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Daily News

October 27, 2000

Eight countries in the Arctic have agreed to conduct an ambitious scientific assessment of global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion, which sources say could provide first-time evidence of both human induced and natural causes of climate change on a regional scale.

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Federal and state enforcement officials are touting a recent agreement with a chemical company as the largest civil penalty ever for environmental violations at a single factory. EPA and the state of Mississippi charged Morton International, a company that produces synthetic rubber and rocket polymers, with violating air, water, and hazardous waste laws, according to a Justice Department statement. The company has agreed to pay a $20 million civil penalty and a $2 million criminal penalty, as well as spend $16 million on environmental restoration projects.

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Proponents of legislation to bolster federal assistance for a watershed approach to controlling sewer system overflows are working to attach the measure to a broad spending bill, one of the few appropriations measures lawmakers are feverishly working to complete before Congress can adjourn. City sewer officials say the increased funding is necessary to help them meet anticipated EPA controls.

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An EPA investigator is calling for a criminal probe into events surrounding a controversial incinerator in Ohio, a move that could prove politically embarrassing for Vice President Al Gore, who has already been accused by environmentalists of breaking a pledge to shut down the facility.

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October 26, 2000

A new negotiating document, prepared in anticipation of international climate change talks next month in The Hague, reportedly reflects an agreement between the U.S. and the European Union on penalties for countries that fail to reach greenhouse gas reduction targets laid out by the Kyoto Protocol. Sources say the deal boosts chances for a broader agreement among all the parties at the upcoming talks.

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A new study may force closer scrutiny of current air quality standards for particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) standards by offering first-time evidence that long-term exposure to the two pollutants can deplete the lung capacity in children.

The study's also concludes that ozone has little if any long-term detrimental effects on children's health, calling into question the ability to link the pollutant to long-term health effects.

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Vice President Al Gore has jumped on reported conclusions by an international panel of experts that power plant emissions and other combustion gases are responsible for global warming. The Democratic presidential candidate is pointing to the findings as vindication of his strong stance on reducing greenhouse gases, and his campaign is circulating the candidate's remarks as a preface to what they say will be a major address next week by Gore on global warming and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

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President Clinton is expected within days to sign legislation that will require the Office of Management and Budget to report on annual costs and benefits of federal regulations. The move comes on the heels of the president signing into law a related measure intended to increase the amount of cost-benefit data on federal rules generated by the congressional General Accounting Office (GAO).

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A new EPA report suggests the agency is likely to renew the registration of a gene-altered corn, despite protests from environmentalists and some scientists who say the product is a potential threat to the environment. "The assessment confirms EPA's original findings that there are no unreasonable adverse effects from these products," according to a report by EPA's pesticides office.

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Congressional appropriators have rejected a Clinton administration request to examine industry claims that releasing to the public information about possible chemical accidents could jeopardize plant security.

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Representatives from the seafood industry have appealed to the White House seeking relief from an upcoming EPA announcement that the agency plans to regulate mercury emissions from power plants. The industry is concerned with the likely tone of the anticipated announcement, with industry officials arguing that it will overstate the risks from eating fish caught in water bodies where power plant emissions settle.

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A pending lawsuit in California against major oil companies alleges that the industry knew about the threat to water quality from methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) well before "convincing" regulators to allow blending it with gasoline to produce a cleaner-burning fuel. Oil companies pushed for use of MTBE in an effort to gain a foothold in the fuel-additives market, but the oxygenate has sparked a national debate, involving members of Congress and EPA, on how to address allegations of groundwater contamination from MTBE.

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October 25, 2000

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An innovative proposal that would substitute general permitting for individual Clean Water Act permits, under EPA's Project XL program, has drawn support from the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee and state water-quality regulators.

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EPA has agreed to examine whether a new, less expensive test for determining mercury levels in water is as effective as the current test mandated by the agency, a move that could potentially save municipal water systems millions of dollars per year, agency sources say.

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A major energy company has announced the construction of cogeneration power plants that the company says will help Houston meet its federal air quality requirements. BP plans to build two new power plants that the company says will allow it to shut down older, dirtier electricity generating units, reducing nitrogen oxide emissions in the region. The plants are being touted by BP as part of a larger strategy to help Houston reduce its smog, which has recently been designated as some of the worst in the country.

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Environmentalists are making good on a threat to create difficulties for Vice President Al Gore during the final weeks of his run for the presidency by accusing the candidate of reneging on past environmental promises. Activists from Greenpeace staged a protest in front of EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., demanding that Gore and EPA close down a waste incinerator in Ohio because of its proximity to an elementary school.

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The League of Conservation Voters has issued its final "scorecard" on the 106th Congress, giving the lawmakers an overall lukewarm review on environmental issues.

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Negotiators preparing for international climate change talks next month are close to an agreement on how to determine the role of forests in absorbing greenhouse gases. The possible accord is a key step in narrowing options for assessing how land-use practices -- such as deforestation, reforestation, or a variety of land management activities -- can impact a country's ability to meet its emission reduction obligations under an international treaty to address global warming. The preliminary agreement represents a minor victory for the U.S.

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The developer of genetically-altered corn has submitted data to EPA which the company says proves that the corn should be approved for human consumption. The request is an attempt by the company to resolve an ongoing controversy sparked by revelations that the corn has found its way into consumer products worldwide.

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October 24, 2000

Environmentalists and industry remain at predictable odds over EPA's proposed rule governing permits for wetland dredging, sharply disagreeing in their comments over whether EPA or industry should bear the burden of proving whether a permit applicant violates the "incidental fallback" provision under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

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