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Congress

Democrats Plan Inquiry Into Dispute Over Air Force Cleanup Pacts

The House Energy & Commerce Committee is planning to question top military officials over the Air Force's resistance to signing enforceable Superfund cleanup accords drafted by EPA, even as service and agency officials continue a dispute over which version of the accord is adequate.

The committee has a "letter in the works" to query the Air Force on why it has not signed Federal Facility Agreements (FFAs) as drafted by EPA for several Air Force sites, one House source says. The letter may eventually be sent to either the Air Force secretary or the Defense secretary.

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STORAGE AGREEMENT CLEARS PATH FOR MERCURY EXPORT LEGISLATION

State regulators, environmentalists and chemical and mining industry groups are collectively endorsing a House Democratic plan for the long-term storage of elemental mercury, resolving a major hurdle standing in the way of House energy committee approval of a bill that would ban exports of the toxic substance.

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FOR NOW, DEMOCRATS TARGET SPECIFIC TOXICS RATHER THAN TSCA REFORM

Congressional Democrats appear to be focusing on addressing individual toxic substances and laying the ground for a more sweeping reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) some time in the future, despite suggestions when they took control of Congress that they may seek to overhaul the law similar to stringent new regulations adopted by the European Union (EU) on chemical reporting, sources close to the issue say.

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LAWMAKERS URGE 2017 CHEM DEMIL DEADLINE IN FINAL DOD AUTHORIZATION BILL

Several lawmakers are urging House defense authorizing committee leaders during their upcoming conference with the Senate on the fiscal year 2008 defense authorization bill to accept a Senate-backed measure that would establish the accelerated date of 2017 as the deadline for the military's destruction of U.S. chemical weapons. The provision would set a deadline several years earlier than the timeline by which DOD says the United States will finish destruction of the chemical weapons stockpile.

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DEMOCRATS MOVE TOWARD REQUIRING PERCHLORATE CLEANUP LEVEL

House Democrats appear to be moving closer to approving long-sought legislation requiring EPA to set an enforceable drinking water standard, and in effect a cleanup level, for perchlorate, a rocket fuel and munitions ingredient that proponents of the bill argue is widely prevalent in drinking water.

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DOD SEEKS TO REVERSE HOUSE BLOCK ON CONTESTED NAVY LANDING FIELD

The Defense Department is attempting to convince congressional defense authorizers to drop a House-backed measure that would halt the Navy's ability to move forward with a training airfield in North Carolina that has spurred years of controversy due to its proposed location next to a bird sanctuary.

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DOD APPEALS HOUSE CUTS TO FUND WASTEWATER, POWER PLANTS IN IRAQ

The Defense Department is urging House and Senate defense authorizers to restore funding for constructing several wastewater treatment and power plants on Army bases in Iraq that was zeroed out in the fiscal year 2008 defense authorization bill passed by the House earlier this year. Without the funds to construct the facilities, DOD says in a written appeal to Congress, U.S. forces in Iraq will face higher energy costs, greater security threats to troops, and sanitation and environmental cleanup problems.

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AS CONGRESS STEPS UP PRESSURE, EPA APPEALS TO STATES FOR NPL LISTINGS

EPA is appealing to states to nominate federal facilities for inclusion on the Superfund list of the country's most polluted sites, noting the agency is under congressional pressure to add fresh sites amid accusations that the Bush administration has put the brakes on the addition of new sites. But state officials are expressing caution over the suggestion, citing past efforts that were derailed by the federal government.

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EPA Urges States To Suggest Federal Facilities For Superfund List

EPA is appealing to states to nominate federal facilities for inclusion on the Superfund list of the country's most polluted sites, noting the agency is under congressional pressure to add fresh sites amid accusations that the Bush administration has put the brakes on the addition of new sites. But state officials are expressing caution over the suggestion, citing past efforts that were derailed by the federal government.

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FACING OPPOSITION, OBERSTAR SEEKS TO CALM INDUSTRY FEARS OVER CWA BILL

Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of a key House committee and lead sponsor of a bill to expand the Clean Water Act's (CWA) scope, is vowing to streamline the water act permitting process and preserve CWA regulatory exemptions, amid industry claims that he lacks sufficient support to move the bill out of his panel.

One industry source says ongoing industry criticisms of the bill are sapping members' support for the legislation, while a key Senate Democratic staffer is acknowledging the bill is unlikely to reach the president's desk this year.

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