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Policy & Regulatory Briefing: Clean Air Transport, Maritime Emissions, Fracking Bans

A top EPA official said the agency will unveil its final Clean Air transport rule next week, the Hill reports. Draft regulations released last year called for power plants in 31 eastern states to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions that cross state boundaries. The EPA has said that the draft rule, together with other regulations, will cut SO2 by 71 percent and NOX by 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2014.

The EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard have announced an agreement to jointly enforce U.S. and international air pollution standards for vessels in U.S. waters, Environmental Protection reports. The standards include limits on nitrogen oxides, and also require shippers to use fuel with lower sulfur content. The strictest requirements will apply to ships within 200 nautical miles of North America.

EU officials have said that a global deal to cut maritime carbon emissions will not be reached for several years, the Guardian reports. They are discussing alternatives including a proposal by the Bahamas to regulate the world’s shipping fleets, and the possibility of bringing shipping into the European carbon trading system. “We have nothing in the global [talks] and it is unrealistic to expect a MBM [Market-Based Measure] deal this year, next year, the year after, and maybe the year after that also,” one senior EU source said. “On the other hand we have a political commitment to do something regionally if nothing happens globally.”

The top Republican and top Democrat on the Senate energy and natural resources committee are at loggerheads over President Obama’s proposals for a “clean energy standard”, the Hill reports. An aide to ranking member Lisa Murkowski (D-NM) said the senator and committee chairman Jeff Bingaman have a “bedrock” disagreement over the standard, which would require power companies to derive 80 percent of U.S. electricity from “clean” sources such as nuclear, renewables and natural gas by 2035. Murkowski believes the clean energy standard should replace federal greenhouse gas regulations, and Bingaman disagrees.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo is seeking to lift what is essentially a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state, the New York Times reports. The process would be allowed on private lands and banned in parks, wildlife preserves, and inside the watersheds and water sources used by cities and towns.

New Jersey’s legislature has approved a bill to ban hydraulic fracturing, which is not currently being used in the state, Fuel Fix reports. “We want to get this in place so that New Jersey will be off-limits,” said New Jersey assemblywoman Connie Wagner, a Democrat from Paramus and a sponsor of the measure.

Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has reportedly agreed to a 2015 deadline to switch the country’s prime carbon limitation mechanism from a carbon tax to an emissions trading initiative, Reuters reports. The carbon tax has sparked fierce opposition and Gillard’s support is at record lows.

The British government yesterday outlined a plan to simplify the Carbon Reduction Commitment, an initiative launched last year to encourage energy efficiency improvements at businesses. UK companies have criticized the program as complex, costly and bureaucratic, Reuters reported.

The benefits of the UK’s planned smart meter initiative may not outweigh the costs, the country’s National Audit Office has warned, according to Energy Efficiency News. In a report, the office warned that the benefits are far from certain, and found little evidence that smart meters would permanently change consumers’ behaviour.

A U.S. District Court judge has upheld a Seattle law that allows residents to opt out of receiving phone directories. But Yellow Pages publishers say they will appeal the decision, Waste & Recycling News reports.

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