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Senate Water Infrastructure Bill May Hinge On Outcome Of Corps Cost-Benefit Debate

The Senate is facing a contentious debate over imposing strict cost-benefit and cost-control tests on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects that could slow efforts by lawmakers to pass legislation authorizing a host of water infrastructure projects this year.

However, proponents of broad reform say there is ample incentive to resolve the issue because lawmakers could use any cost-benefit agreement and other measures restraining spending on Corps projects to demonstrate their commitment to reducing the deficit and bringing fiscal responsibility to federal spending.

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Senate Budget Amendment On Offsets Could Further Stall Energy Bill

A Senate budget resolution approved last week includes the reinstatement of a fiscal responsibility provision that could present a major hurdle for comprehensive energy legislation being pushed by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM). The costs of the energy bill have already prompted concerns by fiscal conservatives in the Senate, and the budget provision may further complicate congressional efforts to adopt a national energy policy, which lawmakers have been working on for the past several years.

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Senate Budget Panel Lays Groundwork For Boost In EPA Funding

The Senate Budget Committee is laying the groundwork for an additional $840 million to EPA's fiscal year 2005 budget beyond what the Bush administration has requested.

Much of the increase would be dedicated to EPA's state and tribal assistance grants (STAG) account, which funds clean water and other environmental programs, along with an increase in Superfund spending and a new clean school bus program.

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EPA Regions Say Security Demands, Budget Woes Undermine Superfund Progress

A number of EPA regions have told the agency's headquarters in annual priority-setting documents that their Superfund efforts are being hampered because resources have been diverted to fulfill homeland security responsibilities, in addition to restrictions caused by state and federal budget woes.

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Sen. Inhofe Considers Bill For Tougher Oversight Of EPA Grants

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) is planning a series of hearings to highlight what some say is EPA's poor record in overseeing the environmental grants that make up more than half of the agency's annual budget, and may consider a legislative fix to address the alleged problems, according to an Inhofe staffer.

Inhofe vowed during a March 3 oversight hearing to hold EPA accountable for its much-criticized oversight of the more than $4 billion in grants the agency distributes annually.

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California Lawmakers Eye Fuel Fees To Pay For Emission Reduction Efforts

Legislation introduced in California would divert revenue from existing diesel fuel taxes, or establish new fees on gasoline and diesel purchased at the pump, to help pay for air pollution and other environmental protection programs. The proposals reflect concern among state officials nationwide who are looking for ways to fund environmental protection programs amid increasing budget constraints.

But the California legislation is expected to face strong opposition from the oil industry, anti-tax groups and automobile associations, sources say.

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OMB Downgrade Of EPA Regulatory Benefits Draws Fire From Lawmakers

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has adjusted downward by $60 billion earlier estimates of the benefits of EPA regulations. The adjustment is the result of an OMB decision to exclude the benefits of EPA's acid rain program, which was established before the ten-year period covered by the latest review, according to a key OMB official.

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House Renewable Energy Caucus Seeks Boost To Bush Funding Proposal

The leaders of a House bipartisan caucus on renewable energy are formulating a strategy for increasing federal funds, following criticism by advocacy groups who say the Bush administration's recent budget request falls short on conservation and relies too heavily on fossil fuels other traditional energy sources.

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EPA Finds Poor Clean Water Compliance At Federal Facilities

EPA has concluded that nearly one-third of federal facilities were not in compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA) in fiscal year 2002, compared with more than 90 percent compliance rates for hazardous waste, clean air and drinking water statutes. While federal facilities compliance rates are generally equal or better than private industry for most environmental laws, CWA compliance is significantly lower than the private sector, according to a new EPA study.

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DOE Budget Broadens Eligibility For Increased Clean-Coal Research Funds

The Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing increasing clean-coal research spending by more than 50 percent and is dramatically expanding the criteria for projects to qualify for the federal assistance. DOE also is expected to submit to Congress by the end of this month a detailed timeline for developing a prototype coal-fired power plant that produces zero greenhouse gases.

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