Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Carbon Standards, Duke Energy Order, Alpha Fine, Efficiency Bill
The EPA has extended the public comment period on its carbon standards for new power plants, and on the February 26, 2014, notice of data availability soliciting comment on Energy Act provisions, by 60 days to May 9.
Judge Paul Ridgeway of Wake County Superior Court in North Carolina ordered Duke Energy to act immediately to eliminate sources of groundwater contamination at its coal ash dumps, the New York Times reports. Ridgeway said state regulators had failed to properly apply state law. His ruling addressed a complaint filed in 2012, before a major Duke Energy spill into the Dan River.
Alpha Natural Resources and 66 of its subsidiaries including the former Massey Energy will pay the largest civil penalty ever under the Clean Water Act, $27.5 million, and will spend $200 million to reduce pollution from coal mines in five states, under a consent decree announced by the EPA and Justice Department on Wednesday. The penalty is for more than 6,000 violations from 2006 to 2013, the New York Times reports.
The House on Wednesday approved HR 2126, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act, by a vote of 375 to 36. Backers described the legislation as using a market-driven and voluntary approach to encourage energy and costs savings. The bill combines four measures authored by Energy and Commerce Committee members: Title I, Better Buildings; Title II, Grid-Enabled Water Heaters; Title III, Energy Efficient Government Technology; and Title IV, Energy Information for Commercial Buildings. Co-author Peter Welch (D-Vt.) believe the bill can be combined with the Shaheen-Portman efficiency legislation, The Hill reports.
The Energy Department announced $10 million in funding to help demonstrate and deploy energy efficiency technologies for commercial buildings, including performance testing in real buildings, and projects designed to bring next-generation building systems and components to a broader market faster. Covered technologies include sub-metering, plug load strategies, open refrigerated display case retrofits, daylighting, shading, advanced compressor rack and refrigerant systems, and retro-commissioning strategies and technologies.
The House on Thursday approved HR 2641, the Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development Act, or the RAPID Act, which would set deadlines on NEPA reviews. The measure passed by a 229-179 vote, The Hill reports.
The House yesterday passed HR 3826, the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, 229-183, The Hill reports. The bill would override EPA carbon standards for new power plants, and would require Congress to set an effective date for its upcoming rules on existing power plants. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy has said the agency plans to release those rules by June.
The EPA can institute carbon regulations without “shutting down business in its tracks,” EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said yesterday at the IHS CERAWeek conference, the largest meeting of energy executives in the world, Reuters reports.
Barbara Boxer (D-CA), head of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, sharply criticized the Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group, which has yet to produce a final report, The Hill reports. “I’m looking for action here, not a lot of words,” Boxer said during a hearing. “And so far, I’ve seen a lot of words.”
Non-profits the Center for Environmental Health, Beyond Pesticides, and Physicians for Social Responsibility sued the EPA, pushing it to progress rules requiring public disclosure of certain pesticide ingredients.
The Sierra Club filed a federal suit on Wednesday against Ameren Corp., alleging 7,880 air quality violations since 2009 at three coal-burning power plants in the St. Louis area, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma on Tuesday ruled against Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company’s efforts to stop Sierra Club’s Clean Air Act lawsuit, the environmental group says. Sierra Club alleges that OG&E broke the law numerous times by pumping out harmful soot pollution beyond what is allowed by state and federal law. But a second suit focusing on the New Source Review portion of the Clean Air Act was dismissed due to a technicality, the Sierra Clubs says.
President Obama signed the National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act into law. Farmers and businesses, as well as states and cities, rely on the system’s tools and data to make decisions about water use, crop planting and wildfire response, Obama said, according to The Hill.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comments on its draft Strategic Plan, covering Fiscal Year 2014-2018. The draft provides a blueprint for the agency to plan, implement and monitor work needed to achieve the NRC’s mission for the next four years.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued annual assessment letters to the nation’s 100 operating commercial nuclear power plants regarding their performance in 2013. As of the end of December, 89 plants were in the two highest performance categories. Nine nuclear reactors were in the third performance category with a degraded level of performance. One reactor, Browns Ferry 1 in Alabama, is in the fourth performance category and requires increased oversight because of a safety finding of high significance. Fort Calhoun plant in Nebraska is currently under a special NRC oversight program distinct from the normal performance levels because of an extended shutdown with significant performance issues.
California governor Jerry Brown and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a memorandum of understanding for research and development cooperation in a number of technological fields, including water conservation, Reuters reports. Last Saturday Brown signed a $687 million package into law in an attempt to address the state’s ongoing drought.
President Obama plans to nominate Estevan López as commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, the largest wholesale water supplier and second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the US. López is a professional engineer with over two decades of experience in water resource management, the Interior Department said.
Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and David Vitter (R-LA), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, led a group of their peers in raising concerns about the nomination of Kenneth Kopocis to be the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. The Senators say Kopocis was involved in the EPA’s attempt to significantly expand its authority under the Clean Water Act.
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