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Daily News

January 09, 2001

A leading conservative think tank is urging the incoming Bush administration to minimize the role of career government officials by purging federal agencies of Clinton administration holdovers, and by preventing career bureaucrats from holding visible policy positions during the transition. The recommendation could have a major impact on EPA, where assistant administrator positions, which are political appointments, have been filled during past presidential transitions on an acting basis by career bureaucrats.

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Despite mounting opposition from environmentalists, President-elect Bush's lightning-rod nominee to head the Department of Interior, former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton, has been winning limited praise from some state officials and environmentalists for her vigorous pursuit of the federal government to clean up its toxic waste.

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Industry groups are expected to challenge in court a new EPA rule that will greatly expand the number of facilities required to report lead releases under the agency's toxics release inventory (TRI). While the standard does not impose any new release controls on facilities, the data generated under the TRI is intended to inform the general public about allowable releases of pollutants in their communities, which some say puts pressure on industry to reduce its emissions.

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A first-of-its-kind study by EPA targets pollutants affecting children's health that policymakers should address in future environmental controls, for example, by reducing air emissions that cause asthma and cleaning up lead-contaminated soils and dust. The report assesses progress over the past decade in protecting children's health through environmental regulation, while identifying areas that need further work.

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January 08, 2001

California air regulators are looking at ways to speed up environmental permits for power generation projects proposed by thirteen separate electric companies that state officials hope will ease the state's energy crisis. The proposals involve 30 electricity "peaking" projects that state officials expect to be online by the middle of June, according to sources.

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Republican lawmakers in the House are pressing Energy Secretary-designate Spencer Abraham to boost funding for the department's waste cleanup program. The lawmakers argue that the Clinton administration's final budget request for DOE would keep funding for the program flat, making it impossible for cleanups to remain on schedule.

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House Republicans have unveiled committee membership and chairmanships for the 107th Congress. Subcommittee membership and chairmanships are still being worked out. Below is a list of Republicans on environment-related committees, with the chairman at the top of each list:


TAUZIN, W.J. "Billy" (LA)



UPTON, Fred (MI)




COX, Christopher (CA)

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EPA has completed work on its landmark plan to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions throughout the eastern half of the U.S. in response to a federal appeals court ruling that raised questions about an earlier agency proposal. The revised plan may end a two-year-long legal battle with utilities and some state regulators who challenged the agency's proposed regional approach to reducing power plant emissions and other sources of NOx.

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TUCSON, Arizona -- Efforts by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) to build support for a utility emissions bill is getting a boost from a new EPA study that shows the benefits of the legislation would far outweigh the costs.

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EPA has proposed regulations to limit the overflow of raw sewage that will greatly expand permitting requirements on city-owned sewer systems. The proposed standards would cover 19,000 sewer systems, including 4,800 satellite collection systems that previously were exempt from national pollutant discharge elimination system permits under the Clean Water Act.

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Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) is considering taking on the role of the top Democrat on the House Resources Committee, where the congressman is expected to push energy conservation measures and oppose oil drilling in wilderness preserves. But his decision depends on the outcome of an overhaul of the Energy and Commerce Committee, where Markey already has a senior post. The Resources Committee slot is the last ranking minority member position to be decided by the Democratic leadership.

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January 05, 2001

To avoid power outages in California, state energy officials are recommending that the legislature give Gov. Gray Davis authority to postpone the installation of emission reduction equipment at power plants across the state. The installation of the equipment, primarily intended to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, is a key requirement of many local air district clean-air plans to meet federal smog reduction requirements.

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Environmentalists are blasting first-time water quality criteria developed by EPA to be used by states in establishing limits on methylmercury, which is primarily released from power plants. Environmentalists claim that the criteria, which set allowable levels of the toxin in fish tissue, would put at risk women, children and sensitive subpopulations.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) plans to offer legislation to tighten power plant controls for nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions in an effort to push quick congressional action on new acid rain controls. But the initiative has some worried that it may sap momentum for a broader initiative backed by the Senate environment committee's top Republican, Sen. Robert Smith (R-NH). Smith is pushing legislation, with the backing of some utility officials, to address mercury and carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as NOx and SO2.

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Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-PA), a senior GOP member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told Inside EPA that expects to become chairman of the panel's oversight & investigations subcommittee.

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The top Democrat on the Environment & Public Works Committee, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), said he expects the panel to recommend confirmation of Christine Todd Whitman as the next EPA administrator. Reid told reporters that the groundwork is being laid for a one-day Jan. 16 confirmation hearing.

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Industry representatives are urging President-elect Bush to expand on the Clinton administration's efforts to pursue administrative reforms rather than legislation to improve the Superfund program.

Among the new reforms industry officials are calling for are improved management of contractor and oversight costs, increased state autonomy over brownfields, increased EPA orphan share payments, a broadening of remedy reviews to include reviews of operation & maintenance costs, and a "rampdown" of the number of new sites being added to the National Priorities List (NPL).

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EPA's water chief says the agency plans to issue a number of regulations before the Clinton administration leaves office that are certain to stir controversy, including arsenic in drinking water standards and revised wetland protections. EPA Assistant Administrator for Water J. Charles Fox, in exclusive interview with Inside EPA, laid out the agency's exit strategy for addressing water quality concerns.

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The Sierra Club has launched a campaign with the express purpose of defeating the nominations of former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton to be secretary of Interior and former Sen. John Ashcroft to be U.S. attorney general.

In a Jan. 5 press release, the Sierra Club announced that it will work to block both appointments, citing their "dismal environmental records." The Sierra Club announcement is part of a larger effort that sources say will include a number of other major groups.

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January 04, 2001


The House Commerce Committee is considering reorganizing its environmental subcommittees after lawmakers Jan. 3 voted to remove the committee's jurisdiction over financial issues and give that authority to a newly constituted House Banking & Financial Services Committee.

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