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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: More EPA Delays, Solar Trade Dispute, Chevron Fined

The EPA said it will delay proposing the country’s first-ever greenhouse gas limits on oil refineries, the latest setback for the agency that has struggled to fulfill its ambitious clean air agenda, Reuters reported. The EPA had been required to propose the rules by mid-December as part of a court settlement, but will now ask states and environmental groups to extend the timetable.

China on Tuesday released a complete plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions ahead of next month’s global climate talks in Durban, South Africa, The New York Times reported. The report also includes a rare acknowledgment of nongovernmental organizations, praising emissions reductions programs led by the World Wildlife Fund and the Energy Foundation, and said China will pressure developing countries to do more.

In other news from China, the country’s solar panel makers said they will shift production to South Korea, Taiwan and the U.S. hoping to a end major trade case against them by the U.S Commerce Department, The New York Times reported. However, at the same time, the Chinese industry will probably file a trade case of its own against American polysilicon manufacturers with China’s Commerce Ministry.

Chevron has been fined $28 million by Brazil after a 2,400 barrel oil spill in the country’s rich offshore fields off Rio de Janeiro, Reuters reported. The spill in the Frade offshore field, owned in partnership with Petrobras and a Japanese consortium, released 200 to 330 barrels per day at its height, far less than the 3,000-barrel-a-day BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The New York Times reports that the more fines could come, totaling $83 million, and Chevron executives could face criminal charges.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman signed two bills on Tuesday that direct TransCanada to reroute the delayed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline away from the ecologically sensitive Sandhills region and large Ogallala aquifer, Reuters reported. One bill puts into law a compromise between the company and the state to avoid the Sandhills, and another provides up to $2 million in state funding for a new environmental study.

Meanwhile, a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel will investigate President Obama’s decision to delay action on the pipeline until after the 2012 election, The Hill reported. Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said the Dec. 2 hearing will examine whether the decision was made for political reasons.

Africa has become a global leader for clean energy policies, as countries throughout the impovershed continent say drought and warming will turn millions into “food refugees,” Reuters reported. The head of the U.N. Environment Program said Kenya and other countries have shown more leadership on renewable energy projects than most industrialized nations.

Although Democrats pressed hard to end oil company tax breaks, the collapse of the so-called budget deficit “supercommittee” takes the tax incentives off the chopping block, The Hill reported. The Senate has voted several times on proposals to end the generous tax breaks, but has fallen several votes short of the 60 needed to break a GOP fillibuster.

The EPA on Tuesday announced a $60,000 settlement of a Clean Water Act case brought against Koehler-Bright Star Inc., a battery manufacturer in Hanover County, Pennsylvania. The agency alleged that the company exceeded discharge limits of pretreatment of wastewater.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division gave the final approval for a $2.1 billion, 850-megawatt coal-fired power plant, The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported. The agency re-issued the final air-quality permit for the plant near Sandersville, Ga., after the applicant, Power4Georgians, made changes required by an administrative law judge.

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