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Daily News

September 18, 2000

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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September 12, 2000

The mining industry has filed suit against the state of Idaho for imposing discharge limits on polluted waterways. The controversy stems from efforts to establish cleanup standards for the Coeur d' Alene River basin, and highlights the difficulty faced by states nationwide in developing total maximum daily loads (TMDL) for impaired water bodies.

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The Interior Department has revised a draft rule for assessing natural resource damages at contaminated sites by backing away from an earlier plan to assign a monetary value to wildlife and other natural resources. The revised draft proposal, which is now circulating among federal agencies and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has attracted support from some officials at EPA.

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EPA is touting an innovative water quality plan developed by the Maryland as possible national model for limiting environmental damage from wet weather runoff. The plans' low-impact development (LID) is a radically different approach to conventional stormwater management, according to EPA, and represents a significant advancement in the-state-of-the art in stormwater management.

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EPA Region I has launched a campaign to protect children's health that includes targeting sources of mercury and lead. The initiative will involve encouraging hundreds of hospitals and medical facilities in New England to join a voluntary effort to reduce mercury-containing wastes; enforcing laws that require landlords to inform tenants of the presence of lead-containing paints; tracking asthma rates in children to develop new building guidelines designed to improve indoor air quality; and informing parents about the potential dangers of eating mercury-contaminated fish.

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The President's environmental advisors have succeeded in blocking legislation drafted by the Army to expand training range operations. The legislation sparked an administration-wide flap after the Army was accused of sending the bill to Congress before receiving White House clearance. Environment officials within the administration have argued that the Army would jeopardize an endangered species. A decision to shelve the legislation was made by the Office of Management and Budget.

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September 11, 2000

An upcoming EPA proposed water monitoring rule could prove to be a precursor for a sweeping effort by the agency to develop new drinking water standards as early as 2001 for a host of currently unregulated contaminants in drinking water. The proposal, due out for public comment in the coming weeks, would require hundreds of water systems to monitor for over a dozen listed contaminants over the next five years.

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California air regulators have begun drafting plans for providing automakers incentives for speeding up by two years the sale of substantial numbers of electric cars in the state. A decision to look at accelerating the schedule for electric vehicle sales was part of a vote by the California Air Resources Board to continue its statewide zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate.

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