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Policy & Regulatory Briefing: Ethanol Flip-Flop, EPA Rules ‘Won’t Cut Carbon’

The Senate Thursday made an abrupt reversal on ethanol subsidies, voting 73-27 to remove a major tax break for the industry. The measure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) ends a 45 cent per gallon credit for ethanol that fuel blenders mix into gasoline, the Hill says. The amendment also ends a 54-cent per gallon import tariff. Feinstein’s measure was identical to an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), which was defeated 40-59 on Tuesday, the Hill says. But the Senate rejected, 41-59, an amendment by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to remove federal funds for installation of ethanol pumps and storage tanks.

Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, said he is working on legislation to eliminate a variety of energy tax subsidies and use the proceeds to reduce the federal debt, the Washington Post reported.

The EPA’s first round of greenhouse-gas rules will not significantly cut carbon emissions or burden companies with substantial costs, according to a Bloomberg Government study. The study notes that most companies are already employing conservation measures in their construction and expansion projects.

The House appropriations committee on Wednesday approved the 2012 Energy and Water appropriations bill, by a vote of 26 to 20 with all Democrats and one Republican opposed, the Hill reports. The $30.6 trillion bill cuts spending by $1 billion compared to current levels, with deep cuts to some of the Obama administration’s clean energy priorities, including solar energy, fuel efficient vehicle funding, energy efficiency research, weatherization and biomass research and development. The bill will go to the House floor for a vote sometime after the July 4 holiday.

The Indian government has ruled that corporate social responsibility (CSR) will not be mandatory, as it had earlier proposed. Instead, it says it will issue “flexible and directional guidelines,” Triple Pundit reports. “There is no way the government wants to mandate it. If we make it mandatory there can be thousand and one ways to bypass it,” corporate affairs secretary D. K. Mittal said.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has announced that the government will sell oil and gas drilling leases in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve by the end of this year, putting a timeline on the president’s May announcement that the Interior Department would begin conducting annual lease sales for land within the reserve, Fuel Fix reports.

Federal regulators have formally outlined the process for extending deep-water drilling leases, Fuel Fix says. A “notice to lessees” will be issued soon by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

Lawyers in California say it looks increasingly likely that the state will win the case over its proposed cap and trade system, Thomson Reuters Point Carbon reports. Attorneys told the news service that they don’t believe the lawsuit will delay the start of the market in January 2012.

The EPA, FDA and the White House have proposed guidelines for the the regulation and oversight of products containing engineered nanoscale material, Chemical & Engineering News reports. The EPA and FDA proposals are aimed at clarifying what constitutes a nanotech product and what data industry will need to provide when marketing such products.

European Parliament’s all-party environment committee voted on Wednesday to enact a maximum of 0.5 grams of phosphorus compounds per standard washing machine load of laundry detergent. The regulation still must be approved by the plenary before it is enacted, the News Market said.

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