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Policy & Regulatory Briefing: EPA Red Tape, Nat Gas Bill, Keystone Pipeline

The Obama administration has published regulatory reviews by 30 agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy, prepared in compliance with the president’s January order on reducing red tape. The White House said that the reviews have identified potential savings of billions of dollars in regulatory costs. Among the suggestions, the EPA has said $670 million could be saved over ten years by eliminating a requirement for air pollution vapor recovery systems at gas stations in many states. This requirement has been made redundant because modern vehicles already have effective air pollution control technologies, the EPA said.

The Senate energy committee reported five bills yesterday, making them eligible for consideration by the full Senate. Each was modified with amendments. The bills were: S. 630, a bill to promote marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy research and development; S. 699, a bill to create a demonstration program for carbon sequestration; S. 757, a bill to encourage development of systems to capture carbon from dilute sources; and two unnumbered bills, one to provide analyses of the impact of energy production on U.S. water resources and one to protect electric infrastructure against cyber threats. But the panel did not complete action on a bill to create a “clean-energy deployment administration” to expand federal financing for low-carbon energy technologies, the Hill reports. The committee will consider that bill, an offshore drilling safety measure and a bill on oil and gas production at a later date. The Hill said that Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the committee’s ranking Republican, has not yet voiced support for the two drilling measures.

Senate Democrats slammed the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, arguing that he is dragging his feet on efforts to curb excessive speculation in oil markets, the Hill reported.

Reps. Tim Griffin (R-AR) and Glenn Thompson (R-PA) have withdrawn their names from the Nat Gas Act, bringing to four the number of Republicans to withdraw sponsorship from the bill this month. The measure, backed by billionaire T. Boone Pickens, would authorize billions of dollars in tax credits and other incentives for natural gas vehicles.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Edward Markey (D-MA)  – top Democrats on the House energy and natural resources committees – have called on Republicans to hold a hearing on hydraulic fracturing, the natural gas production process also known as fracking, the Hill reports. “While hydraulic fracturing and the increased use of natural gas hold great promise, it is essential that the technique be adequately regulated to prevent risks to health and the environment. A Committee hearing would give members a better understanding of these issues and an opportunity to assess the need for appropriate legislation,” the letter said.

In Texas, the state senate has passed a bill to force natural gas drillers to publish lists of the chemicals they use in fracking, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. The bill passed the house earlier this month.

In Nebraska, legislators unanimously passed a bill yesterday that would hold oil pipeline owners and operators liable for any environmental damage caused by their lines. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that the bill would apply to the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline between the Alberta oil sands and Gulf Coast oil refineries. Six Nebraska lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton yesterday, asking her to delay a decision on federal permitting for the pipeline until May 2012.

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