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Daily News

October 16, 2000

EPA plans to issue a national policy governing state-authorized facility inspections, in guidance that will detail specific criteria that regional enforcement offices should use in training state inspection staff or for determining whether state inspectors meet minimum federal criteria.

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New findings by Democratic pollsters show that environmental issues could be a deciding factor for crucial swing voters in the upcoming presidential election. The results were released by environmentalists who have jumped on the new findings as a rallying point for "educating" voters about the environmental records of Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush.

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Congressional investigators say EPA may have overestimated the risks and benefits of a controversial regulatory plan to limit arsenic in drinking water, while conceding that the agency's embattled proposal for regulating fine particulate matter relies on an abundance of data not generally available in establishing health-based standards. The findings offer EPA a mixed bag in defending itself against attacks on the controversial rulemakings.

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October 13, 2000

A key Republican congressman has introduced legislation to promote the use of cleaner-burning alternative fuels that sources say is likely to lay the groundwork for debate next year. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chairman of the water resources and environment subcommittee, is calling for the establishment of a $200-million federal program that would fund up to 15 grant proposals for five years to spur the use of cars, buses and trucks that run on electricity, natural gas or other alternative fuels.

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Automakers reportedly have approached U.S. oil refiners to explore potential for joint development of ultra-low-sulfur motor fuels designed to meet EPA's stringent 2007 emission standards.

James R. Katzer, a strategic-planning manager in ExxonMobil research and engineering, said at the World Fuels Conference in Washington this month that automakers have taken the initiative in seeking uniformity on fuel-consumption processes, and they have proposed working with oil companies to do this.

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A key environmental group has issued a dual endorsement of Rep. Rick Lazio (R) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) in their highly-publicized run for the U.S. Senate. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) issued a statement asserting that "either Lazio or Clinton would carry the environmental banner in the Senate."

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A revised global warming strategy by EPA refocuses the agency's long-term goals to a "multi-sector, multi-region" assessment of climate change consequences in the U.S. The agency says the "new focus" allows it to benefit from "areas where EPA enjoys a comparative advantage relative to other federal agencies and where EPA can truly make a difference." The strategy is divided into four areas of focus: human health, ecosystem health, air quality and water quality.

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Western states and tribes have told EPA that their proposed strategy for dealing with regional haze in the area of the Colorado Plateau will produce benefits that exceed the visibility benefits of more conventional regulatory approaches and that they are working to allay agency concerns about potential for overstating power-plant emission reductions over the next several years.

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Environmentalists are applauding changes to a Senate plan that would establish discharge standards for passenger cruise ships along the Alaskan coastline, saying that the effort could be an initial step in developing first-time requirements for cruise ships nationwide. In an apparent response to pressure from the Clinton administration and others, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) has revised proposed cruise ship legislation by both tightening and broadening the scope of controls.

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Canada has pledged to reduce year-round nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions 44 percent by 2010, while the U.S. pledged to meet reductions already stipulated under EPA's pending regional NOx reduction plan. The accord is the first revision to a nine-year-old agreement between the two countries to reduce transboundary pollutants.

Announcement of the agreement has drawn praise from industry officials and environmentalists in the U.S., while Canadian environmentalists and provincial government officials in Ontario have attacked it as one-sided.

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Republican and Democratic senators are hoping to craft a legislative compromise that will allow a bipartisan brownfields bill to move forward in the waning days of the 106th Congress, sources say.

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A panel of independent science advisors has signed off on an EPA draft risk assessment of diesel exhaust, while entrusting the agency to make a number of changes before issuing the report as final. The report is expected to support a number of EPA regulatory efforts to control diesel engine emissions and has been reviewed four times previously by the panel.

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October 12, 2000

Senate leaders and a small group of Democrats have reached an agreement to formally consider an EPA spending bill on the floor today. Congressional sources say in return for not opposing use of an unconventional method for moving the bill, Senate leaders have agreed to allow Democrats who are unhappy with several environmental riders on the bill to propose two amendments aimed at stripping contentious language intended to limit EPA action on clean air, drinking water and contaminated sediments.

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A pet project of Vice President Al Gore was spared the budget ax in Congress when a panel of House and Senate members beat back an effort by an unusual coalition of conservative and liberal lawmakers to gut the program. President Clinton signed interior appropriations legislation yesterday that includes an agreement by a House-Senate conference committee to fund the partnership for a new generation of vehicles (PNGV) at current levels.

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The Clinton administration has drafted legislation in response to congressional efforts to establish first-time discharge controls specifically for the cruise ship industry. The administration proposal addresses possible controls on cruise vessels along Alaska's coastal waters, which is the scope of current congressional efforts. But the administration plan calls for a comprehensive national approach to addressing cruise ship discharges in all U.S. waters.

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House Republicans and industry officials are circulating EPA documents that they claim can be used by litigants to prove that agency guidance documents are not legally binding, and possibly to challenge EPA enforcement actions.

The documents are contained in a draft report, Non-Binding Legal Effect of Agency Guidance Documents , prepared by Republicans on the House Government Reform Committee. The draft is being distributed by the National Association of Manufacturers.

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The Senate has approved an EPA spending bill that reflects an agreement between House and Senate lawmakers, following weeks of negotiations intended to speed the measure through Congress. The appropriations bill was approved 87-8 after a last-ditch effort by one senator to strip the bill of several amendments that have been criticized as attempts to undermine EPA regulations.

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October 11, 2000

EPA has released first-ever voluntary national guidelines that set minimum criteria for the management of on-site sewage treatment systems. While the guidance has attracted general support from states for taking steps to better protect underground and surface water quality from wastewater pollution, concerns are being raised over funding for the program and the possibility that the voluntary measures may be a first step toward mandatory requirements.

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The Union of Concerned Scientists has issued a report claiming that is shows how "big rig" trucks pose an "immense [and ] disproportionate" risk to public health and the environment. The group says the report offers "affordable solutions," including designs for cleaner trucks and market incentives for the development of a "new generation" of trucks and buses."

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