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Air

MERCURY EXPOSURE STUDY MAY GAUGE HEALTH OF POWER PLANT WORKERS

A pending study on human exposure to mercury could include unprecedented data on power plant employees who may face elevated risks in the workplace, sources involved with the research say. The upcoming study is part of activists' efforts to include groups from outside the environmental community, including labor unions, in a push for EPA to strengthen its rule requiring power plants to reduce mercury emissions.

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ADMINISTRATION WEIGHS EXEMPTING MINNESOTA FROM AIR TRANSPORT RULE

High-level EPA and White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) officials are considering a Minnesota power company's request -- supported by key members of the state's congressional delegation -- to exempt the state from regulation under the agency's pending interstate air pollution rule.

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INDUSTRY DOCUMENT REVEALS STRATEGY TO OPPOSE CLEAN AIR INITIATIVES

An industry group that represents coal producers and suppliers has been carrying out an ambitious strategy for defeating or scaling back a host of ongoing congressional and state initiatives to limit greenhouse gases, mercury and other air pollutants, according to a recent internal letter obtained by Inside Washington Publishers.

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EPA ISSUES GUIDANCE FOR CLEAN AIR CREDIT THROUGH VOLUNTARY EFFORTS

EPA has issued a guidance that allows states to win credit for reducing emissions in their clean air plans through use of innovative voluntary and emerging measures. Agency sources say the guidance could help promote and validate these efforts so they could eventually become standard components of state air pollution strategies.

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EPA COST-EFFECTIVENESS STUDY ON PM CONTROLS FINDS HUGE BENEFITS

A major new EPA study of the benefits of particulate matter (PM) controls suggests that costly air quality regulations -- like the clean air interstate rule and diesel rules -- have almost three times as many benefits as necessary to be considered cost-effective.

The finding could give agency officials leeway to argue for strict regulatory requirements because they can justify high costs the regulations may impose on regulated entities.

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GROUPS CITE 'UNREASONABLE DELAY' RULING TO SPEED EPA AIR TOXICS RULES

Environmentalists are citing a recent federal appeals court's unusually detailed ruling defining when an agency's timetable for action is unreasonable to urge the court to take a particularly strong step to make EPA promptly set new air toxics standards for cement kilns required by a 2000 court order.

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EPA CONSIDERS FLEXIBLE PERMIT STRATEGY FOR AREA SOURCE TOXIC RULES

EPA is considering whether to relax federal permit requirements in a host of pending new air toxics standards for industrial categories with relatively low emission levels, classified under the air act's "area source" program, according to state officials engaged in discussions with the agency. The officials are working with EPA on approaches for developing 50 long-delayed area source toxics standards, amid concerns about excessive regulatory burdens on state agencies.

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WESTERN AIR CHIEFS CONSIDER NEW MODELING RULES, CHANGES TO AIR ACT

Air officials from Western states may ask EPA to issue a series of rulemakings that would overhaul a controversial industrial permit process with a major impact on the region. The pending recommendations come in the heat of a controversy over how much industrial expansion should be allowed in fast-growing parts of the country near park and wilderness areas.

In addition to regulatory proposals, the air officials could also recommend more far-reaching changes that would require amendments to the Clean Air Act.

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REPORT MAY BOLSTER PUSH TO RESTRICT STATE USE OF PRIVATE LAWYERS

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report could bolster efforts to pass new state laws that would increase scrutiny of the relationship between state attorneys general and private lawyers in filing lawsuits, including environmental cases. The industry group argues that state's use of private lawyers creates an inappropriate incentive to pursue unnecessary lawsuits, and legal experts say the study could prompt a renewal of efforts to restrict such arrangements.

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RULING MAY BLOCK FUTURE CHALLENGES TO FEDERAL AIR PERMIT PROGRAMS

A federal appeals court has set what could be a decisive precedent blocking court challenges to state implementation of federal air permitting requirements, ruling that EPA decisions on whether to sanction states for inadequate program implementation are not subject to judicial review.

Environmentalists are alarmed by the decision, saying it could pave the way for future legal arguments to prevent judicial review of other EPA actions.

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