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Freshmen Democrats Could Force Middle Ground On Key Air Issues

A host of new congressional Democrats from Midwestern and Western states will face competing pressures from industry and activists as they stake out their positions on environmental issues, setting up the possibility that the freshmen could strike unique, middle-ground positions that could help secure passage of bills addressing fuel economy, national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) and biofuel issues, observers say.

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EPA Plan To Scale Back IG Work Could Heighten Tensions With Congress

EPA is reportedly planning to scale back the activities of its Inspector General's (IG) office as part of its pending fiscal year 2008 budget request, according to internal e-mails obtained by Inside EPA, a move that is promising to heighten tensions between the agency and congressional Democrats who are already concerned the agency is scaling back its internal oversight resources.

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Key House Panel Chair Eyes DOD Cleanup Hearings, Legislation

Democratic Rep. Solomon Ortiz (TX), who will chair the House Armed Services (HASC) readiness subcommittee in the 110th Congress, is eyeing early hearings on military cleanup issues next month, as well as crafting military cleanup legislation with a key House counterpart.

Coordinating military cleanup legislation with Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), who will chair the House Energy & Commerce environment subcommittee, could help ease its passage by avoiding the jurisdictional fights that plagued past Republican efforts to address the issue.

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IG Criticism May Boost Key Democrat's Support For Superfund Taxes

A recent EPA Inspector General (IG) report criticizing the agency for failing to fund a toxicity assessment at a high-profile Superfund site in Libby, MT, may help environmentalists win the support of Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) -- who is in line to chair the Senate panel with jurisdiction over tax issues -- for renewing the expired Superfund fees, sources say.

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Likely Recess Appointment For Wehrum Promises Sparks Over Air Policy

EPA's already controversial clean air policies appear headed for even more contentious debate in the 110th Congress if, as many observers expect, President Bush gives acting air chief William Wehrum a recess appointment, which sources say could come as early as the President's Day holiday beginning Feb. 19.

Wehrum, whose nomination has become a lightning rod for Democratic criticism because of controversial air rules he has advanced, is reportedly privately discussing the prospect of a recess appointment. He is "looking forward to a recess appointment," one source says.

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GOP Changes On Senate Environment Panel May Boost CO2 Bill Prospects

Republican plans to make Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) a member of the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee could significantly boost the chance that legislation mandating carbon dioxide (CO2) cuts could successfully pass the committee with bipartisan support because Alexander is a key co-sponsor of a bill to mandate cuts in utility air pollution, including CO2.

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Report Details Democrats' Likely Clean Water Priorities For Key Panel

A report quietly released just prior the November election by the top Democrat on a key House panel suggests the new Democratic majority will place a strong emphasis on increasing funding in EPA's budget for wastewater infrastructure improvements and providing legislative clarity on which waterbodies and wetlands are subject to Clean Water Act (CWA) protection, among other issues.

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Key Bush Environment Nominees Face Uncertain Future In 110th Congress

Two key Bush administration nominees for environmental posts face an uncertain future given strong signals that Republicans plan to defer full Senate consideration of their nominations until the 110th Congress, where the Democratic majority is likely to be more hostile to the nominees.

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Environmentalists Seek New Influence With Democrats On Capitol Hill

Environmentalists are taking early steps to capitalize on their newfound clout in the wake of November elections, touting ways incoming Democratic leaders could encourage cleaner energy sources and urging their supporters to push House and Senate leaders to tackle the problem of global warming.

As part of the effort, environmentalists are at least temporarily going out of their way to praise incoming Democratic leaders, after an internal dust-up when some environmentalists questioned Democrats' commitment to environmental issues.

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New EPW Climate Focus Could Spark Race To Claim Subcommittee Chair

Incoming Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) plan to reorganize the committee to focus on climate change issues could spark a race between Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Thomas Carper (D-DE) to win chairmanship of a key subcommittee overseeing the issue.

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