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Wednesday Jan. 9, 2002

Attorneys general urge Bush not to consider easing power plant emissions standards

Associated Press

The Bush administration is considering relaxing clean-air standards for power plants, which environmentalists and Northeastern states strongly oppose and the energy industry favors.

Attorneys general from six Northeastern states traveled to Washington yesterday to warn that they will sue if the Clean Air Act is weakened.

"We will absolutely go to court to forestall these new rules and regulations," said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Northeastern states say they are victims of Midwest power plant emissions that drift east on prevailing winds, polluting the air and water and exacerbating health problems such as asthma.

The White House did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment yesterday. But the Energy Department released a report recently that found Clean Air Act requirements for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants would cost companies billions of dollars and add to energy costs.

In the spring, the Bush administration began re-evaluating requirements mandating that power companies upgrade their plants when they put in place more stringent pollution controls.

The attorneys general said one of the most alarming revisions being considered by the administration involves changing the definition of routine maintenance so that it would allow massive overhauls but not require more pollution controls.

The attorneys general also complained they have been left out of discussions on the issue while energy lobbyists - some with close ties to the administration - have been allowed in.

Among those lobbyists is former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, recently tapped by President Bush to take over the Republican National Committee. Additionally, Bush's point man on energy policy is Vice President Dick Cheney, the former chief executive of Halliburton Co., a Dallas-based oil company.

In addition to Spitzer, attorneys general from Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island were in Washington. Attorneys general from Massachusetts, Maine and New Jersey submitted statements of support.

Northeastern states already have sued 11 power plants in the Midwest, alleging they are not complying with Clean Air Act requirements.

EU official takes aim at Italian government after Ruggiero resignation

Associated Press

A key European Union official sharply criticized the Italian government yesterday, saying it needed to set a clear stance on European integration and calling the resignation of its foreign minister a blow to its credibility.

The comment from European Antitrust Commissioner Mario Monti, an Italian, came as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was trying to reassert his credentials as a backer of European integration following the departure of pro-EU foreign minister, Renato Ruggiero, over the weekend.

Monti said Ruggiero's resignation was a serious loss "for a country not overly well-endowed with credible big-hitters on the international stage."

Monti also targeted Berlusconi, criticizing the prime minister for a series of controversial comments. Monti said Berlusconi will have to define Italy's role within the EU "with greater attention than he has done so far."

Berlusconi's center-right coalition, which has taken an ambivalent line on European integration, needed to set a clear policy, he said. "This debate will need to clarify the issues and not be marked by sound bites that project an image unworthy of Italy," Monti said.

Monti is known as one of the most soft-spoken and understated of the EU's 20 commissioners, making his candid comments yesterday all the more surprising.

Ruggiero resigned over the lukewarm reception given to the euro currency by some Italian ministers. Berlusconi has taken over as foreign minister until a successor can be found, a process he said might take six months.

However, one candidate had already emerged yesterday, Deputy Premier Gianfranco Fini, a former fascist who is one of Berlusconi's closest allies and considered pro-European.

Berlusconi has often been in conflict with EU officials over the past year, partly because of the inclusion of the right-wing, anti-EU Northern League within his coalition.

His post-Sept. 11 declaration about the "superiority" of Western civilization also caused an uproar. He said later he had been misunderstood.

Berlusconi further grated his EU partners by temporarily blocking an EU-wide arrest warrant to speed up the fight against terrorism.

And in Brussels last month, his insistence that a new EU food agency should be based in Parma contributed to the summit's failure to agree on the headquarters for a host of agencies.

Berlusconi has tried to reassure Italy's European partners that his government remains a committed EU partner.

In an interview published Monday in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, he said the future of Italy lies with "a stronger Europe that can speak with a single voice."

Former Honeywell employees accused of embezzling nearly $1.7 million

Associated Press

Two former Honeywell employees were accused of embezzling nearly $1.7 million from the company through a scheme that used fictitious purchase orders, authorities said.

Reynaldo Unzeuta Garcia, 49, and Ron Lee Marion, 45, were charged with fraudulent schemes and theft, both felonies. They are being held in the Maricopa County jail in lieu of $150,450 bail each.

Police said Marion was earning about $45,000 a year as a purchasing agent for Honeywell when he left the company in May.

Marion, a Gilbert resident who had more than 20 years with the aerospace giant, abruptly resigned on May 6, citing "work pressures."

Police say he created fictitious purchase orders for equipment from Star Aviation, a Mesa company owned by Garcia, who had worked for Honeywell for more than 10 years before leaving in 1996.

Marion would alter company records to show delivery of the equipment, which triggered payment to Garcia, a police report said.

Between July 1999 and December 2000, the pair embezzled $1,693,462, the report said.

They tried again between March and May 2001, but Honeywell employees had become suspicious. An internal audit showed a potential problem, and Honeywell launched an internal investigation and notified Phoenix police, a spokesman said.

Honeywell spokesman Bill Reavis said the company will seek full financial restitution.

He said the money did not make a huge dent in Honeywell's $10 billion business.



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