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Policy & Regulatory Briefing: EPA Funding, Aussie Carbon Tax, Hazardous Waste Regs

The environment subcommittee of the House appropriations committee approved a bill this morning that would slash funds for the EPA, the Hill reported. The bill provides $7.1 billion for the EPA, well below the agency’s current-year funding of $8.7 billion and $1.8 billion less than what the Obama administration is seeking for fiscal year 2012. Environment subcommittee chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) called the EPA the “scariest agency in the federal government.”

Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has announced that the country’s carbon tax will apply to only 500 carbon emitters, not 1,000 as earlier promised, the Boston Globe reports. She told parliament on Thursday that these 500 companies are among Australia’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, and will all start paying the tax in July 2012. Gillard said full details of the tax will be announced this Sunday.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, has called for an investigation into the Exxon Mobil pipeline leak in Montana, Fuel Fix reports. Environmental groups are seeing the spill as an opening to press for more stringent pipeline safety rules, and to try to prevent the building of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the New York Times reports.

The Chinese government said on Tuesday that it is investigating ConocoPhillips’ role in an oil spill that authorities kept hidden from the public for almost a month, Industry Week reports. ConocoPhillips operates the oil field in Bohai Bay, off China’s eastern coast, in a partnership with the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC).

The EPA has proposed new safeguards for recycling hazardous materials. The proposed regulations modify EPA’s 2008 Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) rule, which revised previous hazardous waste regulations to encourage recycling of hazardous materials. EPA will accept comment on this proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. More information about this rulemaking is available here.

Senators from both parties could reach an agreement by today on a bill to eliminate a key ethanol tax break, the Hill reports. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD), both ethanol proponents, are working with ethanol critic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), on a plan to quickly end the credit of 45 cents per gallon of ethanol blended into gasoline.

The House committee on energy and the environment will hold a hearing today at 2 p.m. entitled, “Hitting the Ethanol Blend Wall: Examining the Science on E15”. Scheduled witnesses include Margo Oge, Director, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Bob Greco, Gropu Director of Industry Operations, American Petroleum Institute; and Heather White, Chief of Staff, Environmental Working Group.

House Republicans introduced a spending bill on Wednesday that would prevent the Department of the Interior from banning new uranium mining on a million acres of land near the Grand Canyon, the Hill reports. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last month extend an existing ban on new uranium mining in the region for six months, and his department is considering a plan to block mining in the area for 20 years.

Vermont has begun providing free e-waste recycling to residents, small businesses and non-profits, Waste & Recycling News reports. The program, known as Vermont E-Cycles, was created after legislation passed last year requiring electronics manufacturers to finance the cost of collecting and recycling their discarded products.

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