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Daily News

January 19, 2001

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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State environment officials have floated a wish list of EPA reforms to the Bush transition team that includes increased federal funding for state-run programs and greater cooperation between the federal agency and states on virtually all aspects of environmental protection. The list was sent in response to a list of eight questions the transition team sent out to its environmental policy advisors -- including the executive director of the Environmental Council of the States, Robert E.

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Congressional investigators are charging that EPA's data collection efforts are woefully inadequate and that its relationship with states is woefully inadequate. But the investigators did praise the Superfund program and took it off a list of high-risk programs that pose significant financial uncertainty for the government and industry.

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A leading Senate Republican is suggesting legislation that would redefine EPA's mission to include energy security considerations. The suggestion is being made as part of a broader proposal by the senator to President-elect Bush to act swiftly in resolving the nation's energy crisis.

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In the final days of the Clinton administration, EPA has released a report that provides a comprehensive overview of market-based initiatives from the past decade that the agency says have produced significant pollution reductions through non-regulatory measures, while reducing compliance costs for industry.

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The oil industry is calling on the incoming Bush administration to reevaluate fuel-related regulatory decisions by the Clinton EPA and limit anticipated efforts to control carbon dioxide emissions. The wish list is described in a letter to the transition team in response to questions sent out by the Bush camp to its environmental policy advisors on key issues the incoming administration will face in its first year.

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EPA has significantly modified an interim guidance on reporting exemptions for certain air pollutants in an attempt to resolve a year-long legal dispute with industry. But some industry sources say the revisions may not go far enough and that they will likely proceed with litigation, charging EPA with inappropriately setting new regulatory requirements in the guidance document.

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January 17, 2001

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A coalition of power companies that runs a large number of natural-gas powered generators is considering legislation that would offer incentives for investments in domestic renewable energy sources through the use of emission credits, and set strict caps on four pollutants -- nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide (CO2) and mercury.

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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has announced plans to introduce legislation to make EPA a Cabinet-level department. Boxer announced her intentions at the Senate confirmation hearing of EPA Administrator-designate Christine Todd Whitman. "I would like to be calling you secretary instead of administrator," Boxer said to Whitman. The senator argued that elevating the agency was an important step in giving the head of EPA a strong voice at Cabinet meetings, where broad policy priorities are established.

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The chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is drafting legislation that will establish a federal office to study the possibility of recycling spent radioactive wastes from nuclear-powered utilities in an effort to address the country's mounting nuclear waste disposal problems, according to a Senate source. The proposal is part of a broader bill intended to resolve the nation's energy shortages, which is expected to be offered by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) in the next few weeks with the support of GOP Senate leader Trent Lott (R-MS).

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EPA has revised requirements for tracking the shipment of hazardous wastes that is expected to save generators and transporters of waste up to $28 million in paperwork each year. Waste generators and transporters, as well as state regulators, have long argued for reforms to EPA's hazardous waste manifest system. The agency's latest actions are the result of reform efforts begun more than 15 years ago.

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An EPA standard to lower the allowable amount of arsenic in drinking water to 10 parts per billion could be challenged by both industry and environmentalists, according to sources following the issue. These sources say that neither side is happy with the agency rule and that a legal challenge is a near certainty.

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EPA Administrator-designate Christine Todd Whitman told the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee at her confirmation hearing that she would integrate environmental justice considerations into all agency directives and rulemakings.

Whitman told the panel that she is "committed" to putting environmental justice considerations "at the forefront of decision-making," in response to questions from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Whitman, however, did not specify which, if any, civil rights policies developed under the Clinton administration she would keep in place.

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January 16, 2001

A defense industry group is urging President-elect Bush to revise government acquisition requirements by limiting environmental liability as part of broad reforms intended to strengthen the industrial base and improve government access to commercial technologies.

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Power shortages gripping California and other parts of the country are prompting some tough environmental choices for a key Republican lawmaker as he attempts to deliver on President-elect Bush's promise to boost energy supplies.

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