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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Nuclear Fears, Strange Bedfellows, EPA Review

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed a final version of its regulatory review plan on Tuesday to comply with President Barack Obama’s order that agency rules not overly burden business, The Hill reported. The EPA said it will review 35 regulations under the final plan with an eye toward “modifying, streamlining, expanding or repealing a regulation or related program during the 2011 calendar year.”

The eastern seaboard’s largest earthquake in a century has prompted a renewal of the debate surrounding the safety of the country’s nuclear power plants, The Hill reported on Tuesday. Critics say that the 5.8 magnitude quake that caused the shutdown of two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station (pictured) in Virgina shows the vulnerability of the power source to natural disasters.

BP has paid out more than $5 billion in claims to 204,434 victims of last year’s offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the compensation fund, said on Tuesday, according to Reuters. To date, 947,892 claims have been filed from all 50 U.S. states and from 36 countries, seeking compensation from the $20 billion fund.

The EPA announced Tuesday that it has reached a settlement with the Department of Interior (DOI) to remedy numerous violations of environmental laws at 72 schools and 27 public water systems on American Indian reservations. An EPA compliance inspection at 100 schools and water systems administered by DOI’s Bureau of Indian Affairs uncovered violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act’s PCB provisions.

Officials from European Union members states will meet in the next few weeks to consider adopting a plan to extend the Kyoto Protocol, on the condition that the 1997 climate treaty will expire in 2018, Reuters reported. EU states prefer that the treaty be replaced with a single global pact that would cap the carbon emissions of all major nations.

The United States Geological Survey on Tuesday greatly increased its estimate of recoverable natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation underlying Pennsylvania, New York and nearby states, The Hill reported. The new USGS estimate updates a 2002 report, boosting the estimate from 2 trillion to 84 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and from 10 million to 3.4 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.

The EPA has issued administrative compliance orders to six concentrated animal feeding operations in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. Most of the operations were illegally discharging wastewater into local tributaries, the EPA said.

Cleanup of an oil spill from an ExxonMobil pipeline into the Yellowstone River in Montana will cost the company an estimated $42.6 million, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday. About 42,000 gallons, or 1,000 barrels, of crude leaked into the scenic river in July.

A plan to encourage investment in solar and other renewable energy sources in Japan passed the country’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday, Reuters reported. The proposal, which comes in the wake of the catastrophic radiation leak at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and puts the brakes on the country’s expansion of atomic power, awaits consideration by the upper house.

U.S. Sen. James Infofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, wrote a letter to the the EPA on Tuesday urging the agency to reconsider a proposed rule to regulate cooling intake reservoirs under Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act. The senator said the rule will cause consumer electricity prices to rise.

As Congress gears up to dramatically pare domestic spending, a new report from an unusual alliance of conservative, taxpayer, consumer and environmental groups will highlight on Wednesday what it calls billions of dollars in unnecessary subsidies to polluting industries. The alliance comprises the Friends of the Earth, deficit hawk Taxpayers for Common Sense, consumer watchdog Public Citizen and free-market think tank The Heartland Institute.

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