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Daily News

August 29, 2001

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HONOLULU -- The White House is launching a new effort to coordinate regulatory reinvention and flexibility programs in order to significantly boost use of environmental management systems (EMS) and other voluntary compliance approaches in order to allow federal officials to stop wasting resources "chasing after" companies that are already in compliance with environmental laws, according to the White House's top environment official.

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In a potentially precedent-setting case for the licensing of safer pesticides, a federal judge has dismissed two industry lawsuits and has thrown the controversy back to EPA, requiring the agency to make a difficult call in a dispute that could undermine industry participation in a highly-touted risk reduction initiative by the agency.

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EPA may be forced to drop plans to develop a national model to track emissions that cause haze because some of the five regional groups created to develop local plans fear the agency's proposed model may not meet their specific needs, sources say.

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The Bush administration's nominee to head EPA's enforcement office is facing diminishing prospects for winning confirmation because of dissatisfaction with the nominee's written answers to questions posed by Senate Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee, according to environmentalists and industry officials.

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Chemical manufacturers are arguing that EPA's long-awaited risk assessment of the chemical byproduct dioxin should be further delayed because the agency says that dioxin poses a much stronger risk than other public health agencies have found.

Manufacturers are fighting an escalating lobbying effort by environmentalists, congressional Democrats and others to persuade EPA to release the agency's dioxin reassessment by the end of the summer. EPA has worked on the 200-page risk assessment for dioxin since 1995.

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Environmentalists have drafted a series of reforms for the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) in anticipation of congressional action on reauthorization legislation in September. The reforms include establishing independent oversight of the bank's activities and placing environmental representatives on the bank's advisory committee.

Lawmakers are expected to push reauthorization legislation before Sept. 30 when the bank's current charter expires. Legislation in the Senate is awaiting floor consideration, and a House subcommittee is expected to begin markup in mid-September.

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A delegation of top officials from California's environment and energy agencies are planning within the next two weeks to visit several ethanol-producing states in the Midwest to assess the industry's ability to meet the state's growing demand for the fuel additive.

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August 28, 2001

EPA officials earlier this month floated a preliminary set of changes to the agency's controversial impaired waters rule, which includes scrapping a requirement for states to submit implementation plans for their discharge programs, and limiting the time states have to implement their programs.

Chuck Sutfin, an official in EPA's Office of Wetlands, Oceans & Watersheds, outlined the proposed changes at the annual meeting of the Association of State & Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA) whose officials met in Minnesota earlier this month.

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Environmentalists have identified about 40 members of Congress who they think are sympathetic to their efforts in reviving campaign finance reform legislation on the House floor when lawmakers return from August recess next week.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), representing a broad coalition of environmental and other public interest groups, has sued the Defense Department (DOD) arguing that the administration needs to conduct a new environmental review of the president's highly touted missile defense program instead of relying on the assessments of past administrations. The legal complaint poses a new challenge to the centerpiece of the administration's missile and nuclear defense strategy, adding environment to the concerns being raised by critics of the unproven technology.

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EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman is strongly defending the Bush administration's nominee to become the nation's chief environmental cop despite growing pressure from environmentalists and Senate Democrats to drop the nomination. In an Aug. 24 letter to all 100 members of the Senate, Whitman argues that Bush nominee Donald Schregardus "will be a strong, capable and effective member of my team at EPA." Whitman also argues that the former Ohio EPA chief shares her commitment "to environmental results."

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Environmentalists are planning to request a seat on a new White House task force on speeding up permit reviews for energy projects. But at the same time, industry officials oppose the move, arguing that broadening the group to include members of the public would interfere with the administration's internal decision-making process.

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The governor of South Carolina has called off for now a showdown with the federal government over shipments of nuclear waste into the state.

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August 27, 2001

Honolulu, HI -- EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told state environment officials that the agency would further enhance the role of states in environmental protection by strengthening programs such as the National Environmental Performance Partnership System (NEPPS) and closely involve states in the development of the agency's budget for fiscal year 2003.

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Environmentalists are facing a potentially bruising Senate loss at the hands of the nation's largest unions over the Bush administration's energy legislation, with the Teamsters, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and building trade unions backing arctic drilling and key fuel efficiency provisions in a Republican-backed plan that has been bitterly opposed by environmentalists and some Senate Democrats.

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EPA officials are expected to soon propose dropping a mandatory requirement from its controversial rule for cleaning up polluted water bodies, which calls on states to develop controversial discharge limits, and instead will issue a guidance on increasing grant funds if states voluntarily develop controls for both point and non-point sources of water pollution, EPA and state officials say.

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EPA is poised to take a series of steps to lessen the burden of its controversial clean air permitting requirements on cutting-edge energy producing operations at industrial facilities. The agency is expected to propose easing emission controls on industrial facilities that use "combined heat and power" (CHP) technology to produce electricity, and is poised to issue guidance indicating that energy-producing operations at industrial plants could be considered a separate source of air emissions that are governed by less stringent controls.

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August 24, 2001

The Department of Energy (DOE) is likely to emphasize voluntary approaches to improving the energy efficiency of appliances, rather than the mandatory standards suggested by the president's national energy strategy, according to a department source. The move may prompt outcry from environmentalists, but DOE sources say that setting new regulations could be impractical and put a heavy burden on the department.

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