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News Briefs

Administration Wants to Relax Toxic Emission Curbs


The Bush administration is proposing to relax measures that curb toxic emissions from a variety of industries including pulp mills, automakers, petrochemical plants and steel mills.

Under a new set of rules drafted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the affected businesses could opt out of the current requirement to reduce toxic fumes from their plants to the maximum extent possible. In some instances, those controls can eliminate virtually all emissions harmful to people’s health, but businesses contend they cost too much and provide little health benefit.

The emissions at issue are not hazardous because of smog-forming potential, but because they can damage the brain, a developing fetus or lead to cancer.

In their place, the EPA would allow businesses to revert to an older method of reducing risk by studying emissions from a source and applying less rigorous controls. But environmentalists and others say that approach allows toxic releases to continue and is at odds with the national Clean Air Act.

Although the change is subtle, it is significant for people exposed to emissions from industrial facilities and for hundreds of businesses.

Congress Seeks to Raise FBI Funding to $4.3 Billion


Congress is preparing to increase funding for the FBI this year despite a blistering Senate critique last month that questioned whether taxpayers have gotten their money’s worth from $1 billion in budget increases for the bureau since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Senate version of a more than $390 billion government-wide spending bill, which was passed last month, proposed cutting the FBI’s budget in 2003 by at least $206 million, and a little-noticed report accompanying the measure called for the “total re-creation” of the law enforcement agency. The report also urged the bureau to consider bringing more nonagents into top management, and suggested that elite units such as the hostage rescue team may have outlived their usefulness.

But House-Senate negotiators who are close to completing a compromise version of the huge spending measure have agreed to provide nearly $4.3 billion to the FBI, about $45 million more than President Bush had sought, congressional sources said. A Democratic aide, noting that there was little enthusiasm for FBI budget cuts against a backdrop of new threats to the nation’s security, said, “Given what’s at stake right now, you give them the money.”

Senior House members in both parties say they are pleased with FBI changes begun in the past year. The White House appears to share that confidence.