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Air

U.S. TO PUSH 'COLLABORATIVE' MERCURY CUTS AS ALTERNATIVE TO EU TREATY

The United States plans to propose a collaborative approach to reducing global mercury emissions that could be pushed as a limited alternative to European calls for a treaty that could ban certain commercial activities.

Sweden, Norway and other European nations have recently proposed sweeping mercury control measures, including a possible ban on trade involving the neurotoxin, and the European Union is expected to propose a treaty process at a February 21-25 United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Governing Council meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.

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NEW YORK ANNOUNCES MAJOR IN-STATE NEW SOURCE REVIEW SETTLEMENT

New York announced two landmark settlements over new source review (NSR) permit violations with in-state utilities under which the companies agreed to historic pollution cuts. In addition to the emissions reductions, the settlement is significant because it stems from the first NSR suit filed by a state against companies operating inside its borders, and comes as settlement talks between the federal government and other utilities have long been at a standstill.

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EXPERTS CAUTIOUS OF EARLY CONCLUSIONS FROM EPA-BACKED AIR STUDY

Air quality experts are cautioning against premature conclusions based on a recent study partially funded by EPA that found human exposure to tiny particles of soot did not result in cardiovascular health effects. These experts say the study does not prove that so-called "ultrafine" particles are safe.

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ACTIVISTS COUNTERING INDUSTRY EFFORT TO NIX CALIFORNIA WAIVER

Environmentalists are mobilizing efforts to help California protect its unique Clean Air Act authority to set mobile source emissions standards stricter than federal requirements, with one national group scheduled to testify later this month before a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel that is studying the California waiver issue.

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ENVIRONMENTALISTS MAY SUE TEXAS TO REDUCE HAZE AT NATIONAL PARK

Environmentalists may use a major, five-year study on causes of air pollution at Texas Big Bend National Park in a possible lawsuit against either the state or EPA aimed at improving visibility at the site. Environmentalists believe litigation may be necessary to get the state to enact regulations aimed at curbing pollution from sources found to affect the park, including power plants.

A successful suit could be duplicated in other states, because the report found emissions from across the country were affecting the park, environmentalists say.

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INDUSTRY SUES CALIFORNIA CLAIMING VOC EMISSIONS FEE IS UNLAWFUL TAX

The National Paint & Coatings Association (NPCA) last month filed suit in a California state court challenging the constitutionality of a new state fee program for volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. An NPCA source says the rule, if upheld, could devastate the industry in California and could encourage other states to proceed with similar programs.

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COURT NARROWS PRECEDENT-SETTING RULING 'VACATING' CLEAN AIR RULE

A federal appellate court has narrowed its previous precedent-setting decision to vacate an EPA air rule in its rejection of a Bush administration request to reconsider the case. The latest ruling, which backs an industry challenge to an EPA-approved list of alternatives to an ozone-depleting chemical, grants future courts the discretion in allowing the agency to revise allegedly flawed regulations.

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GROUPS SUE EPA FOR FAILING TO UPDATE REFINERY POLLUTION CONTROLS

Environmental groups are suing EPA claiming the agency has failed to update new source performance standards (NSPS) for oil refineries despite a statutory requirement that it do so every eight years. EPA last set NSPS for refineries in the 1970s and '80s, and never set a requirement for emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which is a major pollutant from these sources, the complaint alleges.

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EPA TAKES NO ACTION AGAINST MARYLAND FOR FAILING TO SET OZONE FINES

Environmentalists are criticizing EPA for failing to pursue sanctions from Maryland after the state failed to revise its clean air plan to impose fees on stationary sources coming if the Washington, D.C., area does not meet the 1-hour ozone standard.

Activists say this lack of action is telling, because EPA is soon planning to revoke that standard as part of the transition to a stricter 8-hour ozone rule. Environmentalists are challenging this plan, and one group says it will soon file new litigation to force the agency to keep the 1-hour standard (see related story).

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LOUISIANA GROUP PLANS LITIGATION TO MAINTAIN 1-HOUR OZONE STANDARD

Environmentalists in Louisiana are devising litigation aimed at forcing EPA to keep the 1-hour ozone standard, which the agency plans to revoke in June as it implements the stricter 8-hour standard. The litigation is important because the activists are the first to sue solely on the issue of keeping the older standard, and they believe their lawsuit could be resolved quicker than ongoing litigation over the 8-hour standard.

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