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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Double Counting Biofuels, Regulatory Timeout, Stricter Offshore Standards

The Obama administration has told a federal court that it has no objection to reopening lawsuits brought by both industry and environmental groups challenging national air quality standards for ground-level ozone set by the Bush administration in 2008, the New York Times reported.  The EPA under President Obama had spent two years proposing to tighten that 75 parts per billion standard, but scrapped the plan in the face of opposition from Republicans and business groups.

The influential European Environment Agency Scientific Committee has found that the European Union overestimates the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions achieved through use of biofuels, the New York Times reported.  In a draft report the committee wrote that biofuels are “double counted” and reductions should be measured by how much additional carbon dioxide such crops absorb beyond what would have been absorbed anyway by existing fields, forests and grasslands.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and 16 other Senate Republicans have filed legislation to impose a one-year moratorium on large new federal regulations to give businesses a “sensible breather” from what she said are rules that are stifling hiring, The Hill reported. The moratorium would bar rules costing more than $100 million per year from going into effect.  Collins used the EPA’s proposed Boiler MACT rule, which would regulate industrial boiler emissions, as an example of the kind of regulation that kills jobs.

The Energy Department on Tuesday finalized a $1.2 billion loan guarantee for the Mojave Solar Project sponsored by Abengoa Solar Inc. (artist’s rendering pictured left), according to a report in Reuters.  The developers predict the project will create more than 900 construction and operations jobs.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it expects significant growth in the global use of nuclear power over the next two decades, despite a significant draw down following the radiation crisis at Japan’s Fukushima plant, Reuters reported.  The number of operating reactors in the world is expected to increase by between 90 and 350 units by 2030, according to Yukiya Amano, director general of the agency.

The Interior Department agency tasked with regulating offshore drilling proposed new rules on Tuesday to upgrade safety standards imposed after the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, The Hill reported.  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement proposal would add more employee training and strengthen auditing procedures by requiring them to be completed by independent third parties.

Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to widen the scope of an investigation into the circumstances of a $535 million loan guarantee from the Obama adminstration to Solyndra, a California solar firm that declared bankruptcy last month, The Hill reportedRep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight panel, said Tuesday that he wants to examine many other similar loan guarantees approved by the Department of Energy.

Waste Management LampTracker, Inc., has agreed to pay a $118,800 civil penalty to settle alleged violations at its permitted Kaiser, Mo., facility and a nearby unpermitted materials staging area.  The EPA said the company, which collects and recycles mercury containing equipment, violated its Missouri Hazardous Waste Permit and provisions of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Tuesday said the EPA would “make a mockery out of the federal environmental review process” if it considered a preemptive veto of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay area before a permit application is submitted.  Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) requested a preemptive denial of the project and EPA announced plans to conduct a watershed assessment of the Bristol Bay area in Alaska.

A newly released internal email from Entergy Corp. shows the company engaged in efforts to reverse flagging public support in Vermont in the weeks before and after a state Senate vote last year to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, The Burlington Free Press reported.  The documents came to light in a federal trial in which Entergy is challenging Vermont’s order to shutter the plant when its initial 40-year license expires next March.

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