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Congress

States, EPA Raise Water Quality Concerns Over New Ethanol Incentives

EPA and state groundwater regulators are seeking to document cases where ethanol plants are harming local water supplies and water quality, as a way to show Congress the harm that will result from additional subsidies for corn production to produce ethanol and other renewable fuels.

The regulators are concerned that Congress is going to expand corn production incentives in the upcoming Farm Bill to increase fuel production and bolster domestic energy security.

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WGA-Sponsored Talks Fail To Yield Agreement On Mine Cleanup Bill

Recent negotiations sponsored by the Western Governors Association (WGA) appear to have failed to yield a deal between the governors, EPA, key senators and environmentalists over the details of legislation that would relieve so-called "Good Samaritans" conducting hardrock mine cleanups of some cleanup liability.

The talks, held in February and March, were aimed at reaching a consensus on competing legislative proposals that many believe is needed to speed voluntary cleanups of abandoned mines that pollute nearby land and water.

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Democrats Expand Probe Of Environmental Health Agency's Top Official

Key House Democrats are expanding their investigation of David Schwartz, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), to encompass Schwartz's personal conduct and finances, moving beyond earlier requests that had only sought information about his controversial proposal to privatize the institute's flagship risk research publication. In a March 30 letter to Schwartz, Reps.

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Courts' Whistleblower Rulings Could Limit Future Environmental Claims

Separate rulings by the Supreme Court and a federal district court in Colorado are likely to make it more difficult for would-be whistleblowers to bring suits in federal court alleging fraudulent claims by cleanup and other government contractors under the False Claims Act (FCA).

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), a long-time supporter of federal whistleblowers, is suggesting he may seek to amend the law to ease whistleblowers' ability to file suit.

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States Warn EPA Air Budget Cuts May Prompt Industry Permit Fee Hike

State air officials say the $20 million that EPA cut from clean air grants for the remainder of fiscal year 2007 may force them to boost permit fees on industry, a move they describe as unwelcome but necessary in order to continue to meet their federal clean air mandates.

The warning comes from the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) as well as some state environmental commissioners and local air officials.

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DOE Vows To Continue Utility Data Report Seen As Crucial For EPA

Energy Department (DOE) officials are vowing to continue a key power plant reporting mandate, amid fears that budget pressures could force the department to drop an initiative that EPA officials consider critical for running key air pollution programs, including future greenhouse gas emissions programs.

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New Coalition Lobbies To Block Expansion Of EPA's Water Act Oversight

The National Association of Counties (NACo) has formally joined a new coalition of more than a dozen agricultural, development and other industry groups to fight congressional efforts to expand the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA) over isolated wetlands and other waterbodies.

A NACo source says any change to the law's jurisdiction could cost counties billions of dollars and delay public infrastructure projects due to increased EPA permitting requirements.

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ENVIRONMENTALISTS SPLIT OVER NEW FARM BILL PLAN FOR BIOFUELS FUNDS

Environmental and conservation groups are offering competing proposals to create new biofuel funding programs in the upcoming Farm Bill, although the groups generally agree that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) premiere environmental protection program should not be used for biofuel crops.

EPA officials, agency advisers and many environmentalists are concerned that setting aside land for biofuels production within USDA's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which pays farmers not to farm on sensitive lands, could undermine water quality.

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KEY HOUSE LAWMAKER MAKES 'BEACH' ACT REAUTHORIZATION A PRIORITY

A key House lawmaker is pledging to soon begin work on reauthorizing a federal law that requires EPA to develop updated water quality criteria to prevent beachgoers from getting sick and provides state grants for monitoring the water quality of coastal beaches.

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FY08 BUDGET PLANS MAY STYMIE HOUSE WASTEWATER FUNDING BILL

The House and Senate appear to be backing away from the multi-billion dollar boost to EPA's wastewater funding program recently endorsed by House lawmakers and are instead recommending that appropriators provide as much as a $200 million increase in fiscal year 2008, a level that is still significantly higher than current spending levels.

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