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Daily News

October 03, 2000

Responding to reports that congressional appropriators have drafted a plan to delay EPA's controversial diesel emissions rule, EPA Administrator Carol Browner stated that President Clinton would veto any spending bill that contains such a rider. Browner's statement adds the potential diesel rule amendment to a list of what the agency says are anti-environment riders that would prompt a veto.

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October 02, 2000

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Environmentalists are pressing for a watershed management approach to protecting water quality along the U.S.-Mexico border. A recent report by environmentalists argues that watershed management is the best approach to ensuring that all local water quality needs are met.

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Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) is drafting legislation to require first-time federal notification of genetically engineered products introduced into the marketplace. The senator has been working on legislation for some time, but a recent controversy over unapproved genetically modified corn making its way to grocery store shelves has heightened the visibility of the lawmaker's efforts. Sources say recent modifications to an earlier draft of the bill are intended to respond to the incident.

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California scientists are considering the adoption of first-ever criteria that may reduce the number of chemicals listed under the state's landmark Proposition 65, which requires the governor to publish a list each year of all known human carcinogens. The list has sweeping implications, potentially affecting consumer decisions about products containing a listed compound and regulatory decisions to address the publicized carcinogens.

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The National Academy of Sciences has identified "eight grand challenges" in environmental sciences, recommending further research on climate change, water resource management and the environmental impact of infectious diseases.

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The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected efforts by Exxon-Mobil Corp. to appeal a $5 billion punitive damage award related to the Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989. The high court Oct. 2 denied a company petition to have the court hear an appeal of a ruling that has already been upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The issue before the court in this appeal, Exxon-Mobil Corp. v. Baker, was whether the company should be entitled to a new jury trial because a bailiff in the original trial may have prejudiced a juror.

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At the urging of EPA and the Department of Agriculture, Aventis CropScience will purchase this year's crop of a genetically altered corn that was found in food products without a federal permit. The company's decision is "a prudent and responsible step to prevent the current crop of Starlink corn from being used in processed foods," according to an EPA statement. The purchase is intended to provide consumers with additional confidence in the integrity of the food supply by also implementing a tracking program.

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EPA will soon be posting on the Internet emissions data from various motor vehicle models. The new website is meant as a guide for consumers looking for environmentally-friendly vehicles.

EPA Administrator Carol Browner announced the new site at an Oct. 2 press conference with Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. Due up in a few weeks, the site will provide information on tailpipe emissions of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons and is intended to educate consumers about the pollution from their vehicles.

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EPA may be nearing its second settlement with a utility targeted under a massive investigation of the electric utility industry for alleged violations of Clean Air Act new source permitting rules.

Sources say EPA and Virginia Power are in serious talks on a possible settlement package that could help bolster the agency's track record under the enforcement initiative. Industry observers say a settlement could help build momentum for the enforcement effort so that it could endure through to the next administration as the Clinton White House begins winding down.

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Key House and Senate appropriators have included language in a draft conference report on EPA spending that would hinder the agency's plan for controlling diesel emissions from heavy-duty trucks and buses, sources close to the issue say. Sources say leaders of the appropriations committees anticipate moving the conference report to the floor of their respective chambers in the next couple of days.

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September 29, 2000

Minnesota has announced the cleanup of its ten thousandth leaking underground storage tank, claiming that the state's recent progress in addressing an increased number of sites is the result of a new risk-based approach to groundwater contamination.

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The Senate energy committee chairman warns that recent federal court decisions could cost U.S. taxpayers up to $80 billion in potential liability for the disposal of commercial nuclear waste. The chairman claims legislation that he has introduced, but which was rejected by the Clinton administration, could offer a way out for the government.

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Montana's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has released a draft schedule for developing controversial water quality standards that have been the focus of national litigation by environmentalists. Montana is one of 18 states under a court order for expediting the development of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) to ensure final standards by 2007.The state is required by the court ruling to have a final schedule in place by November 1.

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The Senate unanimously approved reauthorization of the Coastal Zone Management Act, which provides state grants for water quality protection programs such as nonpoint source pollution controls and habitat restoration measures. The bill still needs to clear the House.

Source: InsideEPA.com

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Legislation to ban the use of a common fuel-additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), has been placed on the Senate calendar. The bill calls on EPA to halt use of MTBE, which is a suspected groundwater contaminated, unless the agency can determine that the oxygenate poses no risk to human health and the environment. The legislation was introduced by Senate environment committee chairman Bob Smith (R-NH), but has attracted substantial opposition, congressional staffers say.

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Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has proposed a national energy strategy for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The governor would open part of the National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, increase low-income fuel assistance, and accelerate electric utility deregulation.

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Congressional negotiators have agreed to fully fund a Clinton administration request for water development activities. The agreement follows concerns raised by environmentalists that anything less than the administration's request could jeopardize a wetlands permitting program run by the Army Corps of Engineers.

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The California Air Resources Board adopted a sweeping plan to develop over the next several years more than a dozen regulations to crack down on virtually all diesel engines. The plan -- which includes requirements for costly after-treatment retrofit technology to be installed on stationary and portable engines -- is drawing harsh criticism from industry officials who claim the standards would be based on overblown risk estimates.

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EPA has developed a controversial list of the regulatory decisions the Clinton administration plans to complete before leaving office. The list has sparked a firestorm of controversy after members of Congress circumvented EPA by circulating the list, which prompted the agency to claim that the document is a confidential, internal report.

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A key House Republican has drafted an amendment to an EPA funding bill that would prevent the agency from dredging contaminated sediments at Superfund sites until after the release of an ongoing independent scientific review of the cleanup practice. The legislation, presented at an informal House-Senate conference committee meeting, would require EPA to submit a report to Congress demonstrating how the agency acted on upcoming recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences.

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