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Daily News

May 17, 2001

The Bush administration has endorsed a report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that calls for legislation overhauling Clean Water Act (CWA) protections on the operation of hydropower dams. The endorsement has bolstered the optimism of hydropower lobbyists that legislation will pass this year to substantially reduce the authority of EPA and other federal agencies to impose environmental conditions on dam operations.

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Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, has cleared the way for a vote on the confirmation of Linda Fisher as EPA's deputy administrator after winning assurances from EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to "do everything in her power" to clear a Clinton standard on radiation in groundwater.

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The House Energy & Commerce Committee has unanimously approved a compromise plan for providing small businesses relief from Superfund liability. The move was made possible by a surprise deal last week that ended years of partisan bickering on the issue and kept a number of controversial amendments off the bill.

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Despite objections by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, a subcommittee of the House Science Committee has approved legislation to establish a deputy administrator for science at the agency.

Proponents say the bill is necessary to elevate the priority of scientific considerations in environmental policy decisions to avoid legal and other challenges to the basis of EPA regulations. But Whitman has argued that she would prefer having time to organize her staff before deciding whether to establish a science deputy post.

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The House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin considering elements of President Bush's energy policy recommendations as early next week, starting with proposals on conservation and energy efficiency, which are elements of the plan that attracted strong criticism by environmentalists and Democrats.

In a separate effort to blunt criticism that the proposals do nothing for the short-term, an emergency western energy bill that had run into resistance from House leadership and the administration will go to full committee mark up next week.

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May 16, 2001

A House subcommittee has unanimously approved a comprise plan for providing small businesses relief from Superfund liability. The move was made possible by a surprise deal struck last week that ended years of partisan bickering over the issue.

The Environment and Hazardous Materials subcommittee approved without amendments the compromise bill during a May 16 markup. The measure is expected to be taken up by the full Energy and Commerce Committee on May 17.

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As the White House is poised to unveil its much-anticipated energy policy, Democrats appear to be struggling to develop a unified response to the administration. A number of Democratic groups of different ideological stripes are pushing various energy proposals that differ on several key issues, including the need to increase drilling for oil and gas in wilderness areas.

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Democrats have targeted ten high-ranking Bush administration nominees as having strong ties to the fossil-fuel and electric utility industries, vowing to raise concerns during upcoming confirmation hearings about the high-level access of energy companies that supported President Bush's campaign. The Democrats argue that the close ties of the Bush administration to the energy industry undercuts the White House's credibility in dealing with the nation's energy problems, and will cost consumers billions of dollars in rising gasoline, natural gas and electricity prices.

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The California Trucking Association (CTA) is accusing state air officials of backing out of a deal to promote a national low-sulfur diesel rule based on state requirements. Truckers claim that a recent proposal to revise state requirements undercuts efforts for uniform controls developed by EPA and slated to take effect in 2006.

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Congressional proposals to classify nuclear energy as a zero-emission source of electricity, which is expected to be endorsed by the Bush administration's energy task force report, would make nuclear power plants eligible for state emissions trading programs and other financial incentives. Nuclear industry sources say the legislation would spur the construction of new power plants.

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Key Republican energy leaders from the House and Senate have promised quick legislative action to implement the White House's energy plan after it is released May 17.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) said May 16 he hopes to have legislation out of committee by the July 4 recess.

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Conservative Democrats are drafting legislation that may scrap EPA's controversial clean air permitting requirements with a cap-and-trade emissions control scheme that will include carbon dioxide (CO2) limits. The legislation is being developed by the New Democrat Coalition as part of a broader energy plan that the group hopes will attract the support of moderate Republicans.

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May 15, 2001

A new study just underway will examine the carcinogenic effects of diesel emissions to determine the level of exposure to the exhaust that is likely to cause cancer, according to the physicians conducting the research. The findings will likely play an important role for policymakers who have been grappling for years on establishing diesel exhaust regulations.

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A wide coalition of governors, state energy regulators and federal environmental officials are rallying against a proposed plan by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to reduce the amount of information power plants are required to make public. The officials say the plan would, among other things, restrict the ability of EPA and states to develop emissions inventories and conduct monitoring of the electricity market, and to develop any future credible power plant regulations.

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EPA science advisors are putting the finishing touches on a "white paper" for using environmental indicators to judge the effectiveness of regulatory and enforcement programs. The findings are likely to fuel calls by some lawmakers and industry officials for EPA to reorganize by emphasizing the results of its initiatives rather than simply tracking the number of regulations and enforcement actions taken.

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Preliminary results from a first-time EPA pilot on capping contamination on the ocean floor indicates success in using the controversial cleanup technique.

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The electric utility and oil refining industries are pointing to an EPA crackdown last year on proposed modifications to a Midwest power plant to support their claims that the agency's clean air permit program prevents existing facilities from expanding energy production to meet current demand.

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House Democrats have launched a counter-offensive against the Bush administration's upcoming energy policy report by releasing a set of "principles" they intend to uphold as the debate continues.

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Hydroelectric lobbyists are optimistic that legislation will pass this year that would substantially reduce the authority of EPA and other federal agencies to impose environmental conditions on dam operations. The legislation is part of a broader effort to streamline the relicensing of hydroelectric dams by granting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) sole oversight of the process, which is expected to be endorsed by the Bush administration's upcoming energy strategy.

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May 14, 2001