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Policy and Enforcement Briefing: EPA Appropriations, Dark Days for Solar, Germany’s Renewable Boom

The Senate Appropriations Committee released a draft 2012 appropriations bill for the Interior Department and the EPA, The Hill reported. As expected, the $29.3 billion bill does not contain any of the controversial riders ending environmental regulations that are included in the companion appropriations measure in the House of Representatives. The bill cuts $200 million from current spending levels.

In the latest of dozens of measures to dramatically erode the EPA’s authority, the House of Representatives has passed a bill to block proposed national rules on coal ash and instead allow states to enforce federal ash standards, but not require them to do so, The Hill reported. The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act passed on a 267-144 vote.

It promises to be a down year for solar manufacturers, as Germany and Italy cut all-important subsidies for panel purchases and increased production of equipment has led to a glut in the marketplace, Reuters reportsPanel prices are down 35 percent in 2011, compared to 2010, and major producers have been beset by bankruptcies and plunging share prices.

White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said that there is no evidence in the 70,000 pages of administration documents released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the Energy Department’s $535 million loan guarantee to failed solar firm Solyndra was a favor to a top donor, The Hill reported.  She also rejected a request by committee Republicans for access to internal White House communications, including President Obama’s emails.

Solyndra is not the only government-backed solar firm in California to face mounting financial woes and increased scrutiny, The New York Times reports. San Jose based SoloPower, the recipient of a $197 million federal loan guarantee, produces solar panels from a mixture of copper, indium, gallium and selenium, the same blend that failed to compete with cheaper silicon-based manufacturers in the case of Solyndra. SoloPower has yet to turn a profit in six years.

Members from the Gulf Coast in the House of Representatives are working toward writing a bill that would allow 80 percent of the federal fines collected from the BP oil spill to go to affected states, The Haittiesburg American reported. Last month, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a similar bill to allow Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to share the money.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is urging the state to take enforcement action against Iowa Interstate Railroad after a derailment of freight cars filled with ethanol, The Associated Press reported. The agency wants the company to pay for cleanup and soil testing after the spill from the train that was shipping ethanol for Archer Daniels Midland Co.

There is a renewable energy “gold rush” on Germany’s impoverished North Shore, Reuters reports. The abandoned shipyards in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern region are being replaced by wind turbines and photovoltaic and biomass plants that have already created 6,000 jobs at 704 companies.

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