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Federal News Digest — March 17, 2011

Washington Post

EPA proposes ‘first ever’ emissions standards for power plants – Darryl Fears reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed limits on mercury and other toxic chemicals from coal-burning power plants, one of the largest sources of “stationary pollution;” industry is strongly opposed to rules estimated to cost $10 billion, but EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson says rules would save $100 billion a year or more in improvements to health and the environment

Japan quake puts spotlight on aging U.S. nuclear reactors, cost of building new ones – Jia Lynn Yang and Steven Mufson report that many U.S. reactors are old, which does not necessarily mean outdated, but certain design features have been criticized; meanwhile the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses reactors and monitors them, but individual states have considerable input

Elizabeth Warren defends consumer agency’s role in mortgage settlement talks – Brady Dennis reports that Warren defended the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s involvement in talks between mortgage service agencies and federal agencies and state attorneys general stemming from fraudulent foreclosure practices, saying if CFPB had been around, practices would have been prevented; legislators questioned the agency’s involvement because it has no confirmed leader and has not yet issued regulations

Oversight board investigates lack of warnings by auditors before financial crisis – David S. Hilzenrath reports that the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, created by Congress after the Enron scandal to monitor auditing firms, is investigating their failure to produce meaningful reports warning of financial firms’ precarious situation prior to financial collapse; New York State lawsuit against Ernst and Young, auditor for Lehman Brothers, which collapsed, has focused attention on auditors’ role

Is streaming a felony? And what’s this about wiretapping? – Alexandra Petri offers her thoughts on the White House’s white paper on intellectual property enforcement, including its recommendation that “infringement by streaming” should be a felony

New York Times

Nuclear Agency tells a concerned Congress that U.S. industry remains safe – Matthew L. Wald reports that Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko told a congressional hearing the agency will learn lessons from Japanese nuclear disaster; meanwhile Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that his Dept., which assists NRC, would take another look at existing and proposed power plants in light of Japan’s experience

American life span edges longer – AP reports on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report that life expectancy in the U.S. rose to over 78 years

Wall Street Journal

Former Freddie CEO may face SEC action – Nick Timiraos reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission notified the former head of Freddie Mac, Richard Syron, who was ousted when the government took over the mortgage lender in 2008, that it may file charges against him as part of its investigation of Freddie Mac’s failure to disclose information   

TARP was no win for the taxpayers – Paul Atkins, Mark McWatters and Kenneth Troske, former and current members of the panel overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, dispute Treasury Secretary Geithner’s description of TARP as a success, and point to bailout payments yet to come

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