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Daily News

August 17, 2001

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A pending showdown in the Senate environment committee over boosting nuclear industry insurance premiums for cleanup costs could kill reauthorization of an expiring federal program that caps facilities' liability and provides federal assurances in the event that private-sector funds are insufficient.

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EPA officials have granted a power industry request to ease the Clean Air Act's stringent new source review (NSR) rules for certain types of steam-generating electrical turbines, which could pave the way for utilities around the country to boost their electricity generation without the threat of future enforcement actions from the agency.

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Two coalitions of utility companies are seeking congressional support for competing plans to establish a multi-pollutant emission reduction regime for the industry, with the two plans differing on whether to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2), and whether to fix or eliminate EPA's permit program for new and modified sources, known as new source review (NSR).

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August 16, 2001

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Fearing curtailment of fuel supplies, EPA officials and petroleum refiners have quietly begun discussions on possible changes to a Clinton-era Clean Air Act rule setting a cap on mobile source emissions of toxic pollution, including postponing the rule's effective date for up to two years.

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Environmentalists and labor unions are looking to a forthcoming campaign opposing new trade negotiating authority as an opportunity to solidify their shaky alliance, after environmentalists suffered a bruising defeat when key labor groups backed the Bush administration's energy bill that passed the House late last month.

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The General Accounting Office (GAO) late last month completed a new report on EPA's management of its workforce, finding that the agency lacks a coordinated strategic plan to ensure adequate in-house technical, engineering and scientific staff to fulfill the agency's mission in the future, sources familiar with the report say.

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EPA has commissioned a study with the aim of developing a new legal analysis that could be used to exempt electric generating facilities that install new energy efficient technologies from the new source review (NSR) and other permit requirements of the Clean Air Act.

The newly proposed study could conceivably recommend changes to almost any aspect of Clean Air Act enforcement, a source familiar with the research says. Aside from NSR, another area it could touch on is the procedure for granting air quality permits for small-scale improvements to a facility.

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August 15, 2001

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EPA is expanding its voluntary energy efficiency programs in order to encourage the use of renewable fuel sources as part of its effort to implement the Bush administration's energy plan.

The agency recently announced a new "green power" program, in which a group of corporations, universities and local governments have agreed to purchase a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, which include hydropower, wind, solar and biomass.

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The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is urging EPA to prevent any delay in implementing strict new rules limiting diesel emissions, fearing that the White House may bow to industry pressure to amend or delay the rules before they take effect over the next few years.

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EPA officials are facing the prospect of assuming control over almost 100 state and local air permit programs for major emissions sources because the agency may not be able to meet a Dec. 1 court-ordered deadline for approving the programs.

Further complicating EPA's efforts, environmentalists say, is an agency plan to give final approval to some programs even before all problems have been ironed out, which may not be consistent with the original court settlement.

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An EPA request to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct a study of ammonia emission releases from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) could be a first step in agency efforts to clamp down on agricultural emissions.

EPA does not currently regulate the industry but farms do produce particulate emissions that at high enough levels must be controlled under the Clean Air Act, according to EPA and state air regulators.

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EPA officials this week floated the Bush administration's 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.

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August 14, 2001

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The Bush administration is proposing legislation that would allow the Pentagon to put off some future military base closures if it finds that cleaning up environmental contamination at the base would be too expensive. But the administration is, for the first time, also proposing to include some Department of Energy (DOE) and other federal facilities in future rounds of base closures that might result in more cleanup at these facilities.

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New research supports the Bush administration's reorganization of a fuel economy partnership with the auto industry, with a new emphasis on sport utility vehicles instead of economy cars, according to a new report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

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The Bush administration is poised to release an executive order on federalism later this month that will likely increase the role of states in the development of new rules and give them greater freedom in deciding how to comply with existing water, waste, and air laws, sources say.

The new order, which will replace one issued by President Clinton in 1999, will likely direct executive branch agencies to work more closely with states in developing policy, and give local governments more flexibility in complying with federal regulations, sources say.

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EPA Region V officials are preparing to approve Illinois' emissions trading program for air pollutants, despite an ongoing investigation by the agency's Inspector General (IG) over the legality of such programs, according to internal agency documents.

Regional officials' almost certain approval of the program is raising serious doubts among environmentalists and some agency officials over whether EPA will adhere to the findings of the IG's upcoming investigation, sources say.

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August 13, 2001

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State environmental commissioners are pressing EPA to broaden its analysis of funding for water infrastructure projects to include the cost of managing water quality programs under the Clean Water Act , a move which could boost future water infrastructure needs by as much as $500 million over the next 10 years, state sources say.

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California Gov. Gray Davis (D) is asking a federal appeals court to overturn EPA's oxygenate requirement for reformulated gasoline (RFG), saying that the Bush administration's decision earlier this year to reject a waiver request from the state is based on "politics" and forces California to buy hundreds of millions of gallons of ethanol each year.

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