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Daily News

September 25, 2000

The Army Corps of Engineers is defending its authority to regulate isolated wetlands. In a brief to the Supreme Court, the Corps migratory birds that rely on the availability of wetlands affect interstate commerce. The case has attracted widespread attention because of the potential impact on a number of other federal environmental regulations that have been defended under the Constitutions' commerce clause.

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The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report that endorses the creation of a high-level scientific advisory position at EPA. The report, which contains a list of the "50 most urgent science and technology presidential appointments" in the executive branch, recommends that EPA create the position of Assistant Administrator for Research and Development. EPA officials are currently debating whether or not such a position is necessary.

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EPA staff and observers say the agency is unlikely to complete work on any of its major Clean Water Act (CWA) or Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulations this year and that EPA will instead focus on moving proposals as far along in the pipeline as possible before President Clinton's term ends in January. This situation leaves the prospects uncertain for a host of major rules -- ranging from changes to CWA rules regulating dredging to new drinking water standards for arsenic.

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EPA has signed an agreement with the US Filter Recovery Systems, a commercial hazardous waste treatment and recovery facility in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The plan is being touted as an innovative way to promote recycling as an alternative to waste discharges that could end up in the Mississippi River or a landfill. The agreement was reached under EPA's Project XL program, which offers regulatory flexibility to industry and other facilities in exchange for measures that go beyond current environmental requirements.

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September 22, 2000

A long-awaited beach water testing bill passed the Senate unanimously Thursday and is expected to quickly clear the House, sources say.

Senate sponsor Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) drafted a manager's amendment to the bill, S522, reflecting an agreement with members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The House passed a version of the bill in April 1999, but the House is now expected approve the consensus plan, allowing lawmakers to vote on identical measures and avoid a potentially lengthy conference committee, Senate and House sources say.

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Senate appropriators adopted a controversial restriction on the Department of Interior's ability to regulate mining on public lands. The provision was attached to an Interior appropriations bill that has already drawn fire from the Clinton administration and could result in a presidential veto.

Environmentalists also have raised concerns saying that the amendment could cause a greater number of contaminated sites on public lands. These environmentalists point out that mining wastes are a major factor in Superfund sites throughout the country.

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While EPA sources have indicated that the agency is likely to grant California at least a partial or conditioned waiver of the federal reformulated gasoline (RFG) oxygen requirement, the agency does not plan to reach a final decision until well after the November presidential election, according to a key agency source. Such a delay may be intended by the Clinton-Gore administration to avoid risking the potential loss of Midwest votes for presidential candidate Al Gore, sources say.

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A leading gas industry group predicts that emissions could rise by nearly 14 percent and energy rates could jump $1.2 billion higher in eight years if the industry does not meet a goal to reach a 30 trillion cubic foot (TFC) market. The agency further pushes federal regulators to streamline permitting requirements for new facilities to allow new plants to come online faster.

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and one of the most active GOP lawmakers on the issue of global warming, is not only making good on his presidential campaign promise to investigate the effects of climate change, but says he will also write legislation on the issue for introduction in the 107th Congress.

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September 20, 2000

Canadian officials have proposed a plan that would cap emissions of large Canadian power plants in Ontario, as part of ongoing U.S.-Canada talks on transboundary air pollution, sources say. While the plan is still preliminary, sources say it could have a significant impact on both downwind Canadian provinces and U.S. states if implemented.

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EPA officials reportedly support a proposed Project XL plan that would allow a Philadelphia pharmaceutical company to burn small quantities of hazardous and radioactive wastes onsite without a typical toxic waste permit. But environmentalists are blasting the plan saying it sets a dangerous precedent and provides the company with too much cover to use the incinerator for wastes not allowed by the agreement.

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The Department of Energy's Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) is expected to say there are critical weaknesses in the long-term projections of performance at the department's proposed high-level nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, NV, and will soon call for an alternative to the current design. A top-level source at the board says that a detailed letter to this effect will soon be on its way to the director of the DOE's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM).

"The board has never said this quite so pointedly," says the official.

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The General Accounting Office (GAO) is urging the Senate to significantly tighten the Army Corps of Engineers' congressional reporting requirements for a Florida Everglades restoration plan. The recommendation is based on a new GAO study that found the plan to be sufficiently uncertain, requiring more than $1 billion worth of additional water quality projects. The report was released as the Senate began consideration of a $7.8 billion bill to restore the Everglades.

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EPA has released a draft risk assessment of genetically-modified corn, cotton and potatoes. The assessment will be used to reach decisions regarding renewal of the expiring registrations for several of the products and to develop possible mitigation measures.

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A landmark ruling by an international dispute panel concluded that the French government's ban on asbestos imports and products was not in violation of global trade agreements. The French anti-asbestos law is the first-of-its-kind in the world, and the panel decision may pave the way for similar measures by other countries.

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The Senate is expected to unanimously approve a long-awaited beach water bill as early as this evening, sources say. Under a congressional agreement, the House is expected to take up the Senate version as soon as it passes that chamber, and then speed the measure to the president's desk before lawmakers adjourn.

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Congressional investigators have concluded that a majority of states do not have the staff or funds to adequately implement drinking water regulations, and that states are over-burdened with rising infrastructure costs. The findings are being touted by a key lawmaker as possibly laying the groundwork for massive water infrastructure legislation expected to be introduced next year.

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September 19, 2000

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) encourages businesses, both large and small, to weigh in on proposed ozone-reduction steps for the Galveston/Houston metropolitan area. The measures are being proposed by local air regulators in response to federally-mandated requirements, which have come under sharp attack nationally by utilities and other industries. DeLay, in a written statement, warns that the smog-reduction measures "must be based on sound science, not political science."

Source: InsideEPA.com

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The Pentagon has released an interim policy that lays out land-use controls associated with environmental cleanup of military installations slated to be sold by the federal government. The controls include any physical, legal or administrative mechanism that can restrict use or limit access to prevent human exposure to dangerous levels of contamination. The restrictions are used to ensure the integrity of an engineering remedy and to protect public health after transfer of the property's ownership.

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EPA is mounting an investigation to find out how a genetically engineered corn product illegally made its way into Taco Bell tacos. The inquiry will be conducted jointly with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is in response to demands by environmentalists.

A coalition of environmental groups, called the Genetically Engineered Food Alert, asked the agencies to launch the investigation after a study commissioned by the group found the altered corn in supermarket tacos that Taco Bell manufactures. The corn is currently permitted in food for animals, but not for humans.

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