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Daily News

December 18, 2000

EPA has proposed discharge standards for livestock operations that are expected to spark fierce debate between agricultural industry representatives and environmentalists. Industry claims the standards impose a heavy regulatory burden on relatively small facilities, while environmentalists argue that the requirements do not go far enough in reducing polluted runoff from agricultural operations that until recently have been ignored as a major source of environmental contamination.

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U.S. officials have rejected an effort by the European Union to revive failed climate change negotiations, following weeks of diplomatic maneuvering after talks in The Hague collapsed without an agreement. The U.S. rejected an offer to meet later this week in Oslo, Norway, to resume negotiations on the rules for implementing the Kyoto climate change treaty.

Sources say the U.S. was seeking a limited agenda, while the EU was pushing for a broad discussion.

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Advisors to both the U.S. and the European Union are recommending a regulatory approach to protecting public health and the environment from genetically modified crops by stressing the complexities of the issue and calling for decisions to be made on a case-by-case basis. The report is being distributed at a U.S/EU summit held Dec. 18 in Washington, DC, where a host of environmental and non-environmental issues were discussed.

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In one of its final legislative actions, the 106th Congress has prevented the State Department officials from implementing the Kyoto climate change treaty. Lawmakers opposed to the treaty pushed for the legislative language, according to a key congressional source.

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EPA has approved a first-time emissions trading program for volatile organic compounds in the Chicago metropolitan area as a major step toward reducing smog. The innovative program is intended to encourage companies to develop facility-specific emission reduction programs.

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December 15, 2000

An upcoming EPA report on the costs of controversial water discharge limits may prompt the incoming Bush administration or the next Congress to revisit the standards, sources say. The report, required by Congress, is expected to document the magnitude of the costs associated with total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), and may be used to argue that the rule is not economically feasible in its current form.

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In an apparent nod to California's power shortages, local air regulators have reached a landmark clean air agreement with a utility company that allows it to continue operating during peak demand periods despite having exceeded its emission caps. The agreement represents a softened stance by regulators out of concern that a heavy crackdown on the company could exacerbate the state's power crisis.

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The Bush transition team has assembled a formal group of three people charged with overseeing appointments at EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality, sources say. The team includes John Howard, who served as an environmental policy advisor to the Bush campaign, Jim Conaughton, an attorney with Sidley & Austin, and Marcus Peacock, a House staffer on the Transportation oversight, investigations and emergency management subcommittee.

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Three freshman senators are expected to fill the open Democratic seats on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee: Rep. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Corzine of New Jersey, and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, congressional sources close to the issue say.

The senators would fill seats vacated by two retiring senators -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) -- and a third additional Democratic seat that will likely be added to the committee to reflect the chamber's 50-50 split.

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The California Energy Commission next week is expected to approve a report recommending that local governments and state air regulators streamline the approval process for distributed electricity generation projects. The report is an attempt to address the state's power crisis by easing environmental and other restrictions on the construction of facilities related to electricity generation and delivery.

Source: InsideEPA.com

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Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Bill Richardson has requested that the department's inspector general investigate the potential bias of study on the safety of a national nuclear waste repository, delaying release of a report that is highly anticipated by the nuclear energy industry. The report was being conducted to determine the environmental safety of the construction of a nuclear waste disposal facility at Yucca Mountain, NV.

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Rep. David McIntosh (R-IN), a vocal critic of EPA and regulatory industry burdens, reportedly is a strong contender for director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Bush administration, which staffers say would allow him to scrutinize and potentially block many future EPA regulations. In Congress, McIntosh has been a prominent advocate of regulatory flexibility and business-friendly environmental laws.

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December 14, 2000

European leaders are calling on international negotiators to continue working on rules for implementing a climate change treaty, declaring that the European Union is committed to enforcement of the Kyoto Protocol by 2002. The statement is an attempt to jump start failed talks last month in The Hague, by pledging to meet in Oslo, Norway, before the end of the year for informal negotiations.

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EPA and state waste officials are drafting "action plans" in an effort to shift the cost of recycling discarded consumer products to manufacturers. The proposals are expected to address paints, pesticides, electronics and carpet, as well as possibly phasing out the use of mercury in consumer products.

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Vice President-elect Dick Cheney has emerged as the Bush transition team's point man for Congress, bringing with him a legislative record as a former member of Congress that environmentalists say indicates a strong hostility toward tough environmental protections.

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EPA has announced that it will begin developing unprecedented standards on oil- and coal-fired power plants to reduce mercury emissions. The agency plans to propose the landmark standards by 2003, and issue final requirements by 2004.

EPA's decision to develop regulations was issued in time to meet a Dec. 15 court-ordered deadline as part of a legal settlement with environmentalists, who urged the agency to study the matter and determine whether standards were necessary.

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Following a failed bid by environmentalists to have the federal government test dioxin blood levels in the San Francisco area, California regulators are considering conducting a screening program on the bioaccumulating pollutant. The findings of the landmark study may play into international efforts to limit use of the pollutant.

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The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee is expected to work on Clean Air Act amendments next Congress targeting power plant emissions, in part to address greenhouse gases, according to a key committee staffer. The effort stems from a growing interest among members of the Senate, including the committee's chairman, to address climate change, but would likely also limit other non-greenhouse gas pollutants, such as mercury.

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Civil rights advisors to EPA have warned agency officials that concerned activists may pressure the agency into replacing the head of its environmental justice office, in an effort to bolster agency enforcement efforts into the next administration. At the same time, these advisors, who are part of an EPA environmental justice panel, are accusing the agency of ignoring them on numerous issues, and claim the agency is attempting to do away with the panel or reduce it to "window dressing."

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December 13, 2000

Betting on public pressure to ease current power shortages, Calpine Corporation may pursue a ballot measure to obtain approval for a 600-megawatt combined-cycle gas-powered plant after local lawmakers rejected the project based in part on environmental concerns, sources say.

At issue is a proposal by Calpine's Metcalf Energy Center for a 20-acre site in Coyote Valley south of San Jose. The city council denied Calpine a land-use permit for Metcalf because the site is zoned for light industrial use, with the city's mayor, Ron Gonzales, leading opposition to the plant.

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