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Daily News

October 26, 2000

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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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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