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Congress

SENATE EYES CONTRACT REFORMS AS IG FINDS WATER POLLUTION AT IRAQ BASES

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) as part of a new Senate effort to explore Defense Department contractor problems is blasting the Pentagon for initially disputing allegations that water provided by a contractor at bases in Iraq was contaminated, despite draft findings now made final and publicly released by the DOD inspector general (IG) that a contractor and the military failed to meet water quality standards at several U.S. facilities in Iraq, potentially making some troops ill.

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HOUSE FACES BATTLE OVER POLLUTION LIMITS ON DOD SYNFUEL PURCHASES

House lawmakers appear to be gearing up for a major battle this year over energy law limits on the Defense Department's ability to purchase high-polluting alternative fuels, an issue that may hinge on how EPA decides to measure fuels' greenhouse gas (GHG) life-cycle emissions.

At a hearing before a House Armed Services Committee panel March 13, a key GOP lawmaker signaled he is gearing up to pare back the measure, while Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who sponsored the energy law limit on DOD, is pushing for broad limits on DOD fuel purchases.

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UTILITIES RAISE CONCERN OVER FARM BILL PESTICIDE DISCRIMINATION POLICY

Drinking water utilities and conservation advocates are concerned that a provision in the House version of the Farm Bill could block pesticide conservation programs necessary for some drinking water utilities to meet stringent water quality requirements, if the provision survives ongoing conference committee negotiations between the House and Senate.

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AS HOUSE EFFORT STALLS, CALIFORNIA EYES BID TO STRENGTHEN WETLANDS LAW

California water regulators are poised to consider a plan to strengthen state laws for protecting wetlands and riparian areas after a series of Supreme Court rulings that state regulators say weakened the Clean Water Act and makes it difficult for the state to comply with state policy intended to ensure no net loss of wetlands.

The move comes as House Democrats are struggling to move legislation they say is needed to expand the scope of the water act in response to the high court's rulings (see related story).

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DEMOCRATS STEP BACK ON SUPPORT FOR HOUSE CWA JURISDICTION BILL

Key Democratic backers of a controversial House bill that would extend the jurisdictional scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA) to all waters in the nation appear now to be voicing dissent over the legislation in response to industry and agriculture sector fears that it could impose EPA regulations on waters previously beyond the agency's reach.

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PELOSI JOINS HOUSE BID TO BOLSTER WATER INFRASTRUCTURE FINANCING

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is joining a key House effort to bolster funding for water, transportation and other infrastructure efforts, an effort that could help a related effort next year to create a federal water trust fund that still lacks a funding source.

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STATES CONSIDER WEIGHING IN ON SEWAGE RIGHT TO KNOW LEGISLATION

The Association of State & Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA) is pondering whether it should weigh in on legislation requiring wastewater facilities to notify the public quickly when wet weather causes them to release sewage -- with most states agreeing with the concept but raising concerns over some provisions in the bills.

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OSC'S JOHNSON INQUIRY SEEKS STRICTER REVIEWS OF EPA ELECTION ROLES

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the agency that oversees federal employees' conduct, is urging EPA to strengthen its oversight of political appointees' roles in political campaigns after finding that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson's appearance at a 2006 fund raiser for a GOP congressional candidate in Colorado created the appearance of impropriety and "in effect" solicited political activity from industry groups with pending agency business.

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CONTROVERSIES SPARK QUESTIONS OVER JOHNSON'S ABILITY TO LEAD EPA

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is facing growing questions about his credibility and his effectiveness in leading the agency in the face of conflicts with Congress and agency unions over a host of controversial decisions and a federal investigation that found his role at a GOP fund-raiser created the appearance of impropriety.

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CONGRESS BEGINS TO SEEK MAJOR BOOST TO PROPOSED EPA FY09 BUDGET

The House and Senate have taken the first steps toward restoring proposed cuts to EPA's fiscal year 2009 budget, with both the House and Senate passing budget blueprints that aim to reject millions of dollars in cuts that the administration has proposed to some of the agency's core mandatory programs.

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