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Daily News

September 20, 2000

EPA has released a draft risk assessment of genetically-modified corn, cotton and potatoes. The assessment will be used to reach decisions regarding renewal of the expiring registrations for several of the products and to develop possible mitigation measures.

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A landmark ruling by an international dispute panel concluded that the French government's ban on asbestos imports and products was not in violation of global trade agreements. The French anti-asbestos law is the first-of-its-kind in the world, and the panel decision may pave the way for similar measures by other countries.

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The Senate is expected to unanimously approve a long-awaited beach water bill as early as this evening, sources say. Under a congressional agreement, the House is expected to take up the Senate version as soon as it passes that chamber, and then speed the measure to the president's desk before lawmakers adjourn.

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Congressional investigators have concluded that a majority of states do not have the staff or funds to adequately implement drinking water regulations, and that states are over-burdened with rising infrastructure costs. The findings are being touted by a key lawmaker as possibly laying the groundwork for massive water infrastructure legislation expected to be introduced next year.

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September 19, 2000

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) encourages businesses, both large and small, to weigh in on proposed ozone-reduction steps for the Galveston/Houston metropolitan area. The measures are being proposed by local air regulators in response to federally-mandated requirements, which have come under sharp attack nationally by utilities and other industries. DeLay, in a written statement, warns that the smog-reduction measures "must be based on sound science, not political science."

Source: InsideEPA.com

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The Pentagon has released an interim policy that lays out land-use controls associated with environmental cleanup of military installations slated to be sold by the federal government. The controls include any physical, legal or administrative mechanism that can restrict use or limit access to prevent human exposure to dangerous levels of contamination. The restrictions are used to ensure the integrity of an engineering remedy and to protect public health after transfer of the property's ownership.

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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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