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Daily News

July 24, 2001

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The chairman of the Senate energy committee is pointing to a recent Department of Energy report as a possible roadmap for promoting energy-efficiency technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The chairman, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), referred to the report in his opening statement at a July 24 hearing on global warming, where the lawmaker lambasted the Bush administration for its abandonment of the Kyoto climate change treaty.

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A federal appeals court handed environmentalists a major victory by throwing out an EPA emissions standard on incinerators, which some observers say undercuts the agency's entire process for establishing air toxic controls. While the ruling would leave the affected incinerators without any air toxic controls, the court left open the door to put off implementation of the decision so that EPA and environmentalists can come up with an alternative standard.

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The senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee is considering several options to tie the costs of upcoming energy legislation backed by GOP leaders to the president's recently passed tax cut. Critics of the legislation, which offers large tax incentives for major energy companies, say it would throw the government back into deficit spending and erode Medicare and Social Security surpluses.

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July 23, 2001

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The Superfund program is running out of money, but administration and congressional sources do not expect a renewal of the industry tax that supports the trust fund as long as President Bush is in office. Warnings about the critical status of the program have been heightened over the past several weeks with the release of a congressionally-mandated study, which concluded that there are insufficient funds in the Superfund trust fund to cover the program's costs over the next 10 years.

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Industry lobbyists are mounting a major campaign to jump start congressional efforts for wholesale reforms of EPA's regulatory process, which includes a greater emphasis on market-based incentives.

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National public policy experts are calling on EPA and states to place a renewed emphasis on reforming their enforcement data collection and management systems to promote more accurate assessments on the effectiveness of their enforcement efforts.

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Frustrated with failed government attempts at streamlining the environmental review process of transportation projects, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is considering drafting legislation that may set firm deadlines for the review and approval of construction plans.

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July 20, 2001

Several EPA program offices reportedly are at odds over the scope of a scientific review on the agency's lead emissions reporting rule, which may push a long-awaited analysis of the regulation by the agency's science advisors. Sources say EPA officials are debating whether to conduct a full-scale review of the process for identifying a substance as a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) pollutant, or conduct a narrower review of just the lead rule.

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The Senate confirmed President Bush's selection of Harvard Professor John Graham to head the White House's regulatory review office, after a three-hour long debate that focused on the government's appropriate use of cost-benefit analyses in setting environmental and public health standards.

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Environmentalists are pointing to a written statement by EPA warning a Florida doctor against consuming a genetically engineered corn, arguing the letter indicates that the government should not approve the corn for human consumption. EPA has been pressed by the corn's manufacturer, Aventis, to approve a safe consumption level after the corn was found to have accidentally made its way into various consumer food products.

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Congressional investigators are blasting a Bush administration plan to establish a $25 million state environmental enforcement grants program, arguing that EPA lacks sufficient data on how the money should be spent to ensure that alleged violators are challenged.

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The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is scrambling to complete cost estimates on four energy bills approved earlier this week by various committees. Finding a way to pay for the legislation, which is expected to be at least in the tens of billions of dollars for the full package of bills, is expected to be critical for Republican leaders in pushing it through the House.

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July 19, 2001

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Environmentalists this week began filing a series of lawsuits against EPA targeting what the activists say are violations of the Clean Air Act, citing a number of missed deadlines for implementing a variety of regulations.

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The Senate Appropriations Committee has killed a Bush administration plan to give states up to $25 million in enforcement grants by shifting funds from EPA's enforcement budget. The committee adopted without changes a plan approved by the panel's VA-HUD subcommittee just hours before the full committee marked up the bill.

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The House Energy & Commerce Committee voted July 18 to kill Democratic amendments to the Bush administration's energy proposals, including revisions aimed at boosting automobile fuel efficiency standards and a provision effectively requiring EPA to grant governors' petitions to waive the Clean Air Act's oxygenate requirement. The panel also voted to approve an amendment that stripped language from the energy bill that would have eliminated phase-in requirements for EPA's diesel-sulfur rule.

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The House Ways & Means Committee approved legislation that among other things would establish consumer tax credits for alternative-fuel vehicles, a move that some environmentalists fear is a veiled attempt to undercut current fuel economy standards. The provisions are being considered as part of a broader legislative package intended to enact key elements of President Bush's energy strategy.

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Environmentalists have released a series of analyses in an effort to put pressure on the European Union and Japan to work toward an agreement on the Kyoto climate change treaty, despite the Bush administration's opposition to the international framework. The reports were released as environment ministers from the around the world were gathering this week in Bonn, Germany, to work out the implementation details of the treaty.

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The House Science Committee has approved energy legislation that authorizes billions of dollars for President Bush's proposal for "clean coal" research, while adding first-time emission standards that supporters say would ensure that the new technology would result in air quality improvements.

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Members of an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) rejected a request by agency officials to offer a safe consumption level for a controversial genetically engineered corn, known as StarLink. The scientists say there is insufficient data to set a level that would guarantee public health and safety.

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In a closed-door meeting with key House Democrats, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman denied press reports that the agency is considering a compromise cleanup plan for the Hudson River Superfund site that would involve a scaled-back dredging project than proposed in the agency's draft cleanup plan. The meeting followed a controversial announcement by EPA earlier this week that it was delaying a final cleanup decision for a month, until mid-September.

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