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Daily News

December 05, 2000

Despite a House Republican rule limiting the tenure of committee chairmen, the powerful head of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is expected to continue flexing muscle on the panel as the new head of a key subcommittee with jurisdiction over air quality-related matters. A staffer for Rep. Bud Shuster (R-PA) confirmed that the current chairman is interested in heading the panel's ground transportation subcommittee, which authorizes highway spending bills that often contain environmental provisions.

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Industry leaders say they will call on the new administration to establish a Deputy Administrator for Science position at EPA with broad powers to coordinate science policy across the agency. The push echoes calls from a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report issued last June that recommended such a position, saying it would enhance the flow of science into the policymaking process.

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December 04, 2000

EPA and environmentalists have reached an agreement that requires the agency to complete its regulations governing cooling water intakes by December 2004, while putting a priority on power plant operations. The agreement requires EPA to split the rulemaking into three distinct phases, which allows the agency to address utility intakes before having to complete the requirements for all affected facilities.

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Independent science advisors to EPA are urging additional research on a controversial cleanup technology that relies on natural processes to reduce groundwater contamination. The approach, which is increasingly used at Superfund and leaking underground storage tank (LUST) sites, has attracted strong support from industry as a cost-effective way to correct contamination.

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An EPA guidance to states on reducing runoff water pollution from marinas and recreational boats was released as part of a broad agency effort to address nonpoint source water pollution and has sparked concerns from some industry officials that the non-mandatory controls may prompt regulatory action. The guidance suggests ways marinas can reduce polluted runoff from boating, both by taking measures to avoid nonpoint discharges from marinas and by educating boaters about pollution prevention.

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The Bush campaign is expected to discuss possible nominees for EPA administrator within the next few days, and a key campaign official says the governor would likely appoint someone with close ties to states, and that a Bush administration could use as a blueprint a recent report recommending that the agency narrow its focus. The source predicts that Bush would likely expand on several Clinton administration initiatives, such as Project XL, that offer regulatory flexibility to companies that develop innovative approaches to environmental controls.

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An Alabama judge has ruled that state regulators erred in the procedures they used to set a cancer risk level in permitting an Army chemical weapons incinerator in the state. The verbal ruling raises a number of broad questions about following EPA guidance and cancer-risk standards in granting environmental permits for industrial and other facilities.

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State Department and European Union (EU) officials will try to work out their differences on rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol later this week, sources close to the issue say, in the hopes of reconvening top international environment ministers in Oslo, Norway to formalize an agreement prior to the swearing in of the next U.S. president.

U.S. and EU officials are expected to meet in Ottawa, Canada to continue United Nations climate negotiations that broke down Nov. 25.

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International. negotiators this week are embarking on a new round of talks on limiting some of the world's most dangerous pollutants, amid signs of widening divisions between the U.S. and European Union (EU) on how to limit the use and manufacture of the pollutants.

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December 01, 2000

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Some delegates to failed international climate talks last week are lamenting their insistence that the annual negotiations take place before the swearing in of a new U.S. president. Sources say uncertainties over the next U.S. administration added to tensions at the negotiations, and may have contributed to the eventual collapse of the talks.

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EPA officials say a recent agency report contradicts industry claims that implementation of controversial water pollution standards would be too costly for dischargers. The report concludes that minimal upgrades in water treatment facilities and the installation of basic technology could enable compliance with certain EPA total maximum daily load (TMDL) requirements.

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A legal settlement between EPA and environmentalists has put on notice a significant number of states across the country that, unless they overhaul their requirements by next year for issuing Clean Air Act permits to industrial and utility facilities, the states face the prospect of losing their delegated authority to implement the federal program.

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The White House is denying reports that President Clinton has proposed a ministerial-level meeting before the end of the year to salvage international talks on reducing greenhouse gases. Sources say that while the administration has continued to talk with representatives from the European Union since the collapse of negotiations last week in The Hague, reports that Clinton himself requested a meeting are wrong.

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EPA and the Justice Department have released for public comment two legal settlements that lay out significant changes to EPA's air toxics control program. The settlements resolve charges brought by a broad coalition of industry groups in the mid-1990s, with some of those allegations having since been addressed through regulatory changes by the agency.

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If Gov. George W. Bush prevails in his bid for the White House, sources say he is likely to form an "informal Cabinet" to advise him on the environment, which may include prominent Republicans who in the past have attracted sharp criticism from environmentalists. The cabinet may include such high-profile GOP officials as Govs. Dirk Kempthorne (ID) and Michael Leavitt (UT) and Sen. Conrad Burns (MT).

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Retiring Sen. Richard Bryan (D-NV) is under consideration for secretary of the Department of Interior in a possible Gore administration, sources say. A source with Bryan's office confirms that the senator is on a list of possible candidates for the position if Gore is elected president.

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A new report may offer ammunition to opponents of increased highway travel, which can degrade air quality, by showing that a lack of mass transit raises transportation costs. The report, issued by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, documents the high expenses faced by American families who live in sprawling urban areas with little public transportation.

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November 30, 2000

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A major split within the environmental community appeared during climate change talks in The Hague, which sources say could end up isolating the U.S. on the international stage and result in more aggressive and vocal criticism of State Department positions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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