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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Solar Zones, Ozone Hearing, Carbon Tax

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Thursday announced a revised plan to establish solar energy zones in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, Reuters reported. The revised plan reduces the total acreage of solar siting zones to 285,000 acres from 677,000 acres, but provides new financial incentives to companies.

In Interior Department news, a day after Salazar announced plans to merge the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement into the larger Bureau of Land Management, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the department’s coal mining overhaul can not legally go forward without congressional approval.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, on Thursday urged fellow Democrats on the panel to follow through on their promise to hold a hearing on President Obama’s decision to kill an EPA rule that would strengthen national ozone standards. Inhofe said that Obama acknowledged “the obvious” fact that the EPA was undermining job creation, but welcomed the hearing that he admitted would pit Democrats against the president and EPA.

Exelon Corp. on Thursday pressed the EPA to issue a final Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and move forward on other delayed measures, breaking from most of the energy industry and Republican Party who have been aggressive in voicing their opposition, Reuters reported. The nuclear producer said quick implementation of the rules would be cheaper than subsidizing some renewable power technologies.

Although it has virtually no chance of passage, nine liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives have introduced legislation to impose a carbon tax on fossil-fuel producers and importers, The Hill reported. The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., said the measure would trim the ballooning U.S. deficit by a half-trillion dollars.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will testify on November 17 before the House panel investigating the department’s $535 loan guarantee to failed solar firm, Solyndra, Reuters reported. Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee have been clamoring to question the secretary.

The U.S. will try to negotiate with China and other Asia-Pacific countries toward a deal to eliminate barriers in trade in environmental goods and services at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next week, Reuters reported. A trade diplomat said China would resist, as the country prefers to discuss a tariff reduction deal with the World Trade Organization.

Kuwait has set a goal to receive 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, the most ambitious target in the Gulf region, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Kuwait, though rich in oil, is facing 8 percent growth in electricity demand each year.

It may be a little longer until New York issues permits for natural gas drilling using the controversial hydraulic fracturing method, The New York Times reported. An advisory panel  is delaying its recommendations on how state agencies, like health and transportation, will be able to free up budget space to enforce drilling regulations.

As expected, Germany’s solar feed-in tariffs will be reduced by 15 percent in 2012, Reuters reported. Installations in the past year have reached 5,2000 MW, above the target needed to trigger the cuts.

The British government will reduce subsidies for biomass for heating, to 1 percent from 2.7 percent per KWh, Reuters reported. The move follows pressure from the European Commission, which said the subsidy was too high.

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