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Daily News

May 23, 2001

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A senior Senate Republican has introduced a bill aimed at speeding the licensing and construction of nuclear power plants by building privately-owned reactors on Department of Energy property. The measure is intended to avoid protracted battles with local communities and environmentalists about the siting of new nuclear plants by constructing them in areas are already used to the presence of a nuclear facility.

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Because of the number of high-level vacancies at EPA, the agency is falling behind on an array of agency initiatives, including implementing reforms outlined by the Bush transition team and promulgating non-controversial rules and guidances, sources say.

In fact, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told Inside EPA last week that she is running the agency with "one hand tied behind [her] back."

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The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee has approved White House nominees for several key environmental posts, but failed to act on President Bush's selection of Jeffrey Holmstead to head EPA's air office. Hohmstead's nomination has sparked demands by Democrats for documents pertaining to work Holmstead did as White House counsel during the former Bush administration. Sources say the request has gone unanswered by the White House.

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A decision by Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont to leave the Republican Party will have major implications on disputes over key environmental issues such as EPA's use of new source review enforcement under the Clean Air Act, the establishment of a groundwater radiation standard, and efforts to ease Superfund liability for certain businesses.

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Despite strong opposition by environmentalists, the Senate Governmental Affairs panel has approved President Bush's pick to head the White House's regulatory review office. But the nominee, John Graham of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, attracted nay votes from such prominent Democrats as Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) Richard Durbin (D-IL),and Robert Torricelli (D-NJ).

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A shift in Senate leadership will likely scuttle key elements of President Bush's energy strategy, such as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and increasing power production from existing nuclear power plants. Control of the Senate by Democrats will put Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) in line for chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the senator has already offered his own energy proposal which includes caps on gasoline consumption and boosting conservation measures, which are measures supported by environmentalists.

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May 22, 2001

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Republicans on the House Government Reform Committee are pressing the Pentagon to provide suggestions for changing environmental laws, particularly the Endangered Species Act (ESA), in order to ease regulatory requirements that the military says are restricting its training operations. But the military services appear to be walking a fine line, tentative about recommending any specific legislation. The services are refraining from drafting any such legislation, with one military source saying in fact that the Marine Corps is resisting any suggestion to propose legislation.

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EPA has released a proposed rule drafted by the Clinton administration that would overhaul the nation's reporting system for hazardous waste shipments, despite concerns raised by the Justice Department regarding enforcement of the provisions. Release of the proposal was delayed for several months as part of the Bush administration's across-the-board regulatory review, but sources indicate that despite the review a number of concerns remain by Justice Department officials.

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Vice President Cheney told the nuclear energy industry that the administration is committed to streamlining the licensing requirements of nuclear power plants and resolving a decade-old battle over constructing a national nuclear waste repository for the final disposal of commercial nuclear wastes.

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Federal scientists tasked by the Bush administration to review the health benefits of a controversial arsenic in drinking water standard are saying they may need more time to review all relevant data.

The Bush administration's suspension and delay of the rule, which was issued during the final days of the Clinton presidency, has proven to be lightning rod for environmentalists and other critics of President Bush who say the administration is bent on weakening environmental standards. EPA plans to issue a revised arsenic standard by February 2002.

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EPA Region IX has settled a lawsuit by environmentalists by agreeing to make federally-required data on state plans to reduce air pollution available for the first time on the Internet. Some sources say the agreement could set a precedent for making publicly available similar information nationwide, which could be a boon to environmentalists and other public health advocates in tracking the Clean Air Act compliance of cities and local air regulators.

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Despite Senate rejection of a tax amendment promoting energy efficiency and renewables, Democrats vow to reintroduce the measure to future energy- or tax-related legislation.

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May 21, 2001

Despite strong opposition by environmentalists, the Senate is expected to approve President Bush's pick to head the White House's regulatory review office.

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A number of states are looking at adopting legislation to fill in wetland protection gaps left by a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that significantly pared back federal responsibilities.

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High-ranking EPA science and policy officials are reviewing the agency's internal process for checking any potential conflicts of interest by prospective outside advisors, in part because of allegations about heavy corporate influence in the Bush administration, sources say.

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EPA has released a list of directives contained in President Bush's energy strategy that require specific actions by the agency, including development of legislation to limit multiple air pollutants from power plants and a 90-day review in consultation with the Department of Energy of the energy implications of the agency's new source review requirements under the Clean Air Act. Other, lesser known provisions in the energy plan, include streamlining permitting requirements for refiners and promoting the use of combined heat and power generation at brownfields.

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Leading Senate Democrats have begun talks aimed at drafting a bipartisan resolution urging President Bush to continue working on the Kyoto climate change treaty, according to Senate sources. If successful, the move could dramatically change the political landscape of the climate debate on Capitol Hill, observers say.

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The senior Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee is threatening to put a hold on the Bush administration's nominee to head EPA's air office. The threat is the latest development in the senator's opposition to a number of environment-related nominations by the Bush administration.

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May 18, 2001

In an effort to relieve energy woes in the West, state legislators are floating a series of bills reducing the period for public comment on siting new energy facilities, cutting down the environmental review and exempting certain facilities from any review.

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