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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Another EPA Rule Eased, Veto Threat, PA Shale Fees

The EPA will ease emissions restrictions on 27 states in its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the latest retreat for the agency under fire from industry and congressional Republicans, The Wall Street Journal reported.  The agency will propose a “technical adjustment” to the final rule, which will take effect in January, to allow power plants to emit more nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide than previously permitted.

Ameren Corp. said Tuesday that it will shutter two power plants in Illinois by the end of the year, blaming the cost of new EPA pollution rules, The Associated Press reported.  The utility will seek to reassign workers from the plants in Meredosia and Hutsonville.

The White House has threatened to veto two bills in the House of Representatives that would delay EPA regulations to reduce emissions from industrial boilers, solid waste incinerators and cement plants, The Hill reported.  Last month, President Obama promised he would veto a House bill to impose new restrictions on the agency and delay the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and a rule limiting mercury emissions from power plants.

The Energy Department is pressing to speed up permitting and construction of pilot projects to build seven electric transmission lines in 12 states, The Associated Press reported.  The Obama administration said the proposed lines in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Wisconsin will create jobs and modernize the nation’s power grid.

As budget battles loom across the U.S. and Europe, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday that worldwide subsidies for fossil fuels will reach $660 billion by 2020 unless countries adopt reforms to eliminate or transfer such aid to renewable sources, Reuters reported.  The energy watchdog estimated that countries paid $409 billion in subsidies in 2010, compared to $312 billion in 2009. Oil products had the largest subsidies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called for cuts to solar subsidies because the energy source is not on track to become commercially viable in the cloudy country, Reuters reported.  She said that while wind energy is enjoying financial success in Germany, it would make more sense in the future to draw solar energy from sunnier places like Greece.

Denmark’s new center-left government has adopted a plan to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, Reuters reported.  The plan calls for increased production from renewable sources.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed a new $160,000 impact fee on each new natural gas well to improve infrastructure and promote alternative fuel vehicles, Reuters reported.  The governor, who also championed new rules to protect private water wells, said the fees could net $200 million in six years.

The U.S. likely will fail to reach its mandate for making 16 billion gallons of ethanol-equivalent cellulosic biofuels from trees, grasses and crop waste by 2022, according to a National Research Council study, Reuters reported.  The study said producers are not finding new innovations and that the mandate may be an ineffective policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Canadian Parliament’s environmental watchdog reported that the country is wasting billions of dollars on failing climate change programs and could miss its already reduced 2020 target for greenhouse gas emission cuts, Reuters reported.  The report said the government’s climate change plan in 2010 spent $8.8 billion on 35 disjointed programs.

Federal prosecutors have charged a Maryland businessman with selling $9 million in fraudulent renewable energy credits to brokers and oil firms through his company, Clean Green Fuel, LLC, The Perry Hall Patch reported.  Rodney R. Hailey has not yet been arrested, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

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