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Congress

Activists Face Key Hurdles Upping Senate Farm Bill Environment Funds

Environmental and conservation groups are facing significant hurdles in their effort to boost conservation funding in the Senate Farm Bill despite key lawmakers' pledges to offer floor amendments to reform the commodity-crop subsidy system to free up money for programs designed to protect water and air quality.

Activists say Senate approval of their preferred approach is critical after the House -- which they previously viewed as a better venue for reforming farm policy -- largely rejected their efforts when lawmakers approved farm legislation earlier this summer.

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Lawmakers Weigh Options To Modify Lieberman-Warner Climate Bill

Senate lawmakers are weighing their options to make changes to a key climate bill introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA) as the senators hope to move the bill quickly before the end of the year.

A subcommittee markup is planned for this week, and Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW) Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has said she wants to pass the bill out of the full committee before the Senate adjourns for the year.

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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 and seek stringent new regulations similar to those adopted by the European Union (EU) on chemical reporting, sources close to the issue say.

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OBERSTAR VOWS TO PRESERVE KEY EXEMPTIONS IN CLEAN WATER ACT BILL

Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), the lead sponsor of a contentious bill to expand the Clean Water Act's (CWA) scope, is vowing to streamline the water act permitting process and preserve regulatory exemptions for common agricultural and energy industry activities in response to industry concerns.

Despite the lawmaker's assurances, the bill continues to draw industry and GOP criticism that it could broaden the water act's jurisdiction and overturn two key exemptions critical to farming and energy production.

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LAWMAKERS WEIGH OPTIONS TO MODIFY LIEBERMAN-WARNER CLIMATE BILL

Senate lawmakers are weighing their options to make changes to a key climate bill introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA) as the senators hope to move the bill quickly before the end of the year.

A subcommittee markup is planned for next week, and Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW) Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has said she wants to pass the bill out of the full committee before the Senate adjourns for the year.

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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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EPA PLAN TO HALT GM CORN TESTING RAISES FEARS OVER NEW ETHANOL CROP

Environmentalists are raising concerns that EPA's recent proposal to halt testing in the food supply for the presence of StarLink corn -- a controversial, genetically modified (GM) industrial variety that caused widespread contamination of the food supply -- could ease regulatory approval for another GM corn intended to boost ethanol production.

At the same time, EPA is beginning to review the potential air and water impacts of bioengineered ethanol and other GM biofuel crops as part of a newly launched biofuels strategy, agency sources say.

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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 bill, while a key Senate Democratic staffer is acknowledging the bill is unlikely to reach the president's desk this year.

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Mine Reform Bill Backers Eye Quick House Approval To Counter Reid

Environmentalists and other supporters of a sweeping hardrock mining reform bill are hoping to limit debate on the measure when it hits the House floor next week in an effort to boost their leverage in conference negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who is expected to draft a competing bill more favorable to industry.

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LACK OF FLOOR VOTE MAY LIMIT SENATORS' INFLUENCE ON EPA FY08 FUNDING

Senate lawmakers may not consider EPA's fiscal year 2008 spending bill on the Senate floor and could instead move straight to conference with the House version, a time-saving measure that would dramatically limit many senators' influence on key EPA budget issues, including funding for climate programs and controversial policy amendments.

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