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Daily News

September 10, 2001

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) is questioning whether EPA is purposefully stonewalling his attempts to determine how and why the Bush administration decided to suspend a Clinton-era standard to reduce arsenic in drinking water.

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EPA regional officials are pressing agency headquarters to put off an upcoming rule governing the use and registration of genetically modified crops, arguing that a lack of enforceable provisions will cripple the federal government's ability to ensure the crops are not used inappropriately, sources close to the issue say.

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A federal court has extended until Sept. 21 a deadline for EPA to reach an agreement with environmentalists and industry over setting new air toxic controls from hazardous waste incinerators. The court pushed back the original Sept. 7 deadline after EPA filed a motion requesting more time.

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September 07, 2001

Congressional investigators are preparing for the unprecedented step of filing a lawsuit against the White House, which has repeatedly denied requests for information about the operations of its energy task force. A decision about whether to take legal action will depend in part on the recommendation of two senior Democratic members of the House to the General Accounting Office (GAO), which is investigating the task force. But a leading GAO official has indicated that litigation is a strong possibility.

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The chairman of the House energy and air quality subcommittee says he plans to offer legislation the week of Sept. 10 to reauthorize accident liability insurance for nuclear power plants. Passage of the legislation would be an important step in clearing the way for the construction of new nuclear power plants throughout the country, which is a key component of the president's national energy strategy.

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Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) has proposed to force the Department of Energy (DOE) to institute a Clinton administration efficiency standard for air conditioners, as part of a wide-ranging bill intended as a counterpart to energy policy legislation approved last month by the Republican-controlled House. The provision could be viewed as a challenge to the Bush administration, which has scaled backed the efficiency rule issued during the final days of the Clinton presidency.

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The Bush administration's controversial nominee to head EPA's enforcement office appears to have hit yet another snag as a result of a parliamentary maneuver that has sent the nomination back to the Senate environment committee, even though the panel had approved the selection prior to the August recess. Casting further doubts on Donald Schregardus's chances of being confirmed as EPA's top enforcement officer, the committee's chairman, who had previously voted in favor of Schregardus, now says that he will reconsider the nominee's record.

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A federal judge has dismissed a legal challenge to a California plan to ban methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a popular gasoline oxygenate additive, rebuffing an industry claim that such a ban would violate federal clean air laws. But the ruling will likely be appealed by industry and may have to be decided in a federal appeals court because other state and federal rulings have set precedents suggesting that state MTBE bans should be overturned, an industry source says.

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Bowing to pressure from the Bush administration and House GOP leaders, the chairman of the hazardous waste subcommittee will offer a non-controversial brownfields bill that is slated for quick House passage on Sept. 11. The move is a departure from the chairman's earlier intentions of pushing a more conservative bill that would impose strict limits on EPA's ability to force additional state cleanup actions at abandoned industrial sites in urban areas.

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September 06, 2001

EPA officials appear to be backing away from the agency's longstanding policy that federal agencies be subject to the same enforcement rules and penalty calculations as private companies, despite President Bush's repeated campaign pledges to hold the federal government to the same environmental standards as private industry, sources close to the issue say.

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A coalition of energy companies that own a larger number of coal-fired power plants has proposed a set of "principles" for multi-pollutant legislation that includes potential rewards for facilities participating in a voluntary carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions program, a move that observers say indicates the utility industry has accepted that some form of CO2 controls is unavoidable.

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EPA is poised to issue guidelines that would effectively allow state officials to remove several thousand water bodies from a national list of polluted waters and avoid establishing environmental controls under the Clean Water Act so long as state officials identify a need for more study.

State and EPA officials say the move would allow states to avoid making politically difficult decisions about regulating water bodies that have been the focus of relatively little research.

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A federal appeals court has reaffirmed that passive migration of contaminants does not cause liability under Superfund by rejecting a responsible party's argument for cost recovery against a former property owner. Attorneys say the ruling is good news for property owners because it protects them from liability claims for contamination that they did not directly cause.

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Vice President Cheney has left congressional investigators no choice but to go to court to obtain internal records about how the administration developed its national energy strategy. But a decision about whether to take the unprecedented step of filing a lawsuit will in part depend on the advice of two senior Democratic members of the House to the General Accounting Office (GAO), which is investigating the White House's energy task force.

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September 05, 2001

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President Bush and Mexico President Vincente Fox are expected to announce a pact to improve a floundering international program to provide loans for waste cleanup projects along the border. But Bush is expected to reject calls by Fox to broaden the uses of the money for general economic revitalization throughout Mexico, sources say.

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Agriculture industry lawyers are pushing for a delay to the first deadlines in a major agreement between EPA and environmentalists on reassessing the public risks from pesticide use. While the agreement was negotiated by the Clinton administration, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has stated that the Bush EPA would move forward with the plan, which would overhaul the agency's review of pesticides under the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).

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Automakers are bracing for the release of a controversial draft report in Maine that could set a national precedent by recommending that the industry be required to assume the costs of replacement and disposal of mercury-containing components from discarded automobiles. The report was developed after the auto industry successfully lobbied the Maine legislature to postpone a decision on the matter as part of broader consumer-product controls for mercury enacted last year.

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The release of an EPA report on Ohio's enforcement of federal environmental laws has done little to boost the prospects of the Bush administration's nominee to head the agency's enforcement office, and may have hardened opposition to the nomination.

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Senate energy committee chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) faces the awkward prospect of having his committee approve legislation that would allow drilling in the Alaska wildlife, which has already attracted filibuster threats from prominent members of his own party.

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