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Daily News

August 07, 2001

As Congress and the White House struggle to produce a strategy to limit power plant emissions of greenhouse gases, state governors are endorsing voluntary reductions of carbon dioxide (CO2), along with an overhaul of EPA's New Source Review regulations under the Clean Air Act.

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As EPA prepares to make recommendations for reforming its new source review (NSR) program, environmentalists are charging that the Bush administration's effort to overhaul the program would "pardon" polluters and allow refineries and power plants to avoid having to comply with the Clean Air Act.

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The Bush administration is forming a task force to draft a "roadmap" for the development of an infrastructure for hydrogen-based vehicles and power plants, which may serve as the administration's response to the Kyoto global warming treaty, administration and industry sources say.

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August 06, 2001

A key Senate lawmaker is considering legislation to ban the use of asbestos in commercial products because of the severe health problems caused by a mining operation in Libby, MT, that spread asbestos throughout the community as a byproduct of vermiculite extraction. A House lawmaker is also calling for expanded investigation into EPA's conduct at the site, where the agency investigated the contamination, and a study of what laws or regulations might be needed to avoid botched asbestos cleanups in the future.

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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has handed environmentalists a victory by placing a hold on the Bush administration's controversial nominee to head EPA's enforcement office.

Boxer's hold will delay consideration of Donald Schregardus -- the former head of Ohio EPA -- as EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance until after lawmakers return from the August recess, congressional and environmental sources say.

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Chemical industry officials are urging EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to allow a controversial scientific review of a widely used chemical to move forward, after a key House Democrat urged Whitman to halt the review because he claimed a General Accounting Office (GAO) study found potential conflict of interest among panelists reviewing the chemical.

The GAO found that because the agency's Science Advisory Board (SAB) does not track conflict of interest issues carefully enough, there has been an increase in conditions where conflicts can proliferate.

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August 03, 2001

Top state environment officials have asked EPA for help in crafting regional strategies for setting fist-time limits on mercury in polluted lakes, rivers and streams. The request indicates a growing consensus on the need to address mercury pollution on a regional basis because of the ability of emissions to travel long distances, and is an apparent attempt by states to avoid being forced to develop costly and complex water quality standards known as total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) to address the problem.

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The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved legislation that would establish first-time emission reduction targets for carbon dioxide (CO2), capping a series of major developments over the past week that signal a possible sea change in the chamber on the highly charged issue of global warming. The committee also adopted an amendment that would broaden the definition of greenhouse gases and could dramatically expand the overseas market for clean coal technologies developed in the U.S. with federal research assistance funds.

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California air regulators canceled a public hearing this week on a power plant application to allow the city of Huntington Beach and AES Corp. to negotiate a possible agreement over a disputed environmental permit for the company's 450-megawatt expansion of an existing generating station. The dispute stems from the company's desire to be allowed to sell the power outside the state after the permit was approved under an expedited review intended to ease the state's power crunch.

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Momentum in the Senate is building for a likely showdown and possible filibuster over a Republican-backed plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling. After the House passed an energy bill earlier this week that contained the controversial measure, leading Democrats have threatened to stop the measure by blocking its floor consideration with a filibuster.

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EPA officials have begun an effort aimed at determining the consistency of state inventories of hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions in what may be the first step in developing a uniform federal reporting standard for as many as 188 air toxins.

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The chairman of the Senate environment committee, Sen. James Jeffords (I-VT), has introduced a bill intended shore up gaps on renewable fuels in energy legislation being developed by the chamber's Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Backers of the bill say they hope it will be included in a comprehensive energy plan being developed by the committee's chairman, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

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August 02, 2001

Energy legislation approved by the Republican-controlled House represents a payoff to major political contributors to the GOP and the Bush administration, according to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the Government Reform Committee. The allegations were released just prior to House floor debate on the bill, where leading Democrats blasted the plan as too costly and will lead to government expenditures from the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.

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Senate passage of legislation that would undercut the Bush administration's review of a Clinton rule to reduce arsenic in drinking water, represents a last-minute bipartisan deal that falls short of a plan that was recently pushed through the House by Democrats and moderate Republicans.

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Despite widespread indications of a waning national energy crisis, House passage of an energy bill that attracted substantial Democratic support, combined with recent statements by Senate energy leaders on the need to forge ahead with a comprehensive strategy, has raised the prospects of legislation being sent to the president by this Congress, according to observers.

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EPA is moving ahead with developing a proposed grants program for state enforcement activities even though funding for the controversial plan remains uncertain in Congress. Sources say EPA is poised to release a draft guidance to states as soon as this week on criteria for implementing the

proposed grants program.

Environmentalists and some lawmakers have criticized the enforcement plan, which would shift $25 million from federal activities to state grants, as an unwise diversion of resources.

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In what may be an early indicator of congressional support for regulatory reform, House lawmakers are gearing up for a fight over funds for a program that allows top committee members to ask the General Accounting Office (GAO) to evaluate cost-benefit analyses by EPA and other agencies.

The program, initiated under the Truth in Regulating Act of 2000, is a three-year pilot program that allows committee chairman and ranking members to request GAO to evaluate the cost-benefit analyses that accompany major rules.

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EPA officials are considering changing a proposed rule to regulate the land disposal of bio-solids in light of new data by the wastewater treatment industry, which shows that concentrations of dioxin in the wastes are much lower than the agency had previously assumed.

EPA sources say data gathered by the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA) is "fairly close" to a survey being conducted by the agency, and that several options for changing the rule are on the table based on the new information.

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August 01, 2001


EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman appears to be restricting a White House-ordered review of the agency's new source review (NSR) program to the "energy sector," despite strong lobbying by manufacturers seeking to expand the study to examine the possible detrimental impact on a number of industries.

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The leader of the House Democratic energy task force, Rep. Martin Frost (TX), is appealing to "fiscal conservatives" across the aisle to join with him and other Democrats to vote down the rules for debate on legislation intended to implement key elements of President Bush's energy strategy. Democrats are threatening to block the bill, arguing that its $33 billion price tag will force the government to dip into the Medicare and Social Security trust funds.

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