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Daily News

December 29, 2000

Industry sources are raising concerns that an EPA plan for broad waste management reforms could interfere with production processes. The reforms are intended to look at wastes in the context of a product's entire "life cycle," which industry fears may impose strict requirements on hazardous materials used in the manufacturing process.

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Northeast air regulators argue that reducing nitrogen oxide releases from gasoline-powered engines at a cost as high as $1,000 per ton is still cost-effective in cutting regional smog. The assertion is made as part of a broad report on available NOx control technologies that is likely to serve as a guide for local regulators in looking for ways to meet federal ozone requirements.

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December 28, 2000

Electric utility officials are criticizing an anticipated EPA rule to prevent oil spills as posing a serious safety threat to certain types of power stations. The industry argues that "secondary containment" measures expected in the rule may increase the risk of fires at these stations.

But EPA sources say the agency has provided flexibility in the rule for cases where secondary containment is not practicable from an engineering standpoint.

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EPA has released its first full year of data from its nationwide monitoring of particulate matter 2.5 microns (PM-2.5) or smaller, indicating that approximately 100 metropolitan areas across the country would be out of compliance with the agency proposed 2.5 PM standard, which is currently pending a legal challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. EPA says the tougher 2.5 PM standard is necessary to protect children and asthmatics from the harmful effects of soot, but industry officials and some state regulators say the agency lacks the scientific evidence to warrant the requirements.

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December 27, 2000

A recently released report by the federal government claims that global warming poses a serious threat to U.S. water quality, primarily through increased runoff, and makes a case for quick action to address the release of greenhouse gases. The report warns that policymakers must begin preparing for problems now -- including strengthening wastewater treatment standards -- despite the political and scientific uncertainty regarding climate change impacts.

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EPA headquarters officials are planning to urge regional officials to divert funds from investigations at potential Superfund sites to address a possible shortfall in state cleanup activities. The move is an attempt to address congressional funding cuts to the Superfund program by alleviating pressure on regions to cut so-called core funding to states.

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December 26, 2000

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Senate sources say support for an independent waste ombudsman office at EPA may be a key test for New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) in her confirmation hearing as President-elect Bush's nominee to be the next agency administrator. A recent controversy over EPA staffing decisions at the office is expected to renew congressional interest in the role of the ombudsman, sources say.

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In an attempt to ease California's power crisis, state energy officials have recommended that local governments and state air regulators streamline the environmental approval process for certain types of electricity projects. The California Energy Commission has drafted a report intended to address the state's power shortages and rising energy prices by easing environmental and other restrictions on the construction of smaller generators that may be pursued to quickly boost the state's electricity supplies.

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The Senate is expected to easily ratify an international agreement drafted earlier this month to limit persistent toxins because the plan imposes few, if any, new requirements on U.S. businesses, according to U.S. officials who negotiated the treaty.

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December 22, 2000

Western governors are calling for federal legislation to encourage the development of clean coal technologies.

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A coalition of Northeast states is backing away from a proposed regional plan on the formulation of diesel fuel that is intended to reduce urban smog, and instead are planning to push new regulations to limit diesel engine emissions. The decision comes as the federal government is also grappling with ways to reduce diesel pollution, with EPA this week having issued major standards for fuel and heavy-duty engines.

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Amid efforts by utilities to respond to California's energy crisis, state air regulators are scrambling to track potential emission increases as power companies turn to relatively dirty diesel-powered generators to meet peak demands. State regulators suspect that many facilities are not reporting the use of higher-emitting generators, and a significant number may be violating their operating permits issued by local air districts.

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The Clinton administration is poised to release a long-awaited proposal on assessing natural resource damages from pollution, which may finally resolve a controversy that stems back to the former Bush administration.

According to an Interior Department source, the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) has signed off on the rules and the department plans to make editorial changes before submitting the proposal for publication in the Federal Register in early January.

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President-elect Bush's nomination of New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) to head EPA signals that the incoming administration may be seeking to significantly improve the agency's relationship with states.

At the same time, the Bush administration is considering elevating EPA to a full-Cabinet position, with sources pointing out that many of the president-elect's environmental advisors are the same people who worked with his father, President Bush, in his failed attempt to create an environment department.

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December 21, 2000

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), are calling on Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to conduct a thorough investigation of the department's handling of former nuclear sites, which could lead to a major expansion of DOE's cleanup responsibilities and environmental efforts at these sites.

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EPA has released major rules to reduce harmful pollutants from diesel exhaust, while at the same time acknowledging concerns about potential fuel supply disruptions by granting refiners and engine manufacturers some flexibility in the deadline for meeting the new requirements. Release of the rules ends months of wrangling within the administration over the impact of the new requirements.

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EPA Administrator Carol Browner has signed the second of two "cluster" air toxic regulations affecting the pulp and paper industry, completing work on the agency's first integrated air and water toxic standards for a specific industry sector.

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EPA has approved revised standards for mobile source air toxics intended to prevent a possible boost in emissions as federal and state officials look at ways to address alleged groundwater problems from a common fuel additive. The standard lowers allowable toxic levels to reflect progress that industry has made in reducing the pollutants because of the addition of oxygenates under the federal reformulated gasoline program.

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Skyrocketing energy prices have prompted nuclear power advocates to examine a possible rebirth in the U.S., industry sources say.

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December 20, 2000

Environmentalists are gearing up for a wave of legal challenges to a series of upcoming EPA air toxics rules next year, source say, and are coordinating a legal strategy among a number of environmental groups in anticipation of the standards.

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