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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Fuel Standard Delay, Wind Project Scuttled, DOE Policy Shift Proposed

The EPA and Transport Department are delaying new fuel efficiency standards until mid-November, saying they had to process a high volume of comments and complete technical work. The rules for cars and light trucks were announced in July, and are scheduled to phase in beginning in 2017, eventually rising to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. They were supposed to be issued this week, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A Department of Energy report has recommended that the DOE shift emphasis from renewable electrical power to transportation, the New York Times reports. The Report on the First Quadrennial Technology Review said the government is not investing enough in transportation energy, and warned that the country’s reliance on oil is not only an environmental concern but a threat to economic and national security.

The state-owned New York Power Authority said on Tuesday that it will not go forward with a proposal to build a 150-MW offshore wind project in Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, Reuters reported. The authority said it would not make sense in the weak economy to provide an annual subsidy of between $60 million and $100 to support the project.  However, the authority said it will continue working with Consolidated Edison and state-owned Long Island Power Authority to develop a 350 to 700 MW offshore project.

A coalition of composite manufacturers is calling a recent Department of Health and Human Service ruling listing styrene in its Report on Carcinogens “ill-founded and irresponsible.”  The coalition announced that it wrote a letter to William Daley, the White House chief of staff, requesting a National Academy of Sciences review of the ruling.

In the latest development in the unfolding scandal over the Energy Department’s $535 million loan guarantee to the failed solar company, Solyndra, a bankruptcy judge in Delaware approved a quick-sale auction of the company that some creditors criticized as “rushed.”  The judge scheduled an auction for Oct. 27, according to a report in Reuters, and ordered company executives to attend a major trade show next month to find a buyer.

Responding to the backlash over the failed loan to Solyndra, the Energy Department’s top adviser to the loan programs office defended the embattled program, saying such government investments spur tepid Wall Street investment in new technology, The Hill reported Peter O’Rourke told the Washington Energy Summit that nuclear plants in the U.S. would never have been built without a similar loan program. The left-leaning think tank, The Brookings Institute, echoed his comments, writing in a Web blog post that despite the Solyndra loan, the department’s renewables loan guarantee program will result in “low costs and large gains for taxpayers — just like many other federal lending efforts.”

California’s treasurer is asking his fellow members of the Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority to suspend a program that doles out sales tax exemptions to renewable-energy manufacturing firms in the state, The Los Angeles Times reported.  Bill Lockyer said that “in light of recent events” involving the U.S. government loan to Solyndra, the program should be revamped or ended.

The U.S. said it will press China and other Asian nations to reduce tariffs and other barriers to trade in renewable energy goods, like wind turbines and solar panels in advance of an upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group summit in Honolulu, Reuters reported.

The EPA, for the second time this year, has fined Texas Petroleum Investment Company of Houston, Texas, for alleged violations of the federal Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure regulations in the Clean Water Act.  After an inspection of the company’s oil production facility in Cameron Parish, La., the EPA imposed a fine of $134,895.  In August, the EPA announced the company had been fined $163,487 for alleged Clean Water Act violations found at several oil production facilities.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is blocking a bipartisan bill aimed at strengthening safety standards for maintenance of oil and natural-gas pipelines, The Hill reported.  Paul argued that the bill would create a burdensome new layer of regulation, even though there have been a number of recent pipeline accidents, including a California explosion last year that killed eight people.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is calling on President Obama to kill the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which would require power plants to reduce smog and particulate emissions that blow across state lines, The Hill reported.  The Texas governor wrote in a latter that the rule “will have an immediate and devastating effect on Texas jobs, our economy, and our ability to supply the electricity our citizens, schools and employers need.”  Perry has already sued the EPA in federal court to block the rule.

Hearings before the state engineer have begun in Nevada to discuss a controversial plan by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump billions of gallons of water from remote Colorado River valleys into Las Vegas, The Associated Press reported.  This week, critics of the proposal said the authority’s own data used to justify the 300-mile, $3.5 billion pipeline, predicts an economic and environmental catastrophe for farmers and communities in the region.

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