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Daily News

August 03, 2001

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 Sources say EPA is poised to release a draft guidance to states as soon as this week on criteria for implementing the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

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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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Local residents opposed to dredging the Hudson River are planning to file a lawsuit after hearing reports that EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has decided to back, with some modifications, a Clinton administration plan for a massive cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). But activists in favor of extensive dredging say reports about Whitman's decision to phase in the cleanup effort could delay or even stop the process sometime in the future.

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The nation's largest labor organization has come out against a key Democratic priority on energy legislation: raising fuel economy standards on cars and trucks. The announcement was made as Democratic leaders were urging their rank-and-file to support this and other changes to a GOP legislative package on energy.

Democrats had been criticizing the administration and Republican leaders for weeks over their resistance to raising corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, while pushing an energy plan that promotes increased drilling in environmentally-sensitive areas.

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The White House is raising concerns about the budget implications of an energy bill backed by House Republicans, but urges quick passage of the plan and pledges to work with lawmakers to resolve the issue before final legislation is sent to the president. The move could provide political cover to Republican lawmakers who have come under attack for failing to explain how they plan to pay for the various tax incentives offered in the bill.

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A "foaming" shipment of nuclear waste entering Nevada has set off a hailstorm of accusations between the Department of Energy and the governor of Nevada, raising new doubts about federal plans to build a nuclear waste repository in the state.

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Senate Democrats appear to have rejected calls by environmentalists to delay consideration of a vote on Donald Schregardus -- the former Ohio EPA chief nominated by President Bush to serve as EPA's enforcement chief -- until after the agency releases preliminary results of an investigation into the Ohio EPA's ability to enforce federal environmental laws.

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July 31, 2001

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In what could be viewed as a poke in the eye of the powerful Midwest corn lobby, California Environment Secretary Winston Hickox has indicated that the state could turn to foreign sources of ethanol in meeting federal requirements for cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline. The possible foreign purchases would be necessitated by the Bush administration's rejection of a state request that was vehemently opposed by U.S. producers of ethanol, which is made from corn, that California be exempt from a two-percent oxygenate requirement for the cleaner gasoline.

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The chairman of the Senate energy committee, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), says the need for emergency energy legislation has passed, pointing to reduced natural gas prices and increased supplies of electricity, but notes that long-term solutions are still needed to avoid future shortages.

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A major labor union has thrown its support behind a Republican-backed energy bill, arguing that the bill is environmentally friendly and will stimulate the economy by creating jobs. Support from the Teamsters is a major victory for Republicans and President Bush, who are pushing the legislation as an important step in implementing the president's energy strategy, particularly on the divisive issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

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