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Daily News

January 23, 2001

The new chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee's reconfigured subcommittee on environment and hazardous materials, Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-OH), will likely take the lead in drafting legislation to allow states to limit interstate waste shipments, congressional and industry sources say.

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The Bush administration has drafted a list of regulations and guidance documents that have been snagged by a White House memo that suspended publication of all regulatory decisions approved by the Clinton administration during its final days in office.

EPA regulations caught by the suspension include a controversial plan for excusing from reporting requirements allowable releases of certain air pollutants. The majority of the suspended rules involve pesticide requirements.

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A new report from the Utility Data Institute (UDI) that says nuclear power production costs are cheaper than coal is being touted by advocates as support for a growing interest in building large base-load power plants to ensure against capacity shortages in the age of deregulation.

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Pesticide manufacturers are challenging as a late-night deal an agreement between the outgoing Clinton administration and environmentalists that establishes strict deadlines for controlling a number of commonly used pesticides. The agreement is one of a number of last-minute decisions by the outgoing administration that has prompted industry officials and some lawmakers to cry foul. Whether the Bush administration will support the agreement, which must undergo public review and comment, remains uncertain.

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Based on the success of pilot programs, EPA has drafted a five-year strategy for establishing industry-wide, multi-media environmental requirements. The strategy is expected to provide clarity and certainty to industry on environmental controls, while allowing EPA to better plan. The strategy calls on EPA to establish broad environmental controls for an entire industry sector, such as dry cleaning and automotive repair.

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January 22, 2001

EPA is poised to exempt some 65,000 facilities from oil spill prevention and control requirements in an effort to eliminate overlapping requirements and provide industry with greater regulatory flexibility, according to agency sources. The facilities will be excused from Clean Water Act requirements, but agency officials point out that many of these facilities will still have to comply with underground storage tank regulations under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA).

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Sources say Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), the top Democrat on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, has indicated his support for a legislative plan, expected to be introduced Jan. 23 by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), to elevate EPA to a Cabinet post. Lieberman could play a key role in ushering the bill through the committee, which is expected to have jurisdiction over the legislation.

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In the final hours of the Clinton administration, EPA's exiting air chief issued a seven-point plan for reforming the agency's controversial clean air permitting program that includes granting electric utility companies broad authority to include all their power generating plants under a single emissions reduction plan.

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Making good on a long-standing threat, environmentalists have filed suit challenging Atlanta's efforts to reduce smog, with sources saying the dispute represents an emerging national problem. The litigation, filed on behalf of a local chapter of the Sierra Club, attempts to force EPA to re-designate the city as a "severe" nonattainment area, which would trigger tougher emission control measures.

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The administrator of EPA Region VI, which includes Texas, will remain in office on a temporary basis under the Bush administration, EPA sources say. Region VI Administrator Gregg Cooke is the only regional head asked by the incoming Bush administration to remain in the politically-appointed position. Sources say Cooke is not likely to hold the job permanently under Bush's watch, but these sources would not specify how long he will keep the position.

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January 19, 2001

In an effort to boost independent regulatory reviews, sources say the Bush administration may revive a broad policy evaluation office at EPA that was dismantled by outgoing Administrator Carol Browner. These sources suggest that the reestablished office could play a key role in providing the new EPA administrator with impartial analyses of regulatory proposals developed by the agency's air, water and other program offices.

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Industry groups opposed to tough greenhouse gas controls are anxiously awaiting Secretary of State nominee Colin Powell's answer to a question about his position on global warming, which Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is expected to soon submit to him in writing. A staffer for Hagel says the senator had intended to ask the question during Powell's confirmation hearing earlier this week, but "did not have the opportunity."

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President-elect Bush is calling for a rolling back of environmental standards to address the power crisis in California, which some say may present the incoming administration with its first major policy test. "To the extent that we can help California maximize power production at its plants, we need to do so. If there's any environmental regulations, for example, that's preventing California from having 100 percent max output at their plants, like I understand there may be, then we need to relax those regulations," Bush told CNN on the opening night of his inaugural ceremonies.

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Incoming President George W. Bush may suspend the release of dozens of environmental rules, policies and guidance documents in the Federal Register in an effort to keep them from going into effect until a complete review can be conducted, sources close to the issue say. Advisors to Bush say the incoming administration is considering its options for reexamining a number of Clinton administration initiatives. One option reportedly under consideration would be an executive order suspending the publication of any new government requirements.

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Energy Secretary-nominee Spencer Abraham at his confirmation hearing provided few specifics on nuclear waste cleanup, failing to quell concerns from environmentalists who have argued that the former senator's legislative record should disqualify him from managing the nation's largest toxic waste cleanup projects. But one environmentalist expressed surprise about the degree of knowledge about cleanup issues Abraham showed at the hearing, which the source said demonstrated that Abraham has been preparing for the job he will assume given likely Senate confirmation.

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Conservatives are calling on new members of Congress to slash EPA's budgets, strip the agency of its responsibility for cleaning up toxic waste sites and dismantle the agency's research program. The recommendations are outlined in a larger proposal by a prominent conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, advising incoming members of Congress on managing the federal budget. The document was released at an orientation meeting for freshman lawmakers hosted by the group.

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A coalition of major environmental groups is urging Congress to boost funds for restricting polluted runoff into the Mississippi River basin as part of a nine-state strategy negotiated by EPA that calls for increased control measures by farming operations. The ambitious strategy is intended to eliminate an oxygen-free dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

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January 18, 2001

The National Governors' Association is calling on the incoming Bush administration to expand EPA's grants program by providing states greater flexibility to shift money to high-priority programs. The governors also are pressing the new administration to create a single grant program involving multiple federal agencies to address brownfields cleanups, suburban sprawl and other environmental issues.

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