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Daily News

January 31, 2001

EPA's air office has released a draft study that identifies five high priority toxins that pose widespread health threats. The document is expected to be used by regulators for targeting emission sources for additional controls.

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California state Assemblywoman Charlene Zettel (R-Poway) this week introduced the first bill to allow air districts and the state energy commission to issue expedited power plant permits and to create a state fund to mitigate or offset emissions created by the new power plants. The legislation is expected to be folded into a package of bills being developed by Republican lawmakers to address the state's power crisis.

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A broad coalition of environmentalists plans to press high-level Bush administration officials to release EPA's long-awaited dioxin reassessment. The agency's science advisors have been struggling with drafting final language in the report, while some sources have raised concerns about reports that industry officials are urging the Bush administration to subject the document to another round of scientific peer review.

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Anticipating federal approval of a number of highway projects for Atlanta, environmentalists are poised to file litigation arguing that the state's transportation plan underestimates smog-causing emissions. The litigation would be the latest action in a long-standing dispute over Atlanta's efforts to meet ambient air quality goals under the Clean Air Act.

The dispute has attracted national attention, with sources saying that many of the issues being dealt with in Atlanta confront a number of other smog-ridden areas across the country.

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Industry and state sources say the Bush transition team is struggling to fill several key agency positions, especially the top job at the Office of Environmental Information.

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Incoming EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has pledged to control polluted runoff from agricultural operations through the agency's controversial total maximum daily load (TMDL) program, which was one of the priorities she outlined for senators in a list that includes federal facility compliance, recruiting new agency staff, improving EPA's data management and increasing the role of states in brownfields cleanups.

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January 30, 2001

A Cabinet-level task force established by President Bush to address the nation's energy crisis is primarily focused on boosting domestic energy supplies, which includes drilling for oil and gas in protected wilderness areas. Following the group's first meeting on Jan. 29, Bush emphasized to reporters later in the day the need to bring more energy sources to the marketplace, including by drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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Lawyers representing the farming industry are pressing a federal appeals court to apply a recent Supreme Court ruling that limited the federal government's authority over isolated wetlands to address polluted runoff. The farm industry's efforts have attracted national attention as an indication of how far federal courts would be willing to go in extending the Supreme Court's decision to other water-related disputes.

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Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, says that he will cosponsor a bill elevating EPA to a Cabinet-level office, which was introduced earlier this month by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). During floor debate on the nomination of New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) to be the next EPA administrator, Reid said that he would support Whitman as the administrator and "maybe, soon, the secretary."

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Pentagon officials have developed a method for calculating greenhouse gas emissions from military operations that are exempt from international emission controls, sources say. The Defense Department expects to unveil the accounting method at an international meeting next week on the environmental impacts of the military.

DOD officials are hoping to get other countries involved in developing a greenhouse gas calculation method that could become an internationally recognized "best practice" for reporting emissions under the Kyoto climate change treaty, DOD source says.

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The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Robert Smith (R-NH) says incoming EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman has pledged to work with him on drafting legislation to address power plant emissions and clean up abandoned city sites for reuse by industrial firms, among other initiatives. Smith announced the upcoming legislative agenda as part of his Jan. 30 floor statement in support of Whitman's nomination as the next head of EPA.

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The Senate's top energy policy legislator, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK), has signaled that his Energy and Natural Resources Committee tomorrow will wade into the California wholesale power crisis and its broad implications. Murkowski said late last week in a wide ranging floor statement on the California crisis that he is concerned that the federal government has incurred some contingent financial liability in the crisis by ordering power to be sold in the state over the last month with no clear agreement on how the power will be paid for.

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The confirmation of Christine Todd Whitman as the next EPA administrator sailed through the Senate, while the more controversial nomination of Gale Norton to be Interior Secretary attracted significant but insufficient opposition from Democrats to block her appointment.

Whitman was confirmed 99-0 following a 30-minute floor debate in the Senate. The nomination of Norton, which sparked strong protests from environmentalists and some Democratic lawmakers, was approved 75-24 following six hours of floor debate.

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January 29, 2001

Sources say EPA is poised to issue the next round of drinking water contaminants targeted for new controls.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA's Office of Water is responsible for choosing at least five contaminants from a list of candidates for possible regulation. A source with EPA says that the agency is likely to name the contaminants and specify the proposed regulatory determinations in March this year. EPA is required by August to decide whether any of the contaminants listed in this round require new regulations, the source says.

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Lawyers for a city in Wisconsin are challenging a departing regulatory decision by the Clinton administration for controlling radiation in drinking water. The legal challenge comes at the same time that the state's congressional delegation is seeking hearings on the radiation standard, as well as the Clinton EPA's controversial decision to regulate arsenic in drinking water.

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EPA plans to submit for scientific peer review its draft 10-year strategy for studying the causes and impacts of global warming. The far-reaching strategy, developed by the agency's Office of Research and Development, is likely to attract wide attention by offering a blueprint for EPA efforts intended to lay the basis for future policymaking on greenhouse gases.

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EPA's former Assistant Administrator for Water Chuck Fox has joined the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) to help the group develop a strategy for improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

According to a statement released by CBF, Fox "will serve as a key advisor during the project and, working with CBF staff and key members of the Bay community, . . . [will] identify opportunities to expand protection and restoration efforts."

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Property rights activists are urging Wyoming's two Republican senators, Craig Thomas and Michael Enzi, to oppose the possible nomination of John Turner, the former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), as chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

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