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Daily News

October 06, 2000

California energy regulators are considering a deal with the Mexican government to build an oil refinery south of the border that would supply the state with gasoline that complies with federal clean-fuel requirements. The possible negotiations would be an attempt to ease fuel shortages that are contributing to rising energy prices, while maintaining some of the nation's toughest environmental standards for cleaner-running cars.

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Congressional appropriators and White House officials reportedly have reached an agreement on an EPA spending bill that includes a provision restricting the agency's ability to implement a controversial ozone air quality standard, while dropping a proposed rider that would have delayed agency plans to limit diesel engine emissions. But a key senator has vowed to take other legislative steps to block the controversial diesel rule.

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A California referendum that backers say would reduce the number of environmental fees that are not tied to specific state services or programs could backfire on businesses by spawning lawsuits and new regulatory requirements, state lawmakers warned industry officials at a hearing last week.

"I think you'll see bills that include requirements for reporting [and] reduction of hazards . . . all of which are imposed on the fee payer," said Sen. Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto), at a Sept. 29 joint hearing by the Senate environment committee and the Assembly tax committee.

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Congress has stripped Department of Agriculture (USDA) environment chief James Lyons of all authority through the end of his tenure with the Clinton administration in retaliation for what many on Capitol Hill saw as an irresponsible handling of EPA's efforts to tighten regulations on agricultural run-off. The move is spelled out in legislation attached to the department's funding bill for fiscal year 2001, which was sent to President Clinton Oct. 5.

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Lawmakers have backed away from a plan to tighten restrictions on the Clinton administration to regulate certain mining activities on federal lands following a presidential veto threat. Instead, the House and Senate have approved appropriations legislation for the Department of Interior that maintains an existing requirement that upcoming regulations generally follow recent recommendations on bedrock mining by an independent group of scientists.

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A number of environmentalists have abandoned an international effort to reduce persistent environmental toxins in the Great Lakes, arguing that the strictly-voluntary approach lacks real incentives for industry to take any significant steps in reducing dioxin, mercury, and other contaminants.

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A key House chairman is pressing EPA to create a new ombudsman office that will help individuals charged with environmental violations understand their legal options. But EPA officials are skeptical, saying that it would be a conflict of interest for the agency to give legal advice to the very people it is accusing.

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October 05, 2000

A landmark North American study shows that dioxin from primarily U.S. industrial sources travels thousands of miles and potentially affects public health as far away as the Arctic. The findings are being touted as evidence of the need to establish international standards to control the known human carcinogen. The report was compiled by an international study group formed under the North American Free Trade Agreement to examine environmental border problems.

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Attempting to capitalize on the politically-charged issue of rising energy costs, environmentalists are arguing that outdated fuel efficiency standards for passenger vehicles are contributing to the current energy crisis. Findings released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group show that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards add up to an average of $5,700 in extra fuel costs for each new vehicle.

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Vocal House and Senate critics of global warming controls have filed a lawsuit against President Clinton claiming that an upcoming report is nothing more than a political prop intended to help Vice President Gore in his run for the presidency. The lawmakers claim Clinton and White House science officials violated public-review laws by drafting the report behind closed doors.

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Michigan environmentalists have released a report that claims the state's regulatory agency has consistently sided with big industry in cleanup and other environmental protection decisions at the expense of public health. The report, "Dereliction of Duty," tracks a number of cases where the group says the state's Department of Environmental Quality sided with business against the wishes of local residents and the advice of environmental experts.

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Two key senators are pressing Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) to attach brownfields legislation to an anticipated omnibus spending bill. In their efforts, the senators have sent a letter to President Clinton urging his support for the bipartisan bill. The senators hope that presidential support for the measure would help convince Lott to attach the apparently non-controversial language to the massive appropriations bill.

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October 04, 2000

The Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls spar on clean coal technologies, drilling in the nation's wildlife preserves, renewable energy fuels, and other energy and environment-related issues.

This Inside EPA exclusive provides the complete text of portions of the landmark debate regarding energy and the environment.

Election 2000 Presidential Debate Between Democratic Candidate Vice President Al Gore And Republican Candidate Governor George W. Bush

Location: Clark Athletic Center, University Of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts

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EPA Administrator Carol Browner has announced plans to survey all agency employees in an effort to identify managers accused of discriminatory practices. Browner also intends to restructure the agency's complaint process for reviewing staff allegations about unfair treatment.

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Representatives from six diesel engine manufacturers are pressing EPA to accept draft engine designs that include a computer program that shuts off pollution-control devices during extreme driving conditions as a way to protect the engines, according to sources. The industry says the design is in compliance with a long-standing legal agreement that resolved EPA allegations about emission violations.

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Lawmakers have put EPA Administrator Carol Browner on notice that they will keep pressure on the agency throughout the remainder of her tenure regarding allegations of widespread racial and gender discrimination. In response, Browner promised a comprehensive overhaul of the way the agency handles civil rights complaints. The allegations and an ongoing congressional investigation could put a dark stain on the accomplishments of the administrator, who came into office pledging to end environmental racism.

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The White House has cut a tentative deal with congressional Republicans to include report language in EPA's spending bill that would likely restrict the agency's ability to dredge contaminated sediments until after the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) completes a study on the controversial cleanup method. But the agreement, which eliminates a major presidential hurdle for final passage of the bill, was drafted over the strong objections of EPA.

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October 03, 2000

Legislation approved yesterday by the Senate contains an amendment that has prompted a veto threat by President Clinton. While the bill contains funding for a number of major water cleanup projects, the president claims that an amendment concerning the Missouri River would undermine the administration's plan to " modernize operations" on the river, according to a Statement of Administration Policy.

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State utility regulators have declared support for a temporary high-level nuclear waste storage facility proposed for a site 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. The endorsement is a sign of growing support for interim disposal of commercial nuclear waste as a hedge against the possibility that the Department of Energy will fail in its pledge to build a permanent repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

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