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Enviro-Newsbrief January 4, 1999

Enviro-Newsbrief                             January 4, 1999

     The following is a daily update summarizing news of interest
to EPA staff. It includes information from current news sources:
newspapers, newsletters, and other publications. For more
information, contact the EPA Headquarters Information Resources
Center at (202) 260-5922, or e-mail LIBRARY-HQ.

**Viewpoints expressed in the following summaries do not
necessarily reflect EPA policy**

A searchable archive of past Enviro-Newsbriefs can be found on
the EPA web site at the following URL:


Industries Press Plan For Credits In Emissions Pact. The New York
Times, January 3, 1999, ppA1, A15.

     Big businesses are trying to get legislation passed that
will give them valuable credits for early actions to control
greenhouse gases whose emissions would be strictly limited under
the Kyoto treaty.
     Although many companies do not want the Senate to approve
the treaty, they want to make sure that they receive credit for
any reductions they achieve before the treaty takes effect in
     The legislation could potentially moderate opposition to the
treaty by big industry groups and link their financial interests
to the goals of those that support the treaty.
     "This is a potential winner," said Eileen Claussen,
executive director of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
"It helps get the United States moving. It is voluntary. It is
supported by industry. It seems to me there should be a way to
get legislation like that through Congress."
     Some companies could earn credits now that could be applied
against limits they would face later.
     Three Senators, led by John Chafee (R-RI), introduced
legislation late in the last session that would assure that
companies achieving early reductions would earn credit under any
program that the government eventually adopts. The bill is
supported by Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Connie Mack (R-FL).
     "While the climate debate will indeed continue over the next
few years, we strongly believe that there is a voluntary,
incentive based approach which can be implemented now," Chafee
said at a meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers.
"The good guys who take action now will be rewarded by having
these actions count," he said. "This credit program may also make
early greenhouse gas reductions financially valuable to the
companies who make them."
     As drafted, the bill gives ton-for-ton credits to any of the
more than 150 companies that are voluntarily trying to cut
emissions under various Federal programs.
     Some environmentalists have criticized the bill, however.
John Stanton, legislative director for the National Environmental
Trust, said the bill "does not provide sufficient guarantees that
emission reductions credited under it will actually result from
reduced emissions, as opposed to phantom paper reductions."
     According to 1997 figures, companies participating in
voluntary programs reported that they had reduced greenhouse gas
emission by about 137 million tons of carbon dioxide. Under the
bill, these companies would qualify for credits.
     One individual filed a report in a voluntary program in
1995. Clarence Lewis, who worked as a consultant to the energy
department, claimed he cut his personal emissions of carbon
dioxide by between three and four tons by never having more than
one light at a time turned on in his house and by commuting to
work outside rush hours. "I just wanted to demonstrate what the
ordinary citizen could do," he said. "You don't have to be a
gigantic power plant to reduce carbon dioxide emissions."


Cost of Replacing Underground Tanks Sinks Some Gas Stations. The
Washington Post, January 4, ppB1, B5.

The Subaitani family couldn't pay the tens of thousands of
dollars required to replace the underground storage tanks at
their gas station in Maryland, so they closed their shop.
     "We have no idea what we're going to do," Cathy Subaitani
said. "Especially at Christmas time, I think it's really crummy.
It's a disaster."
     The Subaitani family closed their station just three days
before EPA's December 22 deadline for replacing or upgrading old
underground storage tanks that hold gasoline and other fuels.
     The EPA rules were passed ten years ago, but not enforced
until now. The Subaiatanis said they were not told about the
rules when they purchased the station eight years ago, and did
not learn of it until four years later.
     They wanted to upgrade their tanks, but EPA officials told
them that they would need to replace their tanks.
     Federal officials said there are about 360,000 documented
tank leaks nationwide and about half of those have contaminated
ground water.
     Large corporations have upgraded their equipment but many
small gas station owners have struggled to comply with the
     EPA estimates that 40% of the approximately 1 million
underground storage tanks in use are in violation of the
     Federal officials have stated that they will give small
operators and local and state governments a break in enforcing
the new rules by initially concentrating on larger sites or those
near environmentally sensitive areas.
     "The EPA recognized that this might be a financial burden
and gave people 10 years to comply," said Ruth Podems, an EPA
spokeswoman. "Now the deadline has come, and we're going to start
enforcing. We're not backing off on the mom-and-pops. We're just
looking at the big guys first."


Air Quality Data Indicate Eastern Visibility Not Improving, West
Making Some Progress. Daily Environment Report, January 4, 1999,

     EPA's latest analysis of air quality trends in the US shows
that the eastern portion of the country may have a harder time
than the West in improving visibility conditions by cutting
regional haze.
     Although the western states have made some progress in
improving visibility in the pristine areas, conditions in the
East appear to be the same, or maybe getting worse, according to
an agency official. The report also provides evidence that
sulfates are playing the most significant role in visibility
impairment across the country.
     The agency's report measured visibility trends over a ten
year period from 1988-1997. It examined visibility conditions in
37 national parks and wilderness areas. The report centered on
changes in the severity of visibility impairment during the 20
percent of days when visibility conditions were their worst, the
20% of days when visibility was at its best, and the 20% of days
when conditions were average.
     "One can see that the worst visibility days in the West are
only slightly more impaired than the best days in the East," said
the report.
     David Guinnup, a supervisory environmental engineer with
EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, said the
agency established that during the past 10 years visibility
impairment has grown more severe in the East during the worst
days and best days, but has shown a slight improvement during the
average days. In the four years after 1993, visibility impairment
appears to have worsened by about 4% in the east on the worst
days, according to the report. This followed a period, leading up
to 1993, when visibility declined more severely in that region.

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