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Policy & Regulatory Briefing: Mercury, Renewable Fuels, MACT Boiler Rules

The EPA is making yet another extension to a public comment period, this time on proposed mercury and air toxics standards for coal plants. But the agency said the 30 day extension to the timeline for public input will not delay the issuing of final standards, scheduled for November. Last month the EPA admitted that the proposed mercury limits are based in part on mathematical errors.

The EPA yesterday proposed increasing the amount of renewable fuels used in U.S. vehicles next year, Bloomberg reports. The agency said the volume of renewable fuels such as biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels should increase to 15.2 billion gallons in 2012 from 13.95 billion gallons this year. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) established annual renewable fuel volume targets, which steadily increase to 36 billion gallons by 2022. According to the Hill, the proposed standards acknowledge that ethanol production isn’t growing as quickly as Congress had hoped a few years ago. The proposed renewable fuel standards for 2012 are available here.

Four Republicans and four Democrats will reveal legislation today to delay the EPA’s planned “maximum achievable control technology” rules for industrial boilers, a GOP committee aide told the Hill. The congressmen are all on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Last month the EPA said it is delaying implementation of the rules while it seeks additional public comment.

The Hill reports that New Jersey Sens. Robert Menendez (D) and Frank Lautenberg (D) yesterday wrote to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) calling for an investigation into the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, after an AP article alleged that the NRC had repeatedly weakened safety standards. Three-quarters of U.S. nuclear power plants have had radioactive tritium leaks, the AP investigation found. Industry body the Nuclear Energy Institute said the AP story “has factual errors, fails to cite relevant reports on safety that contradict the reporting, and raises questions about historic operating issues while ignoring more recent evidence of improved performance in areas that it examines.”

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee yesterday approved a bill that would force the Obama administration to make a decision on TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline by November 1, Reuters reports.. The $7 billion project would transport oil sands from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

The House energy and commerce subcommittee on environment and the economy yesterday approved the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, which seeks to prevent coal ash being classified as hazardous waste. The bill’s sponsors say coal ash is widely used to produce materials including concrete mixtures, drywall and fertilizers.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has approved Monsanto Co.’s plans to expand phosphate mining operations in Idaho after agreeing that a $30 million liner and drainage system would adequately protect nearby streams and rivers from harmful minerals including selenium, the AP reports. The bureau rejected Monsanto’s application two years ago over concerns that selenium might leach into groundwater and streams.

Today the House will consider legislation to streamline permitting and ease air pollution standards for oil drilling off of the Alaska coast. The Republican-led bill won five Democratic votes in the energy and commerce committee, the Hill reported.

In Texas, governor Rick Perry signed a bill that will require television manufacturers to take back and recycle old TVs. A similar bill was vetoed in 2009, Waste and Recycling News reports.

The New York state legislature has approved rules that for the first time would require more than 400 industrial, commercial and agricultural users to obtain state permits for major water withdrawals. The bill is awaiting governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature, the New York Times says.

A state senate committee in New Jersey has advanced two bills opposing the state’s withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), announced by governor Chris Christie last month. But Christie’s spokesman said exiting the program does not require legislative approval, the Asbury Park Press reports.

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