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Air

GAO STUDY ON MERCURY CONTROL TECHNOLOGIES COULD INFLUENCE EPA RULE

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is studying mercury control technologies at electric utilities in a report it expects to release in early 2005, in time to influence EPA's final mercury utility rule that is due by March 15.

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EPA MAY LAUNCH NATIONAL EFFORT TO SPEED DIESEL EMISSIONS REDUCTIONS

EPA is considering a national program to encourage or require diesel trucks to implement costly software fixes to reduce air pollution, but the agency is likely to face opposition from engine manufacturers even if the program is voluntary, agency sources say.

EPA is considering the program because it erred in calculating how long it would take to make the fix and reduce emissions, after finalizing a landmark 1998 consent decree that required the engine industry to fund these changes.

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DOE ADVISORS URGE EPA TO REVISIT CLEAN AIR COMPLIANCE DEADLINES

A newly issued report by a Department of Energy (DOE) advisory body calls on EPA to revisit compliance deadlines for implementing national ambient air quality standards as one of a number of measures to ensure adequate domestic refining oil capacity. "As presently structured, attainment deadlines precede the benefits that will be achieved from emissions reductions already planned," the report from DOE's National Petroleum Council states.

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BUSH ADMINISTRATION URGED TO STRENGTHEN MAJOR AIR REGULATION

The Bush administration is facing 11th-hour pressure to strengthen its clean air interstate rule (CAIR) to curb utility sector pollution, with a Senate Republican questioning whether it will protect the Great Smoky Mountains and environmentalists reiterating concerns that the rule's emissions reductions targets and deadlines are inadequate.

Sources say EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt restated his personal commitment to moving the regulation forward during a meeting with several environmental groups this week.

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EPA MAY EXPAND INNOVATIVE NEVADA PLAN ON MERCURY FROM GOLD MINES

EPA is evaluating the effectiveness of a recently instituted plan to reduce mercury emissions from Nevada gold mining operations -- a major source of U.S. mercury pollution -- to determine whether the voluntary initiative should be expanded at a time when skyrocketing gold prices are prompting more companies to start mining gold, EPA sources say.

EPA has targeted gold mining as a major contributor to mercury emissions, and Nevada, which houses 80 percent of U.S. gold production, is regularly ranked as the state with the second-highest level of mercury pollution.

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EPA MAY LAUNCH NATIONAL EFFORT TO SPEED DIESEL EMISSION REDUCTIONS

U.S. EPA is considering a national program to encourage or require diesel truck engine manufacturers to pay for costly software fixes to reduce air pollution, but the agency is likely to face opposition from engine manufacturers even if the program is voluntary, agency sources said.

EPA is considering the program because it erred in calculating how long it would take to make the fix and reduce emissions, after finalizing a landmark 1998 consent decree that required the engine industry to fund these changes.

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NRDC PRESSES CEC TO SCRUTINIZE OUT-OF-STATE POWER EMISSION IMPACTS

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is pressing the energy commission to more fully track and report the environmental impacts of out-of-state power generation, to potentially lead policymakers to seek long-term contracting with less polluting sources. NRDC is specifically concerned about the air pollution impacts of new coal plants in neighboring states, and the state's responsibility for those emission increases.

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CEQA RULING MAY IMPACT L.A. ULTRA-LOW SULFUR DIESEL PRODUCTION

A ruling expected soon on an environmental organization-labor union permit challenge to a ConocoPhillips ultra low-sulfur diesel project in Los Angeles may affect the ability of the refinery to meet state and federal deadlines for the cleaner fuel, according to sources. The South Coast air district is accused of illegally issuing a negative declaration for the project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), rather than requiring a full environmental impact report (EIR), and avoiding compliance with other permit requirements.

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FIREPLACE, WOODSTOVE INDUSTRIES AIM TO HEAD OFF LOCAL PM RULES

Firewood, fireplace and woodstove industry representatives are aiming to blunt the potential impact of state air board recommendations to local air districts to crack down on particulate matter (PM) emissions by restricting residential wood burning and curtailing the installation of such devices in new homes. While such crackdowns have been difficult to pass locally for years, the industries fear the board's new recommendations may provide momentum for more local restrictions.

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ASSEMBLY SPEAKER TAKES EARLY POSITION AGAINST VEHICLE MILES FEE

The Assembly Speaker is firing a preemptive shot at any plans to implement a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee in lieu of a gas tax, arguing that it would penalize owners of fuel efficient cars, and calling the proposal "dead on arrival." The VMT fee proposal is raised in the sprawling California Performance Review (CPR) report, though it is unclear if the Schwarzenegger Administration, or any lawmaker, has plans to introduce a bill calling for such a fee.

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