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Air

ANALYSIS SHOWS COAL PLANTS PROFITABLE DESPITE ENVIRONMENTAL RULES

A new analysis by an international consulting firm finds that future environmental requirements -- including many possible policies for curbing greenhouse gases -- are unlikely to erode the competitiveness of most coal-fired power plants and could even make many facilities more competitive as they install pollution controls.

"The value of efficient large coal fired power plants can actually increase rather than decrease with stringent environmental control programs," says an executive summary provided to Inside EPA by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA).

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STATES VOICE GROWING CONCERN OVER PREEMPTION OF ENVIRONMENT RULES

Key state officials are raising concern over the growing number of congressional and Bush administration efforts to preempt state environmental and other rules, and are pushing a series of measures to raise awareness of the issue, state sources and other observers say.

The National Governors Association (NGA) has asked the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to develop a report on recent and anticipated efforts in Congress to broaden federal authority by preempting state environmental and other regulations, state sources and environmentalists say.

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EPA WEIGHS OVERHAULING OZONE RULES FOR VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS

EPA will soon seek comment on a proposed overhaul of the way it regulates ozone-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which may seek to replace the current emphasis on reducing overall VOC content in the atmosphere with a more flexible system that distinguishes between each compound based on its potential to form ozone, EPA and other sources say.

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ARB AUDIT OF EMBATTLED SAN JOAQUIN DISTRICT MAY GO EASY ON OFFICIALS

Environmentalists say that a forthcoming air board audit of the San Joaquin Valley air district is unlikely to deliver any lighting bolts of criticism that may force new enforcement on polluters or more rules to meet the district's state implementation plan (SIP) requirements. Some activists charge that the agriculture industry's influence over district board members, combined with the state air board's historical reluctance to substantially hammer sister regulatory agencies, may prevent any significant recommendations for change at the district.

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FINDINGS MAY SUPPORT AIR POLLUTION CUTS TO REDUCE HEART DISEASE RISKS

A forthcoming study suggesting that exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is as much a contributor to heart disease as poor diet, stress and lack of exercise could help policymakers justify further reductions in the acceptable level of the pollutant, according to sources familiar with PM research.

Researchers for the first time tested humans to examine what impact PM2.5 has on atherosclerosis -- a narrowing of the arteries that can lead to blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. It found that artery wall thickness rose as PM2.5 levels increased.

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JET SAFETY CONCERNS DELAY NEW ARB DIESEL LUBRICITY STANDARD

Concerns about the composition and safety of jet fuel are spurring the air board to delay a new lubricity standard for clean diesel fuel. The delay is not expected to result in emission increases, but air board staff acknowledges that the standard is intended to allow new, lower-emitting engine technology to perform optimally.

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POTENTIAL ETHANOL INCREASE IN RFG SEEN BUOYING IN-STATE INDUSTRY

The nascent California ethanol production industry could see its market broadened substantially if the air board eventually raises a cap on the alcohol's content in reformulated gasoline (RFG), which is seen by some officials as a distinct possibility. Production increases and refueling infrastructure improvements could also buoy the industry by enabling the use of ethanol in thousands of government-owned flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs), which are now being run on gasoline.

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NEW FEES, TAXES EYED FOR BILLS BOOSTING AIR QUALITY PROGRAMS

Stakeholders are developing another list of potential fuel fees and taxes to fund air quality programs, which are expected to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session. The bills would build on last year's successful effort to generate approximately $140 million in new funds for incentive-based mobile source emission reduction programs.

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CAL/EPA DRAFTS GHG REDUCTION TARGETS; WEST COAST GOALS TO FOLLOW

Cal/EPA and energy commission officials are drafting landmark greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets for California expected to be announced by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger early next year, possibly in his January State of the State speech, according to sources. West Coast regional GHG reduction targets are subsequently expected to be announced jointly by California, Oregon and Washington officials, according to a source involved in the effort.

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EPA Delays Deregulating Popular Chemical Based On Cancer Risk Data

EPA air officials have postponed for now the planned deregulation of a widely used solvent because of recent data on what they say is a closely related chemical that raises cancer risk concerns. But a chemical industry source says the substances are different enough to merit separate risk evaluations.

Sources say the information prompted EPA air officials to hold off on including methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) in a group of seven other air toxins that the agency delisted from regulatory requirements on Nov. 18, after concerns were raised by other EPA programs.

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