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Policy & Regulatory Briefing: Massive Shell Spill, Online Violation Tracking, EPA Easing Carbon Capture

The EPA on Thursday proposed a rule that would exclude carbon dioxide streams that are injected for geologic sequestration, in wells designated for this purpose, from hazardous waste regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the agency said. The exclusion is part of an effort to lower barriers to the use of carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) expressed concern that an estimated 40 gigawatts of coal-fired generating capacity are “likely” to be retired and 41 gigawatts are “very likely” to be retired, partly because of EPA regulations, the Hill said. The senator had asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to provide an informal assessment of the proposed rules, but FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff stressed that the commission does not have sufficient information and that the regulations have not been finalized.

The EPA announced that Vala Sciences, Cee Tox, Life Technologies and BioReliance have won contracts to test up to 10,000 chemicals for potential toxicity to people and the environment through the ToxCast chemical screening program. The companies will use innovative technologies such as stem cell toxicity tests.

Earthjustice on Thursday petitioned the EPA to develop new rules under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to require manufacturers and processors of oil and gas exploration and production chemicals to conduct toxicity testing and identify all chemical substances and mixtures tested, the Hill reported.  An attorney with the environmental group said that if the agency does not respond to the petition, which would address hydraulic fracturing under TSCA instead of the Safe Drinking Water Act, Earthjustice may file a lawsuit.

Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Thursday removed Nobuaki Terasaka, the leader of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the nation’s main nuclear regulatory body; Kazuo Matsunaga, the top bureaucrat at the Ministry of Trade and Industry; and Tetsuhiro Hosono, the leader of the ministry’s energy resources bureau, The New York Times reported. The agency is a part of the ministry and has been criticized for inadequate safety measures and accused of sending people to meetings to publicly support nuclear power.

According to The Associated Press, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said he would block approval of the Obama administration’s nominee of Rebecca Wodder as assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks. The senator plans to hold this position until the Interior Department extends “hundreds of Gulf of Mexico drilling leases” that will expire in 2011, the article said.

According to a recent analysis by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, Canada will not be able to reach is 2020 emissions target, the Calgary Herald said. The Conservative government reportedly only provided reliable estimates on the effectiveness of three of its eight policies to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Shell said it will accept responsibility for the double rupture of a trans-Niger pipeline in 2008, the Guardian reports. The oil company faces paying hundreds of millions of dollars because of the spills in Bodo and Ogoniland in Nigeria.

The Interior Department on Thursday gave conditional approval to Royal Dutch Shell’s plan to drill in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast, the Hill reports. The plan is for the drilling of four oil-and-gas wells over two years, in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s northern coast.

Some Congressmen may oppose renewing the federal tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, CNN reports.

Utilities in New Mexico could lose out on $10 million in fees over two years after the state’s highest court struck down a decision by the Public Regulation Commission, which required an energy efficiency surcharge, the AP reports. The surcharge was designed to compensate the utilities when customers use less electricity because of conservation measures.

British Columbia’s Environment Department has launched an online database that will enable people to track those who have violated environmental regulations, the  Coast Reporter said. The searchable database includes orders, administrative sanctions, tickets and court convictions and is expected to serve as a deterrent for future violations.

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