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Policy & Regulatory Briefing: Growing the Grid, Budget Veto Threat, Gulf Reparations

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday approved guidelines for growing the nation’s electricity grid to accommodate renewable energy and market competition, The New York Times said. The guidelines say that costs should be paid by those who benefit. The agency also suggested that federal regulators will enable transmission line construction if grid organizations do not.

The White House on Thursday threatened to veto a spending bill for the EPA and the Interior Department that it says “[includes] ideological and political provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation.” The bill contains language that blocks greenhouse gas rules, tougher regulation of pollution from mountaintop mining operations, and a major utility air-toxics rule, according to a report from the Hill.

To ensure more consistent review of coal mining permits, the EPA released final guidance on Appalachian surface coal mining. Kentucky.com reports that the guidance uses a new standard on conductivity that indicates contaminant levels.

A compromise bill would put BP’s Clean Water Act fines from last year’s oil spill into the hands of five Gulf Coast states, the Hill said. Thirty-five per cent of the money is evenly split among the states while 30 per cent would be distributed among those most heavily affected, 30 per cent would be for the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, and the last 5 per cent would go to Gulf science and fisheries programs.

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated $50 million to the Sierra Club through Bloomberg Philanthropies, Reuters said. The money will help the environmental group’s Beyond Coal campaign, which seeks to cut 30 per cent of U.S. coal production and mercury pollution by 90 per cent by 2020.

The Senate Energy Committee on Thursday reported S 512, a bill on developing modular nuclear reactors, and S 916, legislation that would facilitate appropriate oil and gas development on federal land and waters. Both measures now are eligible for consideration by the full Senate.

Two amendments to spending legislation up for a vote today address green efforts in the Capitol. Democrats Welch and Moran are hoping to ban polystyrene containers in the House’s food service facilities, the Hill said, while Republican Thompson wants to knock out funding for energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs in the complex.

The European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011, introduced on Wednesday by members of the House of Representatives, would bar U.S. airlines from participating in the EU’s cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases, SFGate says. Lawmakers said carriers could face $1.3 billion in compliance costs during the first year.

Steelmakers operating in Europe have challenged the European Commission’s benchmark for carbon emissions as being too high, in the European Court of Justice, a Reuters report said. The Emissions Trading Scheme rewards efficient plants with free permits but this practice will cease in 2013 when only the most efficient 10 percent of plants will be eligible.

Montana governor Brian Schweitzer has ordered his Oil Pipeline Safety Review Council to assess the risks of ruptures and leaks in pipelines running beneath the state’s rivers and streambeds, according to Reuters.

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