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Daily News

May 09, 2001

The Bush administration's upcoming energy policy will likely ask several key government agencies to begin a comprehensive review of EPA's clean air enforcement program that will examine both the effect of ongoing litigation against utilities and refiners on energy supply. Some industry observers are suggesting that the anticipated report shows that EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman may have succeeded in forestalling an immediate reversal of EPA's new source review enforcement policy. But other sources suggest the energy plan will kick off a new round of debate on the program.

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A senior Democratic senator from a major coal-producing state appears to be distancing himself from the Bush administration's decision to reject the Kyoto climate change treaty. While remaining steadfastly opposed to strict controls on greenhouse gases released primarily by coal-fired power plants, the lawmaker argues that the administration's reversal on Kyoto may squander U.S. leadership on key energy initiatives favored by industry. In a May 4 floor statement, Sen.

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Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) has dropped from his bill on the California energy crisis a provision that would have allowed the state governor to waive air pollution requirements on new power plants, though Barton has added to the bill new environmental waivers for natural gas generators.

Barton has also stripped from the bill a section that would have reduced the environmental restrictions on hydropower generation at federal dams in the Northwest.

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Congressional investigators have recommended that EPA strengthen its oversight of state verification of emissions data that could be used to target potential Clean Air Act violators.

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EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told a House subcommittee that she will recuse herself from decisions related to dredging and disposal of contaminated sediment from New York-New Jersey Harbor because she had been directly involved in the issue as governor of New Jersey.

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Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), top Democrat on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, is considering blocking a committee vote on the nomination of Linda Fisher for EPA's deputy administrator slot as a way to pressure the agency into releasing its rule setting health and safety standards for a proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

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May 08, 2001

Industry sources and former EPA officials say air chief designate Jeffery Holmstead will likely emphasize market-based mechanisms and environmental protection tools that he helped forge during his tenure in the first Bush administration.

These sources argue that while Holmstead is considered by most to be politically conservative, his work in the White House Counsel's Office in the first Bush administration indicates that he will resist making decision based and ideology and instead will rely more on the technical facts of a particular rule or issue.

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The upcoming White House blueprint for a national energy strategy will include incentives for conservation, but President Bush does not intend to ask Americans to change their lifestyle to reduce energy consumption, White House press Secretary Ari Fleischer said May 7.

Asked by a reporter whether Bush believes "we need to correct our lifestyles to address the energy problem," Fleischer said, "That's a big 'No,'" and added, " We have a bounty of resources in this country. What we need to do is make certain that we're able to get those resources in an efficient way."

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Department of Energy report claims that implementation of EPA's "ultra-low diesel fuel standard" will result in short-term fuel shortages. "Only more aggressive investment scenarios or lower demand scenarios show adequate supply to meet estimated demand," according to the study. The report was compiled a the request of the House Science Committee after the Clinton administration issued the controversial standard during its final weeks in office. The standard is intended to reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions.

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The Defense Department last week outlined a three-pronged initiative to reduce energy use at its facilities in California, as part of the Bush administration's plan to alleviate electricity shortages in the West. The effort focuses on energy conservation, with additional attention on power generation and investments in efficiency.

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Vice President Cheney said the White House has asked EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to review the agency's enforcement policy under the "new source review" provisions of the Clean Air Act, which the electric utility and oil refining industries allege are preventing construction of new facilities and stifling an expansion of energy production capabilities.

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EPA enforcement officials are meeting with representatives from Detroit Diesel to consider the company's claim that it needs more time to comply with a major legal agreement that involves a number of engine makers. The discussions are taking place after two other engine manufacturers recently changed their tune regarding the agreement by claiming that they now could meet the stricter deadline.

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EPA for the first time has granted two petroleum refiners flexibility to meet new regulations that lower the amount of sulfur in gasoline. Agency sources say extensions for several other refiners may soon be announced.

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A high-ranking EPA official says the agency will use its Clean Water Act enforcement discretion to protect herbicide and pesticide users from a contentious federal appeals court ruling that requires them to obtain discharge permits before applying chemicals to water bodies across the country.

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May 07, 2001

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EPA is on the verge of providing limited regulatory relief to agricultural and other water users for the current growing season that would allow them to avoid getting water discharge permits for applying herbicides to control weeds and algae in irrigation canals, ditches and other waterbodies.

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A new study on the cancer-causing effects of nitrates in tap water shows that a decades-old EPA standard could be putting women at higher risk for bladder cancer.

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Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the ranking Democrat on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, is leading a charge against many of the environmental and energy decisions made in the first 100 days of the Bush administration, in part because he believes the issue will help Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives in 2002, according to congressional sources and other observers.

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California officials would consider shelving plans to ban methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in reformulated gasoline (RFG) by Jan. 1, 2003, if U.S. EPA denies the state's request for a waiver from federal requirements that RFG contain two percent oxygenates. Officials say replacing MTBE in RFG with ethanol in less than two years will likely result in ethanol shortages and huge gasoline price spikes.

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The Bush administration's pick to run EPA's water office, G. Tracy Mehan, has a track record of fighting the efforts of conservative lawmakers to overturn environmental rules that are unpopular with industry, going so far as to become the center of a legal battle in Missouri by challenging legislative oversight of the state's environment agency during his tenure as head of the agency.

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May 04, 2001

The Bush administration has decided to combine the Pentagon's environmental security and installations offices. Merging the offices is part of a broader reorganization of the Pentagon's acquisitions division, and the implications of the move signaling a shift in the relative importance of environmental issues for the Bush administration is unclear at the moment, sources say.

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