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Daily News

November 27, 2001

Senate Republicans are considering attaching a House-passed energy bill to a massive farm reform bill, in a renewed effort to push passage of energy legislation this year. The move comes in response to an increasing realization on Capitol Hill that economic stimulation legislation has stalled indefinitely, which proponents of GOP-backed energy bill had eyed as a possible vehicle.

While the farm bill has been approved by the Senate agriculture committee, sources say it remains less than certain that the legislation will be brought to a floor vote this year.

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EPA has announced that it will be moving the waste office's independent investigator, referred to as the ombudsman, from the waste office to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), in response to claims by lawmakers and the General Accounting Office (GAO) that the investigator lacked true independence.

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While a federal appeals court has upheld a federal government listing of dioxin as a human carcinogen, lawyers for the plaintiff who challenged the listing say the ruling will provide them increased legal footing in opposing other guidance and non-regulatory dioxin actions by federal agencies, including EPA.

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November 26, 2001

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In light of heightened security concerns, the Army has intensified its scrutiny of two proposed environmental reviews that examine various destruction methods for stockpiled chemical weapons, sources say. Experts say the effort is an example of the potential crackdown on publicly available information following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sources say that one of the two documents under Army review is likely to be revised in response to new security concerns. Both documents are slated to be publicly released on Dec. 21.

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House and Senate budgeters are expected to fund a pilot project in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that would create a first-ever nationwide environmental health tracking network to aid state and local health departments in responding to public health emergencies, including chronic diseases and their related environmental factors.

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Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (R) has blasted EPA's proposed cleanup plan for one of the nation's largest Superfund sites, and instead is pushing an alternative approach negotiated by the state and industry officials.

The governor argues that the federal plan is too expensive and time-consuming, and has threatened to block EPA involvement at the site.

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Chemical makers have proposed a legislative strategy to secure their facilities from terrorist attacks without additional regulations, including tax incentives for installing security equipment. The industry approach is meant as an alternative to legislation backed by some Senate Democrats that would impose new security requirements at chemical plants.

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EPA has developed a list of water quality initiatives to reduce nutrient overloads, including new guidelines on how the agency's nutrient standards should be integrated into state regulatory programs, according to a new EPA directive to state water quality officials.

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Environmentalists are calling on the Bush administration to review the national security implications of contentious energy legislation favored by the president and other Republicans, arguing that many of the provisions in the bill would create attractive targets for terrorist attacks.

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November 21, 2001

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A spokesperson for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) says the lawmaker plans to offer an amendment to energy legislation when it comes up on the floor that would increase the fuel economy standard for sport utility vehicles (SUVs) to match the current requirement for passenger vehicles.

The senator will offer the plan regardless of the outcome of negotiations by Democratic leaders to forge a consensus on the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, assuming that the consensus plan differs from Snowe's proposal.

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Senate Democratic staffers say nuclear security provisions contained in a failed economic stimulus plan are likely to reappear in a comprehensive energy bill that leaders expect to bring to the floor early next year.

The energy bill is being crafted by several committee chairmen with jurisdiction over various energy-related issues in an effort to offer an alternative to a House-passed energy plan that is supported by President Bush.

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President Bush has issued an executive order that would allow the Department of Defense (DOD) to bypass any legal requirements that may hinder construction projects necessary to support the armed forces in the administration's war on terrorism, prompting concerns by environmentalists that the move could undercut environmental reviews.

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EPA officials have apparently revived work on a revolutionary trading scheme for polluted waters initiated by the Clinton administration, whereby dischargers that reduce pollution below allowable limits are awarded "credits" that can be sold to facilities that exceed permitted limits.

EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Tracy Mehan told Inside EPA that a trading program may be formally worked into an impaired waters rule that the agency plans to propose next spring.

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EPA enforcement officials say they are preparing to release an updated report documenting the environmental reporting practices of U.S. companies required by the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC). EPA and environmental sources say they hope the move will make industry more sensitive to possible lawsuits by pressing publicly traded corporations to provide shareholders and the general public with greater information about their environmental expenditures and enforcement actions taken against them.

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Environmentalists say a recent ruling by New York's highest court on power plants could have broader implications by forcing the state to adopt tougher particulate matter controls for all industrial operations.

The ruling upheld a lower court decision that the construction of a series of unusually small power plants still required environmental reviews.

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November 20, 2001

In one of the first legal reviews on the potential impacts of a new anti-terrorism law, a public advocacy group concludes that the statute's reach is so broad that seemingly benign research on industrial operations by non-profit groups, including environmentalists, could be punishable as a crime. An analysis by OMB Watch on the recently enacted USA Patriot Act argues that the broad definition of "domestic terrorism" could open the door to prosecuting some environmental activities.

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Senior Democrats in the Senate, including Majority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD), have tasked the commerce committee with continuing to work out a possible consensus regarding an increase in federal fuel economy standards, signaling that a proposal for tightening current standards will likely not be included in a Democratic energy plan that could be circulated late next week.

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Members of a House-Senate conference committee working on an EPA spending bill have directed the agency to conduct a study on the compliance costs of its controversial arsenic-in-drinking-water rule. The lawmakers earlier this month approved a provision that would require EPA to report back by March 2002 on the costs of reducing arsenic in drinking in water from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb.

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Prominent Senate Democrats are drafting legislation that would increase government control over security at nuclear power plants, which would include posting a new federal police force at every facility. Supporters say the bill is a follow-up to airline security legislation signed into law Nov. 19, which sparked an intense congressional debate over private versus government control of security operations.

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Environmentalists in New York are poised to petition EPA to tighten several power plant permits in what could be a precedent-setting attempt to target alleged violations of new source review (NSR) requirements through the citizen petition process.

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