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Daily News

September 22, 2000

Senate appropriators adopted a controversial restriction on the Department of Interior's ability to regulate mining on public lands. The provision was attached to an Interior appropriations bill that has already drawn fire from the Clinton administration and could result in a presidential veto.

Environmentalists also have raised concerns saying that the amendment could cause a greater number of contaminated sites on public lands. These environmentalists point out that mining wastes are a major factor in Superfund sites throughout the country.

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While EPA sources have indicated that the agency is likely to grant California at least a partial or conditioned waiver of the federal reformulated gasoline (RFG) oxygen requirement, the agency does not plan to reach a final decision until well after the November presidential election, according to a key agency source. Such a delay may be intended by the Clinton-Gore administration to avoid risking the potential loss of Midwest votes for presidential candidate Al Gore, sources say.

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A leading gas industry group predicts that emissions could rise by nearly 14 percent and energy rates could jump $1.2 billion higher in eight years if the industry does not meet a goal to reach a 30 trillion cubic foot (TFC) market. The agency further pushes federal regulators to streamline permitting requirements for new facilities to allow new plants to come online faster.

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and one of the most active GOP lawmakers on the issue of global warming, is not only making good on his presidential campaign promise to investigate the effects of climate change, but says he will also write legislation on the issue for introduction in the 107th Congress.

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September 20, 2000

Canadian officials have proposed a plan that would cap emissions of large Canadian power plants in Ontario, as part of ongoing U.S.-Canada talks on transboundary air pollution, sources say. While the plan is still preliminary, sources say it could have a significant impact on both downwind Canadian provinces and U.S. states if implemented.

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EPA officials reportedly support a proposed Project XL plan that would allow a Philadelphia pharmaceutical company to burn small quantities of hazardous and radioactive wastes onsite without a typical toxic waste permit. But environmentalists are blasting the plan saying it sets a dangerous precedent and provides the company with too much cover to use the incinerator for wastes not allowed by the agreement.

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The Department of Energy's Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) is expected to say there are critical weaknesses in the long-term projections of performance at the department's proposed high-level nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, NV, and will soon call for an alternative to the current design. A top-level source at the board says that a detailed letter to this effect will soon be on its way to the director of the DOE's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM).

"The board has never said this quite so pointedly," says the official.

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The General Accounting Office (GAO) is urging the Senate to significantly tighten the Army Corps of Engineers' congressional reporting requirements for a Florida Everglades restoration plan. The recommendation is based on a new GAO study that found the plan to be sufficiently uncertain, requiring more than $1 billion worth of additional water quality projects. The report was released as the Senate began consideration of a $7.8 billion bill to restore the Everglades.

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EPA has released a draft risk assessment of genetically-modified corn, cotton and potatoes. The assessment will be used to reach decisions regarding renewal of the expiring registrations for several of the products and to develop possible mitigation measures.

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A landmark ruling by an international dispute panel concluded that the French government's ban on asbestos imports and products was not in violation of global trade agreements. The French anti-asbestos law is the first-of-its-kind in the world, and the panel decision may pave the way for similar measures by other countries.

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The Senate is expected to unanimously approve a long-awaited beach water bill as early as this evening, sources say. Under a congressional agreement, the House is expected to take up the Senate version as soon as it passes that chamber, and then speed the measure to the president's desk before lawmakers adjourn.

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Congressional investigators have concluded that a majority of states do not have the staff or funds to adequately implement drinking water regulations, and that states are over-burdened with rising infrastructure costs. The findings are being touted by a key lawmaker as possibly laying the groundwork for massive water infrastructure legislation expected to be introduced next year.

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September 19, 2000

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) encourages businesses, both large and small, to weigh in on proposed ozone-reduction steps for the Galveston/Houston metropolitan area. The measures are being proposed by local air regulators in response to federally-mandated requirements, which have come under sharp attack nationally by utilities and other industries. DeLay, in a written statement, warns that the smog-reduction measures "must be based on sound science, not political science."

Source: InsideEPA.com

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The Pentagon has released an interim policy that lays out land-use controls associated with environmental cleanup of military installations slated to be sold by the federal government. The controls include any physical, legal or administrative mechanism that can restrict use or limit access to prevent human exposure to dangerous levels of contamination. The restrictions are used to ensure the integrity of an engineering remedy and to protect public health after transfer of the property's ownership.

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EPA is mounting an investigation to find out how a genetically engineered corn product illegally made its way into Taco Bell tacos. The inquiry will be conducted jointly with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is in response to demands by environmentalists.

A coalition of environmental groups, called the Genetically Engineered Food Alert, asked the agencies to launch the investigation after a study commissioned by the group found the altered corn in supermarket tacos that Taco Bell manufactures. The corn is currently permitted in food for animals, but not for humans.

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A federal judge has taken the unprecedented step of holding the owners of drinking water treatment facilities responsible for regulatory violations. The judge granted three government motions under the Safe Drinking Water Act that sought to make several family-owned Monterey county drinking water companies personally liable for allegedly endangering the health of 20,000 local residents.

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The Senate energy committee chairman is planning a hearing on a recent federal court ruling that upheld the ability of the nuclear power industry to seek compensation from the federal government for the storage of spent radioactive fuel. A source in the chairman's office says the hearing is intended to alert lawmakers to the potential astronomical cost of paying damages to nuclear utilities, and to re-focus attention on the chairman's bill to establish an interim nuclear waste storage facility.

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California officials are drafting revised incentives for automakers to sell electric vehicles that may increase the number of zero-emission cars on the state's roads in the near future. Staff for the California Air Resources Board are working on recommendations to change the state's zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) regulation by increasing automaker credits for early introduction of ZEVs in the next two years and potentially more partial-ZEV (PZEV) credits for ultra-clean vehicles, sources say.

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EPA has released a draft landmark nutrient trading guidance document for the Chesapeake Bay, in an effort to reduce runoff and other pollutants to the watershed. The draft document is the product of negotiations by government and industry officials, and is generally viewed as a model for reducing contaminants beyond current end-of-pipe controls.

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Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles(D) is urging the Senate energy committee chairman to push legislation that the governor says would close a "loophole" in existing federal laws that allows passenger cruise ships along southeast Alaska to pollute. And the governor warns that ongoing efforts by lawmakers to draft new standards may actually do more harm than good.

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