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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Dealers Fight Fuel Rules, Utility MACT Rule, Fracking Disclosure

Auto dealers are fighting the Obama administration’s tough new fuel economy standards, taking the place of car companies that agreed to adopt an average efficiency target of 54 miles per gallon by 2025 after years of resistance, Reuters reported. Dealers are backing a Republican-sponsored bill in the House of Representatives that would bar the EPA and the state of California from establishing national mileage standards and also considering a lawsuit.

Five Republican presidential candidates offered very different responses at an Iowa forum on whether the government should give tax breaks for energy production, The Hill reported. Rick Santorum said he has opposed ethanol tax credits his entire career. Rick Perry said: “Government needs to get completely out of the energy business . . . and in exchange, you get rid of all those regulations,” while Newt Gingrich said government involvement in funding research and production of renewable energy was “immensely important.”

The EPA announced that it has granted a petition from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to limit sulfur dioxide emissions from a Pennsylvania power plant that it says are harming air quality. The agency said it will require the Portland Generating Station (pictured left) in Northampton County, Pa., one of the oldest and least modernized in the state, to cut its emissions within three years.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking member on the Committee on Environment and Public Works, is urging the EPA to investigate if its regulators complied with the Data Quality Act while writing the so-called Utility MACT rule. The senator said an EPA Office of Inspector General report found that the agency did follow the law or its own peer review procedures in justifying the endangerment finding that supports the rule – a finding that greenhouse gases harm public health and welfare.

The Interior Department will extend the terms of more than 1,400 oil and gas leases in Gulf of Mexico that were affected by the moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed after the BP spill, The Hill reported. The department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement completed its review of 1,413 requests for lease extensions and approved 98 percent.

Colorado oil and gas regulators has started the process for adopting rules mandating public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, The Associated Press reported. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has scheduled a rulemaking hearing for Dec. 5.

Solar Century, the United Kingdom’s largest independent solar company, warned on Tuesday that the government’s plan to dramatically slash subsidies to the industry will cause a slew of bankruptcies, Reuters reported. This week, the energy ministry proposed to cut in half the support for small-scale rooftop generation of solar power.

The EPA announced that is has asked the City of Joplin, Mo., to apply for funding to sample soil and remediate lead contamination at properties destroyed in the May tornado. Preliminary testing by Jasper County has found elevated levels of lead at 19 of 43 properties sampled since the tornado.

President Obama strongly implied on Tuesday that he will make the final decision on approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, The Hill reported. In an interview with a Nebraska television station the president said that once the State Department finalizes its review, he will consider “what is best for the American people.”

Louisiana said Tuesday that the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will cause rolling blackouts in the state this summer, The Associated Press reported. State officials said Louisiana should not be included in the rule, but if it is, state power plants will not have time to improve controls or buy credits before energy demand spikes this summer.

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