of these facilities. In a letter to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, Rep.

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Outgoing EPA regulatory enforcement chief Eric Schaeffer is accusing the Bush administration of undermining EPA's ability to enforce key Clean Air Act provisions and purposefully working to gut the law's new source review (NSR) program while slashing the federal enforcement work force.

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A federal judge has cautioned against broad use of recent guidelines by Attorney General John Ashcroft on limiting public access to data because of security concerns in a case involving the release of information regarding the operations of Vice President Cheney's energy task force. The judge warned government agencies about relying on the Ashcroft guidelines in reviewing the release of documents sought by public advocates that relate to the task force's development of the president's national energy strategy, which the activists say was unduly influenced by big business.

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A federal judge has cautioned against broad use of recent guidelines by Attorney General John Ashcroft on limiting public access to data because of security concerns in a case involving the release of information regarding the operations of Vice President Cheney's energy task force. The judge warned government agencies about relying on the Ashcroft guidelines in reviewing the release of documents sought by public advocates that relate to the task force's development of the president's national energy strategy, which the activists say was unduly influenced by big business.

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February 27, 2002

EPA officials are suggesting they will likely support a utility industry plan to have a special agency air toxics workgroup consider mercury emissions control technologies for various types of coal-fired power plants, rather than imposing an across-the-board standard, sources say. These sources also say EPA is likely to delay environmentalists' efforts to have the agency consider emissions from utilities other than mercury.

But environmentalists are raising concerns that the Clean Air Act does not allow air toxics standards to be subcategorized based on fuel type.

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Sources say election-year politics are likely to dampen the chances for legislation that would overhaul asbestos liability litigation being pushed by a broad-based industry coalition, which is working hard to separate the issue from broader tort reform efforts. The group is maneuvering to position itself to try to push through asbestos reforms next year, arguing that resistance from some trial lawyers may make it difficult for some Democratic lawmakers to go along with the legislation during an election year. Trial lawyers have traditionally been strong supporters of the Democratic Party.

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EPA and diesel engine makers are pursuing settlement talks that could offer the industry additional flexibility to comply with maximum emission limits for heavy-duty engines, raising concerns from environmentalists that the Bush administration may be poised to substantially weaken both current and upcoming pollution control requirements on the diesel engine industry.

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EPA has initiated eleventh-hour negotiations aimed at forging a consensus with environmentalists and industry, including chemical makers, on a plan requiring states to draft facility-specific air toxic regulations. The move is intended to head off litigation when, as expected, the agency fails to issue federal rules in time to meet an upcoming Clean Air Act deadline.

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A California farmer has asked the Supreme Court to review a lower court's finding that EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have authority to regulate plowing through intermittent wetlands on ranchlands. The case could offer the court a chance to rule definitively on whether federal agencies can regulate "incidental fallback" of dredged material in wetlands.

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Environmentalists are urging EPA to terminate the registration of widely used herbicide as a way to demonstrate its support for a highly-touted agency program to promote the use of safer alternatives. The activists argue that unless EPA cancels the registered use of the herbicide, chemical companies will have little incentive to take advantage of the program's pledge to accelerate the approval of applications for newer, safer herbicides. In a Feb.

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Congressional investigators have affirmed claims by a wide range of industries, including the chemical industry, that the government should develop a federal terrorism insurance program. Industry has argued that insurers are refusing to include coverage for terrorist attacks in policies, making it difficult to obtain financing for new construction and improvements to facilities, and raising the possibility of massive bankruptcies in the event of another attack.

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February 26, 2002

Democrats in the California legislature are pressing U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to launch an investigation into EPA's process for chemical risk reviews, charging that the agency's reliance on industry-sponsored scientific organizations undermines the integrity of federal regulations and may be a violation of federal law. In a Feb.

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Industry officials say a long-standing controversial proposal by the Department of Transportation to limit its authority to regulate hazardous materials could be delayed or even stalled by shifting governmental priorities following the Sept. 11 attacks. While DOT officials say they will likely move forward with the proposal, industry groups who oppose the rulemaking say it is likely to move slower than previously thought and that it should be reconsidered in light of the threat of terrorism.

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EPA has released its long-anticipated final rule that the agency says will ease seasonal reformulated gasoline (RFG) transition by eliminating blendstock accounting regulations, saying they are no longer necessary. The rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Feb.

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A coalition of environmental groups has mounted a campaign to ensure that community activists are represented at upcoming congressional hearings on the possible impact of environmental requirements on military training and readiness. Environmentalists fear that the hearings are a first step in rolling back environmental controls regarding military operations, which many local residents view as important protections to public health.

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Congressional appropriators are likely to restore the Bush administration's proposed $100 million cut to state clean water funds, congressional and water industry sources say.

Despite its proposed spending cuts, sources say the administration is expected to support upcoming authorizing legislation to significantly boost state water funding programs.

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BALTIMORE -- EPA air chief Jeffrey Holmstead this week acknowledged to skeptical Northeast state air regulators that the Bush administration's plans to reduce utility emissions will not be stringent enough to help them meet federal ozone standards.

Speaking at a meeting of the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) Feb. 26, Holmstead failed to assuage state concerns and conceded that the Bush administration's proposal would not necessarily ensure that every area in the Northeast would be able to come into attainment with federal ozone standards.

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EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman says the agency is in the process of evaluating the security risks associated with storage, transportation and use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals, but added that the agency may not seek regulations imposing security controls. As part of the review, officials are identifying pesticides and chemicals that pose the greatest danger and potential for misuse in a terrorist attack.

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EPA has initiated 11th hour talks aimed at forging a consensus with industry and environmental groups on a plan requiring states to draft facility-specific air toxic regulations in an effort to head off litigation when, as expected, the agency fails to issue federal rules in time to meet an upcoming Clean Air Act deadline.

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