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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Airline Emissions Squabble, Wind Sector Grows, Air Toxics Rule

The House of Representatives has voted to shield U.S. passenger and cargo airlines from a European Union law that would make global carriers pay for their carbon emissions, Reuters reported. The bipartisan vote, coupled with President Obama’s opposition to European carbon fees, could force the Senate into action on the House measure.

Driven by more than $20 billion from private investors capitalizing on renewable energy tax credits, the U.S. wind industry installed a little more than 1,200 MW of power in the third quarter, which brings the yearly total to about 3,360 MW, Reuters reported. The American Wind Energy Association says there currently is more 8,400 MW under construction.

Two New Jersey representatives have introduced legislation to to provide a 30% tax credit on investment in the first 3,000 MW of offshore wind, North American Wind Power reported. Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J. (pictured left), and Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., said their bill would give a company five years to install a wind facility once they received the credit.

The White Office of Management and Budget has begun its review of the EPA’s proposed air toxics rules for coal-fired power plants, The Hill reported. This week, the EPA sent OMB a report on the scientific and legal basis for the upcoming regulations to control mercury and other toxics, even though the House of Representatives passed a bill last month that would force the agency to delay the rule for several years.

Three environmental groups sued the Department of State on Tuesday challenging the agency’s environmental impact statement which found that the Keystone XL pipeline posed little risk, Reuters reported. The suit, in U.S. District Court in Nebraska, claims that the agency contradicted its own environmental assessment, which said some oil spills were likely.

The House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of a bill Tuesday that would require Congress to ratify agency regulations that cost more than $100 million or cause “a major increase in costs or prices,” The Houston Chronicle reported. Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said the measure is needed as a check on “unaccountable agency officials” who harm the competitiveness of the American economy.

The EPA said Tuesday that a Republican-backed bill in the House to prevent the agency from regulating dust from farms and dirt roads is creating a phantom issue that has never been on the agency’s radar, The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported. The EPA’s top air regulator, Regina McCarthy, said that the proposal is so broadly written that it could force the agency to curtail rules on emissions from power plants, mines and other sources of fine particles.

In South America, renewable energy projects have been slow to get off the ground and grossly overshadowed by the continent’s vast exploration for oil and gas, according to an analysis by The International Herald Tribune. Despite large gains for renewables in Europe and the U.S., the Brazilian energy giant Petrobras has steered projects toward offshore oil and gas, while Colombia and Argentina are exploiting new oil finds and Venezuela shows no signs of diversifying its energy portfolio.

The United Kingdom and Norway inked an energy pact on Tuesday that will include sharing of carbon capture and storage technologies, Reuters reported. Even though the U.K abandoned a major carbon capture project last week, the countries pledged to work together to further develop that and other renewable technologies, and agreed that British consumers will continue buying Norwegian gas into the next decade.

New Mexico’s largest utility is petitioning the EPA to reconsider its decision to force a cut in emissions at the San Juan Generating Station, an aging coal-fired power plant in the Four Corners, The Associated Press reported. Public Service Co. of New Mexico said the EPA failed to consider a rival plan from the state’s Department of Environment that would have achieved the same haze reductions.

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