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Daily News

December 12, 2000

In an apparent attempt to head off potential power shortages, the New York Electric Generation Siting and Environment Board has approved eleven new power plants proposed by the state-owned New York Power Authority (NYPA) without requiring full-blown environmental reviews. The NYPA pledges that the plant's output will be below a threshold requiring comprehensive environmental assessments, but environmentalists are raising doubts.

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The Department of Energy has announced a pilot project to test new technologies that reduce mercury emissions from power plants at a relatively low cost. The goal of the project is to develop methods that will reduce emissions by up to 70 percent, according to a statement from Alabama Power, one of the four companies participating in the pilot. The project is expected to cost $6.7 million, the statement says.

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Civil rights activists are blasting EPA's development of a national environmental justice strategy that has been a hallmark effort of the Clinton administration. The activists are accusing the agency of reneging on past pledges for total inclusion by drafting the plan without input from affected community groups and EPA's own advisory panel.

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December 11, 2000

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The fate of EPA's massive cleanup plan for the Hudson River in New York may rest on the outcome of the presidential election, according to a lawmaker from the state. The $460 million project represents the agency's largest dredging proposal to address contaminated sediment, and has sparked heated controversy over the effectiveness of the cleanup technique.

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Staff for the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is proposing to substantially scale back the state's 2003 zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which may have a rippling effect on nationwide efforts to promote the use of electric cars. The staff is suggesting an array of partial ZEV credits for early introduction of electric vehicles (EVs) and increased development of very low-emitting vehicles, as well as hybrid EVs and those operated by fuel cells, natural gas and other alternative fuels.

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Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton is interested in a position on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, congressional sources say. These sources say that Clinton's name is being mentioned frequently as a possible new member of the committee as the Senate steering committee begins work on its recommendations for committee assignments.

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Environmentalists say that legislation is required in order reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from power plants nationwide, rather than merely in select states. Environmentalists also argue that EPA should further reduce NOx emissions by quickly completing diesel emission standards for large vehicles.

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California air regulators in the Los Angeles area have taken the unusual step of allowing the utility AES Pacific to exceed its annual nitrogen oxide emission limits so that it can continue generating electricity at high capacity. The move is a clear response to the power crisis that has swept through the state this month as regulators look for ways to ease energy demands.

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EPA Region VI plans to launch a pilot program to test the use of risk-based methods for determining waste cleanups at industrial facilities, as part of the agency's broad reform efforts under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The pilot is intended to help industry establish priorities for addressing the most dangerous toxic waste releases.

The regional plans come as EPA headquarters is gearing up for a second wave of reforms for the RCRA program.

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An international agreement on reducing global emissions of persistent toxic pollutants hands partial victories to both U.S. officials and environmentalists, who sparred throughout the talks over a number of key issues. Environmentalists are praising the inclusion of enforceable language in the body of the treaty on adding toxins to the list of pollutants covered by the agreement, while U.S. officials stood fast against mandatory elimination of certain pollutants, including dioxin.

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The White House's Office of Management and Budget has asked EPA to study the legal aspects of an emissions trading scheme that the agency could use to regulate mercury emissions from power plants. White House officials have requested that EPA conduct a legal review of a section of the Clean Air Act that EPA is drawing on to develop a potential trading program.

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December 08, 2000

An unusual coalition of environmentalists and auto industry officials is pressing President Clinton to step in and resolve an administration squabble over EPA plans to ratchet down the level of sulfur in diesel fuel.

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EPA has issued a first-time drinking water standard for uranium that is significantly weaker than an earlier proposal following concerns raised by federal energy regulators and the water treatment industry. The standard sets maximum contaminant level (MCL) for uranium at 30 micrograms per liter after EPA last spring voiced a preference for setting a 20 microgram limit. The rule will affect drinking water suppliers as well as set cleanup standards at Superfund sites.

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An organization representing state and federal employees is blasting an impending EPA decision to approve a series of state emissions trading programs, pointing to internal agency documents which raise doubts about the environmental benefits of the trading schemes.

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In a last-ditch effort to convince U.S. negotiators to reevaluate their stance in international talks on global toxics, a coalition of environmentalists is pressing U.S. officials to accept a ban on the persistent pollutants, which include dioxin, with a number of sources fearing that otherwise the talks may collapse without an agreement.

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Environmentalists are likely to increase their use of litigation if George W. Bush prevails in his run for the White House, in a bid to ensure tough enforcement of federal environmental laws by EPA, sources predict. Environmental sources agree that under a possible Bush administration they would anticipate a greater use of voluntary compliance measures for industry and a reduction of federal enforcement activities.

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A new Department of Agriculture guidance on managing nutrient pollution from animal feedlots offers an indication of what to expect from upcoming EPA regulations on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which environmentalists have targeted as an increasing threat to water quality. The USDA guidance details how feedlot owners can implement voluntary comprehensive nutrient management plans (CNMPs) to reduce nutrients that flow into water bodies.

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The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has adopted a regulation that will tighten heavy-duty diesel engine standards and emission testing requirements beginning in 2005, paving the way for as many as 20 other states to adopt similar rules. The CARB regulation aims to close what state regulators view as a federal "loophole" in diesel-truck engine standards between 2005 and 2007 caused by delays in EPA efforts to establish nationwide requirements.

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December 07, 2000

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