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October 21, 2002
Volume 80, Number 42
CENEAR 80 42 p. 36
ISSN 0009-2347


GOVERNMENT CONCENTRATES

Congressional appropriations delay starting to cause problems

The lengthy delay in passing a fiscal 2003 federal budget is beginning to worry more than just Washington policy wonks. Educators are telling Congress that the continuing resolutions being meted out to keep the government functioning at last year's budget levels are affecting university financial programs such as the administration of Pell grants and funding of research projects. Especially up in the air are research earmarks granted to specific institutions, which totaled nearly $2 billion in fiscal 2002. A number of Administration priorities are being held up as well, such as the new programs for bioterrorism research at NIH and appropriations for anthrax vaccine testing, which are supposed to use new funds provided by Congress. The latest long-term continuing resolution, passed last week, will delay any further budget consideration until Nov. 22 and thus stretch the current budget levels at least two months into the new fiscal year. This exacerbates the problems agencies will have in meeting a number of priorities, from providing improvements in national security to construction at the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste depository.


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Report tracks water pollution violations

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OHIO EPA PHOTO

A new analysis of EPA enforcement and compliance data shows that 81% of major facilities exceeded their Clean Water Act effluent permit limits at least once during the 1999–2001 period, according to the citizen activist organization U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The average violation by major facilities during those three years, U.S. PIRG found, involved a discharge of a particular pollutant that was more than eight times above the legal limit. EPA uses a number of criteria to determine whether a facility is "major," including the toxicity of the chemicals released, the flow volume of the stream receiving the discharge, and the proximity to coastal waters. In its analysis, U.S. PIRG used EPA compliance data from states and U.S. territories, except for California because that state's information was deemed unreliable. The data indicated that a number of chemical facilities, especially in Texas, at least once exceeded their effluent permit levels for toxic substances such as benzene, heavy metals, and chloroform by 10-fold or more. The report, "In Gross Violation," is available at http://www.uspirg.org.


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State attorneys want tougher nuclear security

Twenty-seven state attorneys general urged Congress to pass legislation this year to protect communities from terrorist attacks on civilian nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities in an Oct. 8 letter to House and Senate leaders. On-site storage of spent nuclear fuel is the highest concern of these top state lawyers, according to the letter. The attorneys want creation of an interagency task force, chaired by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Office of Homeland Security, to examine nuclear power plant security and determine how it should be strengthened. They also seek legislation to create an antiterrorism team to respond to threats against nuclear power plants, as well as to provide funds and training programs for state and local governments to help them block attacks and provide better emergency response efforts. The officials urged a systematic national approach for nuclear security upgrades and warned that development of a revised nuclear power plant security plan, driven by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will not be released by NRC until March 2003.


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EPA will not exempt mining rock from TRI reporting

The metal mining industry has lost a bid to have waste rock exempted from EPA's annual Toxics Release Inventory. Because of its waste rock, metal mining ranks as the top industry on TRI, contributing about half of all reported releases. Electric utilities rank second among all sectors, with the chemical industry in third place. The National Mining Association petitioned EPA to classify rock removed from metal mines in the same category as soil and other unconsolidated material removed from coal strip mines. The unconsolidated material, known as overburden, is exempt from TRI reporting. But earlier this month, EPA denied the industry petition, saying that waste rock may be acid-generating and may contain toxic metals with the potential to be mobilized and transported through the environment. In contrast, overburden contains TRI chemicals "in negligible amounts," EPA said.


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GOVERNMENT & POLICY ROUNDUP 

  • NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) is supporting two Centers of Excellence in Chemical Methodologies and Library Development to aid academic scientists in developing a wide range of versatile and dependable methods for creating libraries of molecules with physiological properties. NIGMS will provide more than $5.5 million for the first year of these five-year projects. 
  • OSHA has formed an alliance with the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) for sharing best practices information and technical knowledge in all areas, including ergonomics. The agreement is designed to enhance cooperation between the two groups and promote more involvement by AIHA members in OSHA cooperative programs.



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Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society



 
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