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Daily News

January 16, 2001

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The chairman of the House Resources Committee is taking a wait-and-see approach to bipartisan legislation calling for the elimination of the White House's Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ). While the chairman supported similar legislation last session, congressional sources say he wants to see how the incoming Bush administration defines the role of CEQ before deciding whether calls for killing the White House office are warranted.

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A controversial New Jersey emissions trading program is attracting attention as a possible model of how EPA Administrator-designate Christine Todd Whitman might address key air quality issues. EPA staff has raised concerns that development of the market-based program violated statutory requirements for addressing pollutants that contribute to smog.

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January 15, 2001

San Francisco officials may soon become the first air regulators in the nation to reject a Clean Air Act operating permit application for a working facility. The local air district is leaning toward rejecting a permit application for a controversial medical waste incinerator, sources say, following an exhaustive analysis by district staff over allegations that siting the facility in a predominantly minority neighborhood would constitute environmental racism.

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Utility officials say they are preparing to challenge in court EPA's decision late last year to regulate mercury emissions from power plants, and that they will also ask the incoming Bush administration to alter the EPA action administratively.

Sources say industry discontent with EPA's mercury decision may present EPA Administrator-designate Christine Todd Whitman with her first major policy test.

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January 12, 2001

The electric utility industry has drafted a five-point national plan for addressing the power crisis in California that the industry says "poses a number of broad-based threats" to power generation. The plan calls for an increase in energy conservation efforts and investments in siting new power transmission facilities throughout most of the country.

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In the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling that limited the federal government's ability to regulate wetlands, the Clinton administration has taken several regulatory steps that could be viewed as a counter-punch to the legal defeat.

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Environmentalists have stepped up their efforts to defeat President-Elect Bush's nomination of Gail Norton as Interior Secretary, forming a broad coalition with labor unions, civil rights organizations and Republican environmental groups and highlighting controversial positions Norton has taken on civil rights and other non-environmental issues.

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EPA headquarters is expected to approve a major plan drafted by the agency's region II office and New Jersey that offers permitting flexibility to companies that commit to exceeding certain federal and state environmental requirements. EPA has released the plan for public comment, and a key agency officials says headquarters will endorse the proposal if it attracts no opposition. Region II officials hail the proposal as a national model. Public comments on the proposal are due Jan. 19.

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In response to industry outcry, EPA has revised an air toxics control standard for the chemical manufacturing industry by limiting the vent emission controls to the tail end of the production process. Industry officials had complained that the original standard interfered with the manufacturing process. The revised rule updates 1994 requirements for the synthetic organic chemical manufacturing industry (SOCMI) by narrowing the definition of "process vents" covered by the standards.

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January 11, 2001

EPA has released a second round of administrative reforms for its Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) cleanup program, including a new policy on how state-led cleanups could be structured to avoid future enforcement actions by the federal government.

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The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has announced its new membership for the 107th Congress, with Democrats picking up an extra seat to create a 9-9 spilt on the panel to reflect the even makeup of the chamber.

The only new Republican member on the committee is Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (CO), while Craig Thomas (R-WY) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) have left the committee.

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The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee plans to launch a series of hearings this spring on boosting water infrastructure funds, sources say. The issue is a top priority for both the top Democrat and Republican on the committee, and the hearings will likely result in legislation addressing state loans and grants, as well as public-private funding mechanisms, sources say.

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee has undergone a complete overhaul of its environmental subcommittees by adding clean air jurisdiction to the energy and power subcommittee and consolidating various environmental issues in an environment and hazardous materials subcommittee.

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New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) has announced the nation's first plan for reducing multiple air pollutants from power plants. The Shaheen proposal, which addresses statewide power plant emissions, may put pressure on a senior U.S. senator from her state who has been working on federal legislation to address multi-pollutants from power plants.

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Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY) and Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-VT) plan to push legislation requiring EPA to increase the role of small municipalities in the development of regulations. The legislation is being reintroduced from the last Congress, and sources say they anticipate no significant opposition from lawmakers in the new legislative session.

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January 10, 2001

California's power crisis is likely to trigger a bidders' war over emission reduction credits (ERC) that may pose a significant problem for power plant construction in the state, according to informed sources. The prospect of skyrocketing ERC prices amid pressures for economic growth in the state was part of policy discussions at an energy and environment conference sponsored by EPA and the utility industry this week in Tucson, AZ.

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The Bush transition team is asking its EPA policy advisors for a list of potential "opportunities and challenges" that the incoming administration will face in its first year.

The transition team recently sent to its policy advisors a list of questions intended to help the incoming administration develop an environmental policy agenda and plan for its first year in office.

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Power shortfalls throughout much of the country are likely to increase the use of on-site electricity generators, which one utility expert says will require the formation of a national policy to address the environmental consequences of the smaller power facilities.

Geoff Keith of M.J. Bradley and Associates told utility pollution control executives this week at a meeting sponsored by EPA and the utility industry in Tucson, AZ, that the prospect of electric power shortages will likely increase because of shrinking generation capacities.

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EPA and Pentagon officials are negotiating extending an agreement on the cleanup of military base closures that includes the Department of Defense paying for EPA staff devoted to overseeing the former military installations. Under an existing arrangement, DOD pays for more than 90 EPA positions to oversee base closure and realignment (BRAC) cleanups at approximately 108 contaminated sites.

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