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Daily News

January 14, 2002

Democratic congressional staff say an assessment by the railroad and chemical industries on the nation's security needs may lead to new regulatory controls. The assessment is expected to be used by lawmakers in determining the adequacy of industry proposed measures to ensure the safety of shipping hazardous materials and chemicals, with Democratic staff saying that any push to provide federal financial assistance will have to include some level of increased oversight.

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The U.S. Solicitor General is urging the Supreme Court to reject reviewing a case in which a company is suing the federal government for the attorneys' fees the company spent defending itself from what it claims was malicious prosecution from EPA. The high court will make a decision on whether to rule the case in two to three weeks, sources following the case say.

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With California seeking alternative sources of energy to avoid a repeat of last year's power crisis, proponents of technologies that convert solid waste into energy are seeking an expedited permitting process to help this technology succeed in the marketplace. Because conversion technologies (CTs) are relatively new, it is unclear if they are governed by solid waste standards or if completely new state regulations are needed.

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California's congressional delegation and local air officials are planning to counter federal approvals related to the construction of two power plants to be built in Mexico near the U.S. border, which they claim will have dramatic impacts on the state's air quality.

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The Commerce Department has preliminarily agreed with a chemical manufacturer that an importer of a commonly used water decontaminant had violated tariff requirements by selling the product at below market values. If the findings are issued as final, the department will recommend to the U.S. Customs Service that it assess "antidumping" duties against the importer.

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Environmental activists and local business leaders sued EPA Jan. 14 citing opposing objections to the agency's approval of an ozone-reduction plan for Houston. The activists' lawsuit represents the first legal challenge of an EPA policy allowing for voluntary reductions of mobile source pollution to help an area meet mandatory air quality goals.

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January 11, 2002

Sources say White House officials are attempting to link the use of human testing data to embryonic cloning research in an effort to resist chemical industry pressures to overturn an EPA ban on the use human research in pesticide reviews.

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A major coalition of environmental groups is worried that an upcoming Bush administration proposal for implementing a landmark international agreement on controlling toxics may restrict the federal government's ability to add chemicals to the list of regulated substances. Environmentalists say that efforts to limit the listing of new chemicals could spark controversy and slow the legislative process, which would ultimately delay ratification of the treaty.

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EPA's Inspector General (IG) has expanded its probe into the legality of open-market emissions trading programs to include a program operating in Michigan, broadening the office's investigation from its focus on a program in New Jersey. EPA has proposed approving both state plans, as well as a similar plan in New Hampshire.

New Jersey's trading program was developed while EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman was the state's governor. Whitman has been a strong proponent of market-based emissions controls since taking over the EPA.

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The senior Democrat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee has jumped on the downfall of energy giant Enron Corp. to call for tougher federal safety requirements on natural gas pipelines. The move could have major implications for the chemical industry by potentially raising the costs and controls for the transport of natural gas, which is a significant fuel and feedstock for chemical makers.

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An agreement reached between EPA and the Navy may spur efforts to retroactively apply more stringent Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) cleanup rules at contaminated sites. While sources involved with the agreement claim the pact is site-specific and does not set a precedent that could be used at other military sites, other sources concede that it could be a model for EPA restrictions on the transfer of contaminated property.

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Despite objections from environmentalists, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has filed an appeal of a court ruling that granted states the authority to review proposed drilling projects before they advance. Environmentalists and others who oppose coastal oil drilling had tried to pressure DOI to abandon the appeal.

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Hydropower industry officials are closely following a federal appeals court lawsuit initiated by environmentalists that could have serious national implications for privately owned hydroelectric dams by making it more difficult for owners to get interim operating licenses while waiting for long-term approvals from state and federal regulators.

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Region IX officials are expected to soon issue a precedent-setting decision on whether electric utility companies can use emission reduction credits (ERCs) bought from farmers in California to offset pollution that will be created by proposed power plants in the area. EPA officials are questioning whether the credits meet Clean Air Act requirements of being "real, surplus, quantifiable and permanent."

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California Gov. Gray Davis (D) is pushing new technology being developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists to detect chemical weapons, radioactive material and explosives within containers at ports and on trucks. But laboratory scientists say a major hurdle will be to construct a system that will not bog down commercial trucking and shipping.

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January 10, 2002

The generic drug companies are urging lawmakers to revise a Senate bioterrorism bill to ensure that they are at the table when the government and the drug industry discuss possible antitrust waivers for production of products aimed at countering possible bioterrorism attacks. The industry fears the Senate bill would lock out generic firms from discussions that would include brand-name pharmaceutical companies, according to a source at the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA).

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Vessels carrying ammonia, nitrates, crude oil and fuel additives into the nation's ports have been identified as prime targets for potential terrorist strikes based on criteria recently developed by the Coast Guard. The ranking is part of a broader security crackdown by the agency that includes escorting ships in and out of ports and on-board validation of crew members, according to state officials familiar with the effort.

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Lawmakers in both the House and Senate are expected next month to offer legislation authorizing an increase in the amount of federal money available to states for water infrastructure projects, and providing states with new flexibility in how they spend money provided from the state revolving loan fund, the mechanism EPA uses to distribute the funds.

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The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is poised to launch a major investigation into the state of environmental protections for minority and low-income communities and will draft a report detailing the current state of environmental justice across the nation, sources with the commission say.

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With the Bush administration expected to unveil its proposed reforms for EPA's new source review (NSR) program within the next few weeks, the future of the contentious Clean Air Act program could still depend heavily on thorny technical issues and on how the administration chooses to implement the reform plan, according to EPA sources and others.

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