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Policy & Regulatory Briefing: Tea Party RGGI Suit, E15, Stimulus Project Audit

Investigators at the Treasury Department are auditing 14 of the 2,600 wind and solar projects that received incentive funds under the 2009 stimulus bill, Bloomberg reports. The audits will aim to determine whether the department “established (and followed) appropriate procedures for awarding the grants,” and whether developers met eligibility requirements, counsel to the Treasury’s inspector general Richard Delmar told the wire service. He would not identify which projects were being reviewed, but said five reports were expected by the end of September, and the remaining nine in 2012.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are demanding answers from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on programs that they say have sent nearly $100 million overseas in the past decade. Committee investigators said that the EPA continues to hand out millions of dollars at “an alarming rate”, to dozens of countries including China, Russia, and India as well as international organizations like the United Nations. The Committee has compiled a report detailing 65 foreign grants (excluding Canada and Mexico), totaling more than $27 million, since February 2009.

A lawsuit seeking to withdraw New York from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has links to the billionaire Koch brothers, head of Koch Industries, the (Albany) Times-Union reports. The suit was filed Monday in the state Supreme Court by lead plaintiff Lisa Thrun, a Buffalo leader of Americans for Propserity, which is linked to the Tea Party movement and supported by David and Charles Koch.

The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have extended the public comment period by 30 days for their draft guidance on “Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act.” The guidance, which expands the definition of areas covered by the Clean Water Act, was published in April. The agencies said they are extending the comment period until July 31 in response to requests from state and local officials, as well as other stakeholders. They said the extension to the comment period will not impact the schedule for finalizing the guidance.

The EPA has also published fuel pump labeling and other requirements for gasoline blends containing more than 10 and up to 15 percent ethanol, known as E15. These requirements will help ensure that E15 is properly labeled and used once it enters the market, the EPA says. The agency raised the amount of ethanol permitted for use in cars and light trucks built in 2001 or later, from ten to 15 percent, in January.

California’s Air Resources Board has changed fuel regulations by widening a clean-fuel zone off the state’s coast, the New York Times reports. The original 2008 rules required that ships within 24 nautical miles of California switch to less polluting fuel. This caused ships to take a less direct route directly through a major Navy testing and training area. The new rules extend the clean fuel zone by another 24 nautical miles.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., has ruled in favor of the EPA over regulations that set performance standards for hospital, medical and infectious waste incinerators, Waste & Recycling News reports. The EPA originally passed the rules in 1997.

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) is raising the maximum civil penalty for drilling permit violations from $35,000 to $40,000 per violation, per day, the Hill reports. But BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich argues that the authorized penalties are far too low to deter violations.

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