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Daily News

October 24, 2000

In addressing an issue that threatens to create difficulties in his bid for the presidency, Vice President Al Gore is urging EPA to restrict activities at a controversial hazardous waste incinerator in Ohio, which has come under attack from environmentalists because of its proximity to an elementary school. Gore's push for EPA action comes just days after environmentalists vowed to make the incinerator a campaign issue after an agency ombudsman concluded that the facility should be shut down.

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A little-noticed provision backed by House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) and included on an EPA spending bill approved by Congress last week sets aside $2 million for the University of Houston to research and develop an ozone simulation and forecasting model that could help smog-ridden areas throughout the country to identify effective steps in reducing emissions.

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A waste management company has developed a technology that will likely boost the marketability of fly ash from coal-fired power plants. ISG Resources has announced a new technology that will allow utility companies to divert a greater amount of combustion wastes from landfills to cement manufacturing operations.

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A bill to boost funding for EPA restoration efforts in the nation's largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, is expected to clear Congress and reach the president's desk. A version of the bill, S. 835, that was negotiated by House and Senate lawmakers, passed the Senate Oct. 24, and sources expect it to pass the House Oct. 25.

The bill would establish a federal council charged with developing a national strategy for the restoration of estuaries and coordinating restoration programs at all levels of government. An EPA representative would be on the council.

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EPA has decided put on hold its effort to reform the cleanup process at former military installations to allow the Pentagon time to revamp its cleanup program. The decision stems from an assessment by EPA officials that the military is making significant progress in overhauling the program.

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EPA plans to address security issues and design programs to protect the nation's water distribution networks from biological, technological and physical terrorist threats, according to an industry source. The agency will get $2 million in FY-01 funding to work in conjunction with water utilities and their national representatives.

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October 23, 2000

Florida researchers are preparing a new study that could provide the scientific basis for first-time Clean Water Act limits on mercury air emissions from power plants and other industrial smokestacks, state sources say. The study is expected to buttress an EPA plan to expand the scope of its program to clean up endangered water bodies by including limits on pollution from air deposition.

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Air quality regulators in San Francisco are considering ways to provide oil refiners greater flexibility in meeting federal permitting requirements. A proposal, which allows refiners to move forward with plant modifications before gaining final approval, was drafted in response to industry complaints about federal regulations, sources say.

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Lawyers arguing on behalf of industry are protesting an appeals court ruling that excuses environmentalists from reimbursing legal costs after losing a case. The decision is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court, with industry lawyers arguing that federal courts unfairly allow environmentalists to be reimbursed for legal costs on a regular basis.

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EPA officials have rejected the recommendation of an independent investigator within the agency to immediately restrict the operations of a controversial Ohio hazardous waste incinerator, which environmentalists have long targeted because of its proximity to an elementary school. Instead, EPA officials say they plan to conduct air monitoring and emissions testing before deciding whether to limit operations at the plant.

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Lawmakers are calling for a federal investigation into evidence that they say shows abuse of power by EPA in its efforts to clean up would could turn out to be one of the nation's largest Superfund sites. EPA is being accused of "aimlessly spending millions of taxpayer dollars" and violating the property rights of citizens that live near the site.

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State regulators are concerned that an agreement between EPA and the Department of Defense (DOD) on cleaning up lead-contaminated paint from the destruction and disposal of military housing is too narrow because it is limited to areas where children are not likely to be present. EPA had earlier argued that Superfund law could apply to these situations, but agreed in the compromise document that federal housing law is sufficiently protective. The guidance excludes schools and barracks and property not intended for residential use.

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A new EPA analysis suggests that the agency is unlikely to require some of the nation's smoggiest areas to adopt additional local pollution measures, clearing the way for approval of the areas' ozone control plans. The analysis may put the agency at odds with environmentalists, who contend that the localities have flouted the Clean Air Act by failing to consider tougher measures.

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October 20, 2000

A high-ranking EPA official has voiced opposition to a proposal by the Army Corps of Engineers to allow development of one of the largest remaining coastal wetlands in the Northeast. EPA officials say plans to develop portions of the 8,000-acre Hackensack Meadowland wetland would violate the agency's wetlands regulations developed under the Clean Water Act.

Environmentalists say the Corps' plan would set a precedent for allowing development of a host of other mixed-use facilities on wetlands throughout the United States.

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EPA has announced plans to draft new water quality criteria for several pollutants and sources say the criteria are likely to drive down allowable levels for mercury. The effort will mark the first time that the agency determines ambient water standards using a new human health methodology, which is due to be published in a few weeks.

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The European Union has drafted a landmark directive intended to reduce emissions from waste incinerators. The directive is much broader than earlier proposals by addressing all wastes, with the exception of non-treated agricultural and forest wastes and experimental facilities with a limited capacity. The directive was approved earlier this month under an agreement between the European Parliament and the Council.

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Independent researchers in California have approved a state report on ranking the effect of air pollutants on children's health, despite recent criticism of the study by several experts. Before the landmark report is sent to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for final approval, the study will be slightly revised to include a recommendation by the scientists that carbon monoxide be considered the highest priority pollutant within a second group of substances to be studied.

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EPA has released a summary of risk assessment information it has received on development of its controversial arsenic in drinking water rule, and the agency is seeking public comment on which analyses it should use. The information is likely to play a critical role in developing the standard, which has come under intense criticism over cost-benefit considerations.

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President Clinton this week has signed into law measures intended to increase the amount of cost-benefit data generated on federal regulations. The legislation caps years of regulatory reform efforts by Congress, and represents a modest achievement given the sweeping goals laid out by Republicans following their historic emergence as the majority party earlier this decade.

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October 19, 2000

California air regulators are considering ways to broaden participation in an innovative emissions-trading program for consumer products in response to complaints from industry that the program is overly burdensome. The revisions are intended to allow greater flexibility in the standards and simplifying requirements.

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