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High Court CO2 Ruling Bolsters Slumping EPA Staff Morale

The recent Supreme Court ruling that EPA has authority to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as last November's Democratic takeover of Congress, has provided a small bump up in EPA staff slumping morale, according to staff sources.

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Former EPA Counsel Warns Mercury Suit May Hinder Future CO2 Rules

Former EPA general counsel Ann Klee, along with an energy industry attorney, are warning that environmentalists' challenge of an EPA cap-and-trade program to regulate mercury emissions, if successful, could undermine the agency's authority to set up a similar program for greenhouse gases (GHGs).

However, an environmentalist attorney familiar with the mercury lawsuit downplays the concerns, saying much depends on how the court rules in the pending mercury lawsuit.

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EPA Chief Argues Ruling May Allow Voluntary Policies To Address CO2

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is arguing that the Supreme Court's ruling classifying carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act may still provide the agency with significant discretion to consider voluntary policies to address the pollutant, according to testimony Johnson is scheduled to deliver April 24.

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Withdrawal Of EPA Nominees Brings Uncertainty Over Next Steps

President Bush's decision to withdraw controversial nominations for top agency posts is prompting lingering uncertainty about how the positions will be filled.

Bush last week withdrew his request to the Senate that acting EPA air chief William Wehrum be confirmed as assistant administrator for the Office of Air & Radiation (OAR) and that Defense Department (DOD) official Alex Beehler become the agency's next Inspector General (IG).

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Key Senators Split Over Credit Allocations In Utility Emissions Bill

Sens. Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) are introducing on April 19 separate bills for controlling carbon dioxide (CO2) and other emissions from power plants, instead of the joint legislation they introduced in the last Congress.

The lawmakers are introducing separate bills following apparent disagreement on how to allocate emissions credits under a future cap-and-trade system.

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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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