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Daily News

October 12, 2000

The Senate has approved an EPA spending bill that reflects an agreement between House and Senate lawmakers, following weeks of negotiations intended to speed the measure through Congress. The appropriations bill was approved 87-8 after a last-ditch effort by one senator to strip the bill of several amendments that have been criticized as attempts to undermine EPA regulations.

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October 11, 2000

EPA has released first-ever voluntary national guidelines that set minimum criteria for the management of on-site sewage treatment systems. While the guidance has attracted general support from states for taking steps to better protect underground and surface water quality from wastewater pollution, concerns are being raised over funding for the program and the possibility that the voluntary measures may be a first step toward mandatory requirements.

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The Union of Concerned Scientists has issued a report claiming that is shows how "big rig" trucks pose an "immense [and ] disproportionate" risk to public health and the environment. The group says the report offers "affordable solutions," including designs for cleaner trucks and market incentives for the development of a "new generation" of trucks and buses."

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The Senate has approved legislation intended to ease the burden on states when they implement controversial EPA water quality standards. While no counterpart legislation exists in the House, supporters of the bill hope lawmakers there will take up the Senate-passed plan or that the legislation will be attached to omnibus appropriations legislation or some other must-pass measure.

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A federal district court judge has upheld a contentious Clinton administration report that boosts the cancer-classification for dioxin from a "reasonably anticipated" carcinogen to a "known" human carcinogen. The ruling comes as EPA officials are seeking to gain approval from its own Science Advisory Board in classifying dioxin as a "known" human carcinogen.

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October 10, 2000

A group of western wastewater treatment officials has come out in opposition to its national counterpart by arguing that EPA has no authority to require states to impose controls on stormwater runoff and other nonpoint sources of pollution as part of efforts to clean up troubled water bodies. The disagreement recently emerged in a federal appeals court case that could determine EPA's ability to set controversial limits on toxins that flow into already contaminated waterways.

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A proposed EPA rule to revise underground injection control requirements for wastewater disposal in south Florida has sparked controversy with environmentalists and drinking water treatment officials, who both oppose the draft requirements for different reasons. Environmentalists fear that the measure will endanger underground sources of drinking water, while drinking water utilities oppose provisions that require them to treat waste before injecting it into underground wells.

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EPA is expected to issue a rule before the Clinton administration leaves office that would codify the agency's view that ground level ozone pollution does little or nothing to reduce public exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The regulatory action is intended to resolve a legal dispute over whether the agency has fully considered the potential benefits of low-level ozone when developing a recent proposal to tighten ambient air quality requirements.

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The Air Force and the Department of Energy have reached an agreement to develop cleaner-burning aviation fuels. The research will focus on easily adaptable technologies for commercial and military systems, as well as developing technologies to reduce emissions in emerging turbine engine and advanced propulsion concepts, according to a summary of the landmark agreement.

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Senate and House lawmakers hope to reach an agreement this week in closed-door discussions over what level of funding to provide states to implement federal clean water programs. States are urging Senate lawmakers to increase funding by $50 million, claiming that existing funding is inadequate and will not be shared equitably by all states.

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EPA has laid out a detailed strategy for achieving the agency's goals in reducing urban air toxics, including a list of 13 areas that need further research, such as assessing exposure levels, measuring health effects, conducting risk assessments, and characterizing and managing public risks.

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The House is expected to pass legislation this week to reduce water pollution caused by stormwater and other wet weather conditions. The legislation represents a major compromise that is expected to allow the bill to be attached to larger estuary legislation when it comes up for conference committee consideration by House and Senate lawmakers.

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October 06, 2000

The agency's Office of Research and Development has released a comprehensive strategy identifying areas for further research on protecting children from environmental pollutants, which has been a high-profile issue under the Clinton administration. The study calls for research on hazard identification, dose-response assessment, exposure assessment and risk management. It also recommends the development of better data collection methods in order to make risk assessments less uncertain.

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California energy regulators are considering a deal with the Mexican government to build an oil refinery south of the border that would supply the state with gasoline that complies with federal clean-fuel requirements. The possible negotiations would be an attempt to ease fuel shortages that are contributing to rising energy prices, while maintaining some of the nation's toughest environmental standards for cleaner-running cars.

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Congressional appropriators and White House officials reportedly have reached an agreement on an EPA spending bill that includes a provision restricting the agency's ability to implement a controversial ozone air quality standard, while dropping a proposed rider that would have delayed agency plans to limit diesel engine emissions. But a key senator has vowed to take other legislative steps to block the controversial diesel rule.

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A California referendum that backers say would reduce the number of environmental fees that are not tied to specific state services or programs could backfire on businesses by spawning lawsuits and new regulatory requirements, state lawmakers warned industry officials at a hearing last week.

"I think you'll see bills that include requirements for reporting [and] reduction of hazards . . . all of which are imposed on the fee payer," said Sen. Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto), at a Sept. 29 joint hearing by the Senate environment committee and the Assembly tax committee.

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Congress has stripped Department of Agriculture (USDA) environment chief James Lyons of all authority through the end of his tenure with the Clinton administration in retaliation for what many on Capitol Hill saw as an irresponsible handling of EPA's efforts to tighten regulations on agricultural run-off. The move is spelled out in legislation attached to the department's funding bill for fiscal year 2001, which was sent to President Clinton Oct. 5.

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Lawmakers have backed away from a plan to tighten restrictions on the Clinton administration to regulate certain mining activities on federal lands following a presidential veto threat. Instead, the House and Senate have approved appropriations legislation for the Department of Interior that maintains an existing requirement that upcoming regulations generally follow recent recommendations on bedrock mining by an independent group of scientists.

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