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Policy & Compliance Briefing: PNM Penalty, Efficient Refrigerators, Chemical Secrecy

A federal judge overseeing hundreds of lawsuits against BP alleging financial losses after last year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday allowed most of the plaintiffs’ claims to go forward, Reuters reported.  In a major victory for the more than 100,000 plaintiffs, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans ruled that punitive damages would be available if BP were found liable.

Several Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives attacked the State Department on Friday over the agency’s decision to greenlight the 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline from the Canadian tar sands to Texas, The Hill reportedRep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) said the department’s finding that the pipeline would cause minimal damage ignored the threat to aquifers, while Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) said the finding did not address climate change.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Sunday that it would inspect two nuclear plants knocked offline by Hurricane Irene, according to a report in The Hill.  The commission said it would take “a few days” before reactors were running again at Exelon Corp.’s Oyster Creek Generating Station in New Jersey and Constellation Energy’s Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland.

The Department of Energy (DOE) on Friday published new rules that will require refrigerators to be 25 percent more energy efficient starting in 2014, The Hill reported. DOE estimates that the rules will save consumers an average of $200 on utility bills.

A coalition of utilities is urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its Order 1000, which allocates regional spending for new transmission lines.  CMS Energy Corporation, Consolidated Edison, Inc., DTE Energy Company, Progress Energy Inc., Public Service Enterprise Group, SCANA Corporation, and Southern Company say the order will result in increased consumer prices.

Wyoming regulators last week confirmed that they have refused to identify 146 chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing since public disclosure rules went into effect nearly a year ago, The Casper Star-Tribune reported.  The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission granted the trade secret exemptions to 11 companies.

The state of Alaska filed papers on Friday to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that upholds the listing of polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, Reuters reported.  The Department of Interior’s decision to list the polar bear was based on the destruction of its habitat caused by rapidly melting sea ice.

The DOE on Friday granted a partial guarantee for an $852 million loan to the Genesis Solar Project in Riverside, Calif.  NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, is sponsoring the proposed 250 MW plant.

The New Mexico environment department said the state’s largest electric utility will pay a $125,000 civil penalty for emissions violations at a coal-fired power plant, The Associated Press reported. The state agency said it detected violations of its emissions limits for particulate matter and carbon monoxide at Public Service Company of New Mexico’s San Juan Generating Station.

Japan’s parliament formally passed a law on Friday that will require utilities to buy electricity generated from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and small-sized hydro power plants at annually preset rates for up to 20 years, Reuters reported.  The law follows the country’s abandonment of a plan to invest in nuclear plants after the radiation crisis that followed a devastating tsunami and earthquake in March.

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