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In brief: EPA criticizes Keystone report

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency issued a sharply critical assessment of the State Department’s recent environmental impact review of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a move certain to complicate efforts to win approval for the $7 billion project.

In a letter to top State Department officials overseeing the permitting process for the pipeline, the EPA lays out detailed objections regarding greenhouse gas emissions related to the project, pipeline safety and alternative routes. Based on its analysis, the EPA said it had “Environmental Objections” to the State Department’s environmental assessment due to “insufficient information.”

The State Department assessment concluded that Keystone XL, which would connect Canada’s oil sands to the U.S., would have a minimal impact on the environment. But the EPA analysis appears to challenge that conclusion.

The EPA’s assessment came during the public comment period for the draft supplemental environmental impact statement that the State Department issued last month. The study is supposed to be an exhaustive look at the effect of the proposed pipeline on air, water, endangered species, communities and the economy.

Other federal agencies have the right to comment on the assessment, but the EPA’s is the one most anxiously awaited because a negative analysis by the regulator could raise barriers to the project’s approval.

Inaugural committee raised $43 million

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s second inaugural committee raised a little more than $43 million to put on the official festivities surrounding his January swearing-in, backed by major donations from big corporations, according to a report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The total brought in by the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee was $10 million less than the amount raised in 2009 for Obama’s first inauguration.

The smaller haul came despite the fact that – in a reversal from 2009 – this year’s inaugural committee accepted corporate donations.

In all, for-profit corporations donated $15.5 million to help put on this year’s parade and official balls, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau.

The biggest donation came from AT&T, which contributed $4.6 million in equipment and other in-kind services.


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Zimbabwe leader calls assassination attempt ‘cowardly act’

UPDATED: 8:14 p.m.

Zimbabwe’s president was unscathed Saturday by an explosion at a campaign rally that state media called an attempt to assassinate him, later visiting his two injured vice presidents and declaring the “cowardly act” will not disrupt next month’s historic elections.