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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Gulf Spill Penalties, Deepwater Wind, China Nuclear Push

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to postpone the EPA’s so-called boiler MACT rules that would regulate emissions from commercial and industrial boilers, The Hill reported. The vote was 275-142, with Republicans arguing the regulations would cost jobs and many Democrats saying the repeal would results in thousands of premature deaths and cases of child asthma.

The Interior Department has formally sent 15 notices to BP, Transocean and Halliburton that will penalize the companies for allegedly violating offshore drilling regulations in last year’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, The Hill reported. The notices allow a 60-day appeal period and Transocean already announced that it intends to appeal.  The maximum penalty is $35,000 per violation per day, which critics have said is far too low. Despite the sanctions, BP will not be blocked from bidding in the Interior Department’s Gulf of Mexico oil-and-gas lease sale in December, although regulators seriously considered the move, The Hill reported. Michael Bromwich, head of the department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, told lawmakers that BP should not receive “the death penalty” based solely on last year’s spill. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) countered that BP has long record of safety lapses across the country.

Deepwater Wind, the developer of a proposed $205 million, 30-megawatt Block Island offshore wind farm in the waters off Rhode Island, said the project is scheduled to be built in 2013 or 2014, Reuters reported. The project would be the first offshore wind farm in the country. Deepwater Wind said Rhode Island had decisive policies that allowed the project to leapfrog others, like Cape Wind off Massachusetts, that were scheduled to come online sooner.

The debt crisis in Europe has caused the benchmark contract for United Nations carbon credits to sink to a record low of 7.13 euros ($9.77) a tonne, Reuters reported. Carbon offsets, already the world’s worst performing commodity, have been hit especially hard because a U.N. climate panel continues to issue new offsets, despite an oversupply in emissions permits in the European Union’s trading scheme.

A bankruptcy court has approved the hiring of a restructuring chief to replace Brian Harrison, president of the failed solar firm Solyndra, who resigned last week, The New York Times reported. The new head, R. Todd Neilson, served as bankruptcy trustee for boxer Mike Tyson and others. In other Solyndra news, The Wall Street Journal reports that a major investor came close to helping the company land a lucrative solar deal with the U.S. Navy. RockPort Capital, one of the firm’s board members, has a seat on a Pentagon panel that helps the government find new technologies and promoted Solyndra.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry on Friday will unveil specifics of his plan to increase domestic oil and gas exploration, Reuters reported. The Texas governor says his plan will create 1.2 million jobs.

Despite most countries’ retreat from dependence on nuclear power in the wake of the radiation crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, China plans to build to more nuclear reactors than the rest of the world combined, The New York Times reported. Chinese regulators performed a safety review at all reactors under construction and declared them safe. The target is 50 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2015.

The EPA has announced that Houston-based Pelican Refining Company, LLC, pleaded guilty to felony violations of the Clean Air Act and to obstruction of justice charges in federal court. If the court agrees with the terms in the plea agreement, Pelican will pay $12 million in criminal penalties, including $2 million in payments for pollution monitoring, and be banned from refining until a court-appointed auditor approves the company’s environmental compliance plan.

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would allow the sale of certain incandescent bulbs within the state, despite the federal phase-out in favor of more efficient lighting, MichiganLive reported. Republicans in the chamber said consumers need more choice, while Democrats said the bill was a poor use of time.

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