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Policy & Regulatory Briefing: Smog Rules, Light Bulb Bill Defeated, IRIS Evaluation

New rules targeting the combined effects of nitrogen and sulfur emissions on water quality are expected from the EPA as early as today. The agency’s assessment (pdf) concluded that current Clean Air Act regulations are not adequate for the deposition-related effects on sensitive ecosystems, including acidification and nutrient enrichment.

The White House Office of Management and Budget on Monday received a set of final rules from the EPA updating smog regulations, according to Greenwire. The standard for ground level ozone has fluctuated from 84 parts per billion (ppb) to 75 ppb and most recently between 60 and 70 ppb. The decision on the lowest standard has been delayed at least twice but reportedly is expected this summer. Business groups say the measure might send heavy industry away from the United States.

In its markup of the 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Act, the House on Tuesday rejected amendments to restore funds to the Department of Energy’s research and development budget for energy efficiency and renewable energy, according to the Hill. The Republican-backed measure distributes more funding to oil, gas, and coal research and development, the article says.

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors will review the government-owned corporation’s proposed Natural Resource Plan in August. The stewardship plan addresses biological, cultural, recreation, water quality, and land planning resources with assistance from the public and TVA’s partners.

The House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight will hold a hearing on the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday to evaluate the science and process behind chemical risk assessment. Panelists include representatives from the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, GAO, and the American Chemistry Council. The EPA recently improved the program’s assessment documents, making them shorter, clearer and more visual, concise and transparent, according to the agency.

To keep cost impacts of California’s carbon program down, power companies there may get free allowances under a cap-and-trade program, according to California Watch. A study by the University of California Merced and the University of South Wales in Australia suggests that a free system will enable clean technology to be adopted at lower prices than a carbon tax system. The state expects to have a plan in place next year.

The House Republican effort to pass the Better Use of Our Light Bulbs Act did not meet the two-thirds majority vote required to pass the bill, which would repeal the requirement to use efficient lighting, the Los Angeles Times reported. The bill could be brought up again under a majority vote procedure.

The House today will take up the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, which would change the federal government’s ability to enforce key elements of the Clean Water Act, with only one hour of debate scheduled, according to a rules decision (pdf). U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland of Florida has said that the regulations for his state’s water nutrient problem are unachievable. The White House stated that the bill would remove federal authority to act when state water quality standards are not protective of public health.

Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma is trying to put pressure on President Obama to withdraw the nomination of John Bryson as head of the Commerce Department, the Hill said. Inhofe says Bryson, a founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, would be “a recipe for disaster for our economy.” The nominee also was CEO of Edison International for 18 years.

Despite a pending challenge in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 136 Texas plants including oil refineries, chemical manufacturers and power plants will seek air pollution permits approved by the federal government, the Corpus Christi Caller Times said. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has issued flexible permits that the EPA said was in violation of the Clean Air Act, sparking the lawsuit. The Texas Oil and Gas Association said that air quality in the state has improved under the flexible permit program.

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