Gas Rules Studied

The Bush administration is considering easing environmental requirements for a multitude of gasoline blends and streamlining permits for new refineries to increase fuel supplies and fight soaring prices, Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans said yesterday.

Evans, a former Texas oil executive, told the Associated Press that the cost of gasoline, which hit a record national average of $2.06 per gallon this week, is causing people to make fewer trips to stores. Mindful that oil shocks in the 1970s and 1980s were severe enough to push the country into a series of recessions, Evans said the administration is taking seriously the run-up in prices and the impact it might have on buying patterns.

Vickie Patton, a senior lawyer with Environmental Defense, said that the use of cleaner-burning gasoline blends has been "consistently one of the single most effective measures to protect public health and the environment from harmful air pollution."

An Organic Shift

The Agriculture Department is rescinding new organic food guidelines that allows limited use of pesticides and antibiotics, which had prompted criticism from some consumer groups and organic farmers.

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced the action after critics said the guidelines devalued the organic label. The department's Agricultural Marketing Service will work with the industry to clarify the standards, she said. "We are taking action to rescind what AMS has done," Veneman said.

The announcement was greeted with approval at the Organic Trade Association, an industry group. "This sounds like a step in the right direction," said spokeswoman Holly Givens.

Hearing Delayed

The Sept. 11 commission's next hearing is being delayed a week, until mid-June, because of scheduling problems with some witnesses, according to the panel's spokesman .

The commission's 12th and final hearing is expected to delve into how quickly the Federal Aviation Administration notified U.S. air defenses about the hijacked planes on the day of the 2001 attacks.

-- From News Services