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Daily News

April 30, 2001

April 27, 2001

A coalition of Democratic and moderate Republican senators is urging EPA to stand tough in litigation filed by industry challenging a Clinton administration decision to develop regulations for limiting mercury emissions from power plants. The senators also argue that the agency should oppose any effort to establish a cap-and-trade system for mercury, which is an approach reportedly favored by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

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EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman is expected within days to be served with a complaint by a New Jersey man who claims that as governor Whitman had violated his civil rights. The allegations stem from a 1996 incident captured in a widely-publicized photograph of then-Governor Whitman frisking the man after state troopers pulled him over on a state turnpike.

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California Energy Commission (CEC) staff is warning that because of limited and expensive ethanol supplies and other factors, the state faces a 6%-10% gasoline shortfall by 2003, which likely would result in huge price spikes. Limited refining flexibility to produce reformulated gasoline (RFG) with ethanol, potential shortfalls in ethanol production and expensive transportation of ethanol to California from the Midwest could result in RFG shortages and skyrocketing prices beyond California as well, according to the CEC.

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A California court ruled this week that a prominent and long-standing state agency overseeing coastal development is unconstitutional, a decision that environmentalists say will threaten coastal quality and may lead to expedited approvals of offshore oil drilling. The April 24 Sacramento Superior Court ruling finds that the California Coastal Commission (CCC) violates that state's checks-and-balances system and blurs lines between executive, legislative and judicial branches.

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Environmentalists and other recycling advocates have entered into negotiations with representatives of the soft drink industry to reach an agreement on boosting recycling nationwide. But environmentalists say that if a deal is not forged by the end of the summer, they will launch a public relations campaign against the companies in the interest of promoting bottling bills across the country. Soft drink officials say they have entered the talks to reduce manufacturing costs.

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April 26, 2001

T> Drilling

A Department of Interior (DOI) report recommends that the Bush administration lift a moratorium barring ocean floor drilling for natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico, marking the first official indication by the new administration that it will likely lift a prohibition put in place by the former Bush administration nearly ten years ago, according to a copy of the report obtained by Inside EPA.

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Reducing nonpoint source pollution will be a top priority for the water office, President Bush's nominee for EPA Assistant Administrator for Water said in an interview last week with Inside EPA. The nominee, George Tracy Mehan III, says that he hopes to cut back nonpoint source pollution with an emphasis on using economic incentives to address the problem.

Sources from industry, environmental groups and states are optimistic that Mehan will be an effective manager who is skilled in building consensus among stakeholders.

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California air regulators plan to propose listing second hand tobacco smoke as a toxic air contaminant under state environmental law. The move could impose first-of-its-kind regulations on cigarette companies, private businesses and government agencies to reduce smoke exposure.

According to state sources, the regulations may require businesses and government agencies statewide to prohibit smoking on outdoor property; could require hotels to prohibit smoking on any part of their premises; and could conceivably hold individuals accountable for exposure to children.

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Senate Democrats say that they will join environmentalists in suing EPA to contest the agency's delay in implementing a Clinton administration standard on arsenic in drinking water. The environmentalists, who could file a suit within a few weeks, plan to argue that the agency is required by law to implement an arsenic standard by June of this year.

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President Bush has nominated Stephen L. Johnson, currently the acting head of EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, to permanently serve as Assistant Administrator for the office. Johnson was Deputy Director of the agency's Office of Pesticide Programs from 1997 to 1999, and has worked at Hazelton Laboratories Corporation and Litton Bionetics Incorporated.

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Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) has asked a panel of refinery industry executives to draft a legislative solution to anticipated fuel shortages that the industry blames on a federal mandate for oxygenates in cleaner burning gasoline. Such a legislative plan could involve reopening the Clean Air Act, which established the oxygenate mandate, and initiating a political battle that both House and Senate energy leaders have so far sought to avoid.

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April 25, 2001

In a major blow to the environmental justice movement, the Supreme Court April 24 ruled that private citizens cannot use Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to sue state agencies over unintentional discrimination. The ruling restricts the law's applicability to only those cases alleging intentional discrimination by states, and will seriously limit the use of federal lawsuits by environmental justice groups, attorneys say.

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The Bush administration will face a difficult time should they try to weaken Clinton-era environmental rules, industry, environmental and even some GOP sources say. These sources warn that possible administration strategies to weaken the rules, including agreeing to settlements in industry-sponsored litigation, all face difficulties.

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Snowmobile manufacturers are suggesting that they might agree to restrict snowmobile use in some national parks to vehicles that meet upcoming Clean Air Act standards, as part of an effort by the industry to seek reconsideration of a Clinton administration decision phasing out snowmobile use in several national parks.

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A bill is progressing through the Texas legislature that would drop an underused air emissions program that President Bush has touted as one of his major environmental accomplishments as governor of the state. The legislation would render obsolete a voluntary program to reduce emissions from "grandfathered" facilities that are exempt from regulation under the Clean Air Act, which is one of many provisions in a bill to restructure the state environment office.

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The Senate has unanimously approved a bipartisan bill to clean up industrial waste sites, referred to as brownfields, by granting states the final word on decontaminating the sites. But final passage of the bill by the House remains uncertain.

The bill has the support of President Bush, and was passed April 25 by the Senate after a change of heart by several key Republican senators -- Mike Crapo (R-ID), George Voinovich (R-OH) and James Inhofe (R-OK) -- who had earlier argued that the legislation did not grant states enough authority over cleanup decisions.

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The Coast Guard has proposed first-time discharge restrictions on cruise liners along the Alaskan coast which are the outcome of a legislative battle late last year that some saw as establishing an important benchmark that could lead to nationwide standards.

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