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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Calif. Cap and Trade, Final DOE Loans, UK Retrofit Push

The California Supreme Court has ruled that air-quality regulators may establish a cap-and-trade system of pollution credits, while the state appeals a lower court judge’s order to examine more stringent alternatives, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.   The Air Resources Board’s cap-and-trade regime comes in response to California’s global warming law, which requires the state to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020.  Some environmental groups support cap-and-trade, but others, like a coalition who won a ruling in May challenging the program, argue the approach will place more emissions in poor and minority communities.

The Energy Department has finalized more than $4.7 billion in loan guarantees for solar projects just before Friday’s statutory deadline, ending the controversial stimulus-law program to finance renewable energy projects, The Hill reported.  Weeks after congressional Republicans began assailing the program for the department’s $535 million loan to the failed California solar firm, Solyndra, the government finalized a $1.24 billion loan guarantee to SunPower Corp. for a California solar generating facility, a $646 million loan guarantee for First Solar to finance a thin film solar generation plant, also in California, and $1.46 billion in partial loan guarantees for two First Solar California solar generation plants.  Lastly, the department approved a $1.4 billion partial loan guarantee for Project Amp, a plan by Prologis to generate 752 megawatts of solar panels on 750 existing rooftops. As the program ends, controversy continues.  Now Representative Michael Burgess (R-Texas) is promising to investigate whether favoritism led a company tied to the brother-in-law of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to receive a $737 million loan guarantee before the deadline, Newsmax reported.  The loan went to Tonopah Solar Energy, a subsidiary of SolarReserve, to build Crescent Dunes, a massive solar-thermal plant in the Nevada.  One of SolarReserve’s major financial backers is the PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund, whose second-in-command is Ronald Pelosi. Meanwhile, another beneficiary of a loan guarantee from the program has run into financial trouble.  Nevada Geothermal Power, which received a loan of $79 million and at least $66 million in grants, encountered a series of technical missteps that threaten to exhaust the company’s cash reserves, The New York Times reported on Sunday.  Company executives said the government investment is not at risk.

The Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives has ramped up a probe of the Obama administration’s rules limiting emissions from cars and light trucks, The Washington Post reported.  In a letter to the EPA, committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) (pictured left) said a 2009 agreement between the administration and major car manufacturers to scale back the average of model year 2016 cars to 35.5 miles per gallon “led inexorably to the expansion of power exercised by EPA” and skirted congressional approval.

A group of 26 countries, including the United States, India and China, is pushing back against European Union plans to charge commercial airlines for carbon emissions, Reuters reported.  The countries issued  a joint declaration calling the new emissions charge “discriminatory” and in violation of global laws.  They will lodge a formal protest at the next meeting of the United Nations Civil Aviation Organization executive council.

European Union lawmakers have recommended including binding global targets on renewable energy and energy efficiency in the bloc’s negotiating position for next year’s Rio+20 sustainability summit, Scientific American reported.

A group of blue chip companies in the United Kingdom have inked a deal to establish a not-for-profit financial company to deliver billions of pounds in energy efficiency upgrades to 14 million homes and business, The Guardian reported.  Companies participating include British Gas, E.ON, retailer B&Q and the banks HSBC and Goldman Sachs.

The British government has withdrawn a £860m incentive plan to subsidize renewable heating systems just before the scheme was to go into effect, The Guardian reported.  The country’s Department of Energy and Climate Change insisted that the incentive was being delayed rather than abandoned, and blamed the European Commission’s lack of support for stalling the project.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sent a letter to Dominion Resources stating the requirements the company must adopt before it may restart the North Anna nuclear plant in Virginia, Reuters reported.  Reactors at the North Anna station in Virginia have been shut down since a 5.8 magnitude earthquake knocked them offline in August.

Springfield, Mo., has filed a lawsuit against the EPA to halt new federal storm water runoff regulations, OzarksFirst.com reported.  The EPA recently published rules limiting the total maximum daily load of pollutants into several area creeks, but the city said it cannot it cannot reach those targets.  Nearby Columbia, Mo., has filed a similar lawsuit.

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