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Daily News

September 19, 2000

EPA is mounting an investigation to find out how a genetically engineered corn product illegally made its way into Taco Bell tacos. The inquiry will be conducted jointly with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is in response to demands by environmentalists.

A coalition of environmental groups, called the Genetically Engineered Food Alert, asked the agencies to launch the investigation after a study commissioned by the group found the altered corn in supermarket tacos that Taco Bell manufactures. The corn is currently permitted in food for animals, but not for humans.

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A federal judge has taken the unprecedented step of holding the owners of drinking water treatment facilities responsible for regulatory violations. The judge granted three government motions under the Safe Drinking Water Act that sought to make several family-owned Monterey county drinking water companies personally liable for allegedly endangering the health of 20,000 local residents.

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The Senate energy committee chairman is planning a hearing on a recent federal court ruling that upheld the ability of the nuclear power industry to seek compensation from the federal government for the storage of spent radioactive fuel. A source in the chairman's office says the hearing is intended to alert lawmakers to the potential astronomical cost of paying damages to nuclear utilities, and to re-focus attention on the chairman's bill to establish an interim nuclear waste storage facility.

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California officials are drafting revised incentives for automakers to sell electric vehicles that may increase the number of zero-emission cars on the state's roads in the near future. Staff for the California Air Resources Board are working on recommendations to change the state's zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) regulation by increasing automaker credits for early introduction of ZEVs in the next two years and potentially more partial-ZEV (PZEV) credits for ultra-clean vehicles, sources say.

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EPA has released a draft landmark nutrient trading guidance document for the Chesapeake Bay, in an effort to reduce runoff and other pollutants to the watershed. The draft document is the product of negotiations by government and industry officials, and is generally viewed as a model for reducing contaminants beyond current end-of-pipe controls.

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Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles(D) is urging the Senate energy committee chairman to push legislation that the governor says would close a "loophole" in existing federal laws that allows passenger cruise ships along southeast Alaska to pollute. And the governor warns that ongoing efforts by lawmakers to draft new standards may actually do more harm than good.

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September 18, 2000

A legal review board at EPA has agreed with the agency's interpretation of new source review requirements under the Clean Air Act, handing EPA a significant victory in its enforcement dispute with one of the nation's largest utilities. The administrative case has attracted national attention because it may resolve key legal issues pertinent to pending legal action in the courts brought by EPA against dozens of electric company's throughout the country. EPA's Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) on Sept.

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A landmark study released at a meeting of the world's top environment officials lays out steps that governmental and citizen organizations can take to promote sustainable development and protect the ecosystem. Some of these measures include eliminating government subsidies that promote efficient uses of resources, and investing in research to gain a better understanding of current conditions and ecosystem functions.

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In an effort to resolve confusion among air regulators, EPA has clarified that the trigger for toxic release controls should be applied to each hazardous air pollutants released from a particular facility. The clarification in effect lowers the limit of releases requiring state-of-the-art emissions control technology.

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EPA Administrator Carol Browner has approved revisions to the agency's Superfund technical assistance grant (TAG) program to make it easier for communities to use. EPA sources say the changes will remove obstacles to the program that the agency believes, based on public comments it received, hamper its use by nearby residents of contaminated sites. A Federal Register notice announcing the changes is expected to be published later this week.

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A bipartisan group of House lawmakers has introduced a bill that would exempt from Superfund liability some small businesses. The measure is expected to be quickly pushed to the House floor for a vote, but the prospects of Senate action appear unlikely. The bill is a revised version of an earlier plan backed by small business lobbyists but opposed EPA because it might encourage small firms to pollute.

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September 13, 2000

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has released a report and amended versions of legislation to authorize comprehensive treatment of sewage emanating from the Tijuana River as a way to reduce river and ocean pollution in the San Diego border region. The bill was marked up by the committee last July and it has been referred to the Environment and Public Works Committee for further consideration.

Source: InsideEPA.com

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Federal Highway Administrator Kenneth Wykle told a Senate panel that the agency would consider significant revisions to its controversial rule for streamlining the environmental review of highway construction projects. Lawmakers have criticized the rules as doing nothing more than offering another bureaucratic layer to the review process. Wykle pointed out that the administration has extended the comment period on the proposed rules in response to concerns voiced by state transportation officials, recognizing that a lot more work needs to be done.

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New York City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D) has draft a plan that could be the nation's first law to limit carbon dioxide emissions from both existing and new power plants. The draft city law, which is intended to reduce CO2 emissions within five years, was written as the city faces a near doubling of power generators operating in the metropolis. There currently are eight power plants operating in New York City, with five applications for new generators under consideration.

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Senate appropriators have approved an EPA spending bill that boosts agency funding beyond the administration's request and is free of any specific restrictions on agency activities, putting the legislation at odds with a House-passed measure that contains a number of controversial "riders." But several key senators have threatened to offer amendments during floor debate that would limit drinking water and pesticide regulations.

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EPA employees are accusing high-ranking agency officials of bulldozing through the agency a politically-driven plan that would excuse Chicago from meeting certain Clean Air Act requirements. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which represents former and current EPA workers, issued a statement claiming that an administration proposal to declare Chicago an "economic development zone" would excuse industrial sources from tough emission control requirements triggered by the metropolitan area's poor air quality.

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Presidential hopeful George W. Bush has laid out a strategy for correcting what the Texas governor describes as the Clinton administration's neglect of national parklands. As president, Bush pledges to eliminate within five years the National Park Service's $4.9 billion "maintenance and resource protection" backlog.

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The chairmen of House subcommittees with jurisdiction over EPA's Superfund program are planning to introduce legislation that would exempt small business from cleanup liabilities. The bill will include revisions from an earlier plan backed by small business lobbyists in response to EPA concerns by excusing businesses retroactively for cleanup responsibilities. The earlier proposal recommended a prospective exemption for smaller firms, which EPA argued might encourage businesses to pollute.

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Florida is the first state to gain EPA backing of a licensing program drinking water and wastewater treatment operators. The program, based on federal guidelines, is intended to ensure that operators have the training and skills to properly run various types of treatment facilities, and that treatment officials are up-to-date on the latest technology. Each application for licensure is evaluated to make sure that the minimum criteria for experience and education, such as training courses and examinations, is met.

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Pennsylvania environment officials are touting construction at a campground water plant that they say will set a new standard for sewage treatment facilities. The experimental on-lot sewage disposal system, to be built at the R.B. Winter State Park, is designed to keep treated water within the watershed by treating the water and returning it to the groundwater. It is also efficient by requiring less maintenance and use of chemicals, and by requiring little excavation to construct the system.

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