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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Canada Drops Kyoto Protocol, Keystone Pipeline, Gulf Lease Sale, MATS

Canada is evoking its legal right to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, indicating that penalties as high as $14 billion for its failure to meet emissions targets played a role, the Environment Ministry said. The country’s environment minister said that Canada would continue to work with nations on the effort toward an agreement that includes targets for developing nations.

The White House formally stated Obama’s intention to veto legislation that would force his administration to speed up a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, reports the Vancouver Sun. The House passed the measure, on a 234-193 vote, CNN said. The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying that the bill’s arbitrary deadline would make the department unable to make a determination about the project’s permit, Reuters reports.

In New Orleans today the Department of the Interior is holding a major oil and gas lease sale covering more than 21 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico that are currently not leased. Today’s lease sale could result in the production of 222 to 423 million barrels of oil and 1.49 to 2.65 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In the last two years, oil production from the federal outer continental shelf has increased by more than a third, from 446 million barrels in 2008 to about 600 million barrels in 2010, the White House said.

U.S. environmental groups filed a lawsuit challenging the Interior Department’s offshore oil and gas lease sale, the first such sale in the Gulf since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, saying the department has not done enough to prevent another disaster and continues to rely on assumptions that failed in the case of BP spill, Reuters reports.

Senate Republicans plan to introduce a bill to give power plants more time to comply with the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), set to be finalized Dec. 16, saying that the EPA and the FERC haven’t taken enough steps to ensure the rule wouldn’t cause electric reliability problems, Bloomberg reports. Numerous regional power-grid authorities have proposed that a so-called safety valve be inserted into the final regulations.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold a hearing Thursday, Dec. 15, addressing customer matters, reliability, security and market operations. The meeting is at 10am, in Room 2C at FERC Headquarters, 888 First St. N.E., Washington, D.C. A live webcast is available.

The light bulb efficiency standards, part of a 2007 energy law, is one of several issues preventing lawmakers from coming to a deal on $1 trillion omnibus spending legislation, The Hill reports. The House in July approved an amendment to prohibit the use of funds in a 2012 spending bill from being used to implement the standards, and now seeks to repeal the standards.

The House of Representatives has passed POWER Act, H.R.2360 – the Providing for Our Workforce and Energy Resources Act to make clear that offshore wind farms must comply with the same laws governing offshore oil and gas production. The act amends the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to include installations attached to the seabed of the OCS that may be erected to produce or support production of energy from sources other than oil and gas, as well as to any installation or device (other than a ship or vessel) for transmitting such energy.

The Department of Energy released $7 million to fund four projects to advance hydrogen storage technologies to be used in fuel cell electric vehicles. The 3-year projects in California, Washington, and Oregon aim to lower the costs and increase the performance of hydrogen storage systems by developing innovative materials and advanced tanks for efficient and safe transportation, the DOE said.

Starting in April, energy companies in Colorado will have to disclose the concentrations of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, said the Salt Lake City Tribune. Regulators also said that some information about chemicals considered trade secrets will also have to be disclosed, and drillers will have to give 48 hours’ notice prior to use of the chemicals.

In Texas, the Texas Railroad Commission approved a rule requiring oil and natural gas drillers to disclose most of the chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing. Taking effect in February, the rules will require companies to disclose water use, but they do not have to list chemicals deemed trade secrets unless the Texas attorney general or a court determines otherwise, Bloomberg reports.

Tennessee construction company, Wright Brothers Construction and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) have agreed to pay a $1.5 million penalty and spend more than $1.3 million to offset environmental damages to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the EPA said. It is one of the largest civil penalties associated with the Clean Water Act.

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