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Daily News

January 05, 2001

The Sierra Club has launched a campaign with the express purpose of defeating the nominations of former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton to be secretary of Interior and former Sen. John Ashcroft to be U.S. attorney general.

In a Jan. 5 press release, the Sierra Club announced that it will work to block both appointments, citing their "dismal environmental records." The Sierra Club announcement is part of a larger effort that sources say will include a number of other major groups.

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January 04, 2001


The House Commerce Committee is considering reorganizing its environmental subcommittees after lawmakers Jan. 3 voted to remove the committee's jurisdiction over financial issues and give that authority to a newly constituted House Banking & Financial Services Committee.

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In what is being viewed as a symbolic nod to the high visibility that energy -related issues are expected to play in the upcoming legislative session, the House yesterday voted to rename the powerful Commerce Committee to the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Recent power shortages in the West and rising energy costs have prompted calls for the development of a national energy policy, with President-elect Bush pressing for expanded oil drilling in protected wilderness areas and environmentalists demanding that conservation play a key role in meeting energy demands.

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All three initial environmental bills introduced in the 107th Congress target the Clean Air Act. Two of the bills indicate an early interest by lawmakers to resolve a long-standing dispute over the federal reformulated gasoline program, and the third measure is an attempt by members from New York to establish a nitrogen oxide emissions trading program.

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The incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee says he plans a complete overhaul of the powerful committee, including its environmental subcommittees and jurisdictions, with details to be worked out among committee members over the next few weeks.

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State environment officials have laid out a detailed agenda for the incoming Bush administration that includes abolishing EPA's centralized enforcement office. The state officials argue that eliminating the office and moving its staff to the agency's various program offices would better integrate enforcement and policy objectives.

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New Hampshire environment officials are crafting recommendations for a potentially precedent-setting statewide effort to reduce dioxin emissions, which may serve as a model for other state officials who are considering going beyond federal requirements because of EPA's recent determination that the pollutant is a "known" carcinogen.

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EPA has drafted a new guidance that gives the agency's waste chief broad discretion in blocking certain internal investigations of EPA waste cleanup decisions.

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January 03, 2001

EPA has reached its first settlement with a utility company based in the Midwest under the agency's high profile utility enforcement action, a settlement that observers suggest could increase pressure on other utilities in the region to agree to emissions reductions.

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A new federal report, which is expected to fuel legislative debate over power plant emissions, shows that the cost of controlling carbon dioxide (CO2) is likely to be more significant than the cost of reducing other pollutants. Release of the report comes as a prelude to what is expected to be a major push this year for legislation to address multiple pollutants from utilities. The study examines the potential costs to consumers and the effects on energy markets of several pollution reduction strategies.

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A Pentagon report argues for siting a national missile defense system in Alaska on the grounds that it would create no environmental damage in the pristine northern state.

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EPA has provided data to states from its national air toxics assessment that sources say will bolster calls for additional regulatory controls of mobile source emissions. The data was generated as part of an agency effort to update its understanding of 33 air toxics in the environment, in order to more precisely pinpoint health risks associated with air toxics pollution.

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In what could be one of the first environmental bills of the new 107th Congress, three Republican lawmakers from New York plan to call for a reduction in emissions from power plants that contribute to acid rain. The bill, to be introduced by Reps. John Sweeney, Sherwood Boehlert and John McHugh (R-NY), would set up a nitrogen oxide emissions trading program and establish further cuts in sulfur dioxide emissions under an existing trading program.

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Plans by Senate Democrats on the Environment & Public Works Committee to shuffle subcommittee leadership roles may set the stage for contentious battles over Superfund reform and bring heightened visibility to an anticipated clean air debate. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) will likely be appointed as the leading Democrat on the clean air subcommittee, while Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will take the slot opposite the conservative, and often controversial, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) on the Superfund subcommittee.

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January 02, 2001


In an effort to develop data that may influence cleanup standards and drinking water requirements, Lockheed Martin Corp. is sponsoring a first-of-its-kind study on humans to test the potential effects of perchlorate, an industrial pollutant that has been detected in groundwater used by at least 15 to 20 million people nationwide as a source of drinking water. The company has taken on the effort to influence policy decisions at contaminated sites where the company may be responsible for cleanup.

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EPA is poised to issue draft guidance on identifying polluted water bodies, sparking concern among state officials that the anticipated strictness of the approach will dramatically increase the cost to local jurisdictions charged with establishing controversial discharge limits. The draft guidance is being issued to spark discussion among state, tribal and EPA officials, with the agency expected to develop final guidance by March 2001.

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EPA has drafted a major set of guidelines for conducting cost-benefit analyses that will ensure greater consistency and rigor across agency rulemaking activities by creating a template from which agency economists will work. Having an established framework could help defend the agency against charges from critics that EPA's risk and cost-benefit analyses are deliberately "biased" to support agency political goals, sources say.

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With the House slated on Jan. 4 to vote on some of its open committee chairmanships, several key environmental posts appear locked up, with Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) likely to edge Rep. Mike Oxley (R-OH) as chairman of the House Commerce Committee and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) set to become chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

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President-elect Bush's selection of current Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta to be the next secretary of transportation brings to the post a former California congressman who has worked directly on his home state's groundbreaking initiatives to improve air quality through the use of cleaner fuels and vehicles.

By picking Mineta, a Democrat, Bush has made good on a pledge to reach across party lines in selecting his Cabinet.

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President-elect George W. Bush's selection this week of former Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI) to head the Department of Energy (DOE) is drawing fire from environmentalists who say that Abraham earned one of the worst environmental records in the Senate, and would likely lock horns with EPA on air quality and other environmental issues as DOE chief.

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