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Lawmakers Seek To Include Hurricane Victims In Asbestos Bill

As lawmakers renew debate in early February over Congress' controversial asbestos compensation legislation, several senators will likely seek to expand eligibility for compensation under the bill's $140 billion trust fund to individuals affected by the recent Gulf Coast hurricanes and other asbestos-exposure victims, according to congressional and other sources tracking the bill.

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Hurricane Cleanup Fuels Debate Over Environmental Laws, EPA Role

The unprecedented damage caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita is raising questions about whether existing laws are sufficient to handle the environmental impact of such disasters, in addition to debates about EPA's legal obligations for guarding public health in the storms' aftermath, environmentalists and other observers say.

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Lawmakers Eye Exempting DOJ From Bill Limiting Consent Decrees

In a bid to win broader support, Republican backers of legislation that would allow state and local governments to ask courts to vacate consent decrees are considering exempting decrees initiated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of EPA and other federal agencies, several sources following the issue say.

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House GOP Lawmakers Eye Options For Limiting Lawsuits Under NEPA

House Republican lawmakers are debating ways to limit lawsuits under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including enactment of new financial barriers to alleged frivolous claims by environmentalists and creation of a new federal mechanism to expedite industry permits without resorting to court battles.

The lawmakers discussed the options at a Nov. 10 House hearing before a bipartisan House task force, which is scheduled to issue recommendations later this month on ways to improve the law.

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Expanded Liability Relief In Mine Cleanup Bill Draws Activists' Criticism

A Senate bill intended to encourage voluntary "Good Samaritan" cleanups of abandoned mining sites is drawing criticism from environmentalists who are concerned that the bill's first-time protections from the Clean Water Act (CWA), Superfund and other environmental laws could benefit industry parties that might otherwise face cleanup liability.

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Waste Nominee Still Faces 'Hold' Despite EPA Pledge On Lead Paint Rule

Susan Bodine, the Bush administration's nominee to head EPA's waste office, is still facing a hold by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) over the pace of Superfund cleanups, despite the agency's recent success in getting Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) to drop his threat to block all agency nominees over a delayed lead paint rule.

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Congress Moves To Allow Eminent Domain 'Takings' For Brownfields

House and Senate lawmakers are moving to exempt brownfields sites from pending legislation that would limit state and local governments' ability to take private property by eminent domain. Congress is pushing the legislation following the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the governmental entities' eminent domain authority for economic development projects.

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Senate Eyes Further Limits On Tax Deductions For Enforcement Pacts

Senate lawmakers may attach language to upcoming budget-related legislation to tighten restrictions on companies' ability to deduct from their income taxes payments made under civil settlements for environmental and other legal violations, according to Capitol Hill sources.

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Lawmakers Drop Feedlot Exemption Plan Amid EPA Concerns

Lawmakers have rejected a controversial amendment to the agriculture spending bill, which EPA alleged would have jeopardized a pending enforcement agreement with animal feeding operations because it sought to exempt the industry from cleanup and reporting requirements under Superfund law.

A conference committee on the bill decided Oct. 26 not to include the amendment sponsored by Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) after it prompted concerns from EPA, Democrats and environmental groups.

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Administration Pushes Bill To Block Public Access To Litigation Records

The Bush administration is urging lawmakers to draft legislation that would block public access to documents produced by EPA and other federal agencies or any parties involved in legal settlement negotiations, arguing that increasing public requests for such information are undermining government enforcement efforts.

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