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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Climate Pact Setback, California Tailpipe Rules, Biofuel Support

The world’s richest countries have all but given up on a new climate treaty that would take effect this decade ahead of next month’s talks in Durban, South Africa, The Guardian reported. Government officials from the United Kingdom, European Union, Japan and the United States said any global climate agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol would not come into force until 2020.

Bill Gates wrote an op-ed in the journal Science urging the government to triple its annual investment in green energy to $16 billion. The Microsoft founder warned that the country is lagging behind China, France and Canada in the growing renewable energy economy.

The California Air Resources Board has posted a detailed summary of new rules for light-duty vehicles that will combine control of greenhouse gases and tailpipe criteria pollutants for model years 2015 through 2025, Green Car Congress reported. The new regulations will come as part of the state’s Zero Emission Vehicle program.

The U.S. military has quietly become a major ally on Capitol Hill for non-food-based biofuel producers, Reuters reported. The U.S. Navy, which plans to cut fossil fuel use in half by 2020, is promoting a Korean-War-era law that funds energy sectors “necessary for defense.”

The EPA has announced that a court sentenced Columbus Steel Castings Company, Inc., to pay an $825,000 fine and install new technology to prevent air pollution after the company pleaded guilty to six counts of violating the Clean Air Act. The EPA said the company failed to implement air pollution controls and did not report violations or perform required monitoring.

The city of Danbury, Conn., will pay a $30,000 fine and pay for a $48,000 upgrade at its wastewater collection plant to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations, the EPA said in a press release. The agency said an inspection found releases of untreated sewage.

Australia will soon pass a 30 percent mining profits tax after agreeing to more scrutiny of coal seam gas projects in a deal to win support from independent legislators, Reuters reported. The tax has upset the green coalition because part of the deal requires the government to lift the starting profits threshold for the tax from A$50 million to A$75 million.

A key House Republican urged the Energy Department to provide loan guarantees to a now-out-of-business Michigan solar company, The Hill reported. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who leads the Energy and Commerce Committee that has conducted a scathing review of the White House’s $535 million loan to failed solar firm, Solyndra, pressed Energy Secretary Steven Chu in 2009 for funding for United Solar Ovonics, a company that just laid off 140 workers at its two plants.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has written another letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, demanding answers on why he ordered a consolidation of the Office of Surface Mining within the Bureau of Land Management. She said the decision is not “legally valid or good public policy,” and would require require congressional action to amend the separate acts establishing the two agencies.

The Senate conducted a hearing on the Safe Chemicals Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., that would “modernize” the Toxic Substances Control Act to require more testing and proof of safety from manufacturers before chemicals can go to market. In a news release, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said: “[W]hile it is time to bring this 35 year old statute into the 21st Century, it is equally as important that we do it the right way without harming American innovation or shipping jobs overseas.”

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