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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: New Source CO2 Standards, Gulf Drilling, Romney Energy Plan

The EPA said Tuesday that it will write carbon dioxide emissions standards for new power plants for the first time, The Los Angeles Times reported. The new rule, the “Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standard for Electric Utility Steam Generating Units,” follows the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 ruling which said the agency had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Environmentalists hailed the EPA’s decision to move ahead with carbon regulations despite an intransigent Congress, while industry and conservatives were furious. A Heritage Foundation analyst said that once again the Obama administration is relying on “unelected bureaucrats” to do “what Congress was elected to do.” A spokeswoman for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has spent the year pushing a raft of legislation to curtail the EPA’s authority, said the committee will review the rules to ensure the regulations will not “destroy jobs or driv[e] up electricity prices for families and job creators.”

The Interior Department released a five-year offshore oil and gas drilling plan on Tuesday, which Secretary Ken Salazar said will return to a policy of “robust” drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, while delaying approvals for drilling in the Arctic, Reuters reported. Less two years out from the historically devastating BP oil spill in the Gulf, the Outer Continental Shelf leasing plan allows 12 lease sales there, but only three off the coast of Alaska, and no Arctic drilling approvals until further studies are completed on spill responses. Despite the attempt to split the difference, the plan was roundly panned by both Republicans and environmental groups on Tuesday, The Hill reported. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., (pictured left) chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, criticized the lack of lease sales for Atlantic or Pacific Coast waters despite the expiry of a moratorium there. But, Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said it was a mistake to expand drilling without taking steps “to effectively police an industry that so desperately needs it.”

The U.S. pushed corporate tax cuts and reduced regulatory burdens as it unveiled its “green growth” agenda for this weekend’s annual summit meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, Reuters reported. Specifically, the White House will push China to cut tariffs to 5 percent on environmental goods such as solar panels, wind and hydraulic turbines, but will likely face staunch resistance.

The State Department’s inspector general will conduct an investigation into any impropriety that may have occurred during the State Department’s favorable review of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, The New York Times reported. Following a series of reports and strong criticism from environmentalists, the inspector general will look at lobbying ties between TransCanada and former staffers of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and whether a consultant working on the environmental impact statement had too cozy a financial relationship with TransCanada.

The White House said Tuesday that it will veto a resolution in the Senate seeking to block the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution rule, The Hill reported. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will force another vote in the Senate to spike the measure limiting toxic power plant emissions that cross state lines. A similar measure has already passed the House of Representatives.

The times have changed for the Republicans’ relationship with the Clean Air Act. The law, first signed by President Nixon, was extended in 1990 at the behest of President George H.W. Bush and his EPA chief, William Reilly. On Tuesday, The Hill reported that Reilly said a series of Republican bills that would dramatically scale back the law were “demagogic assaults” and threaten the GOP’s “admirable record on environmental issues going back to Teddy Roosevelt.”

But count Mitt Romney as an opponent of the Clean Air Act. The former Massachusetts governor and front runner to win the Republican presidential nomination released an energy plan on Tuesday that would ramp up fossil fuel production, amend the Clean Air Act to require cost-benefit analysis before national air standards are set, bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases and end all subsidies for wind and solar production.

Gov. Chris Christie said New Jersey will not join several other northeastern states that are intervening in a lawsuit to defend the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution rule, The Newark Star-Ledger reported. Nonetheless, the Republican governor said he would continue to sue individual power plants in Pennsylvania and other neighboring states that emit pollutants across state lines, a position that critics said is intended to make it “seem like he supports clean air when he is doing the opposite.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Tuesday that an inspector general report showing missteps in the Energy Department’s management of stimulus funds showed that “efforts to play venture capitalist with stimulus funds have resulted in enormous waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars.”

The EPA announced that it has approved the State of Illinois’ revised water quality standards for five segments of the Chicago and Calumet Rivers. The agency says the standards will upgrade cleanup of sewage and increase health and recreation opportunities.

As Australia moves to spend more than A$13 billion on two new government agencies that will invest in large solar power stations and other fledgling renewables, Reuters reports that wind farm developers predict hard times will blow in for their industry since wind technology is cheaper, more mature and in need of less support.

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