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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: COP 17-Durban, EU Aviation Regulation, Boiler MACT, Clean Air Act

Durban: The draft plan for the United Nations Green Climate Fund – a financing system that would deliver $100 billion a year in aid to developing nations to fight climate change – faces an uphill battle after envoys from the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Venezuela voiced concerns about the document. According to Bloomberg, governance of the fund, resources for lost oil revenue and contribution expectations from some developing nations were among the points of contention.

Durban: The Europe bloc wants other major economies, for example, China and India, to make ambitious commitments – with international legally binding status, not just national plans – to emissions cuts before supporting a global climate treaty. According to The Guardian, the EU had been the last hope for a large developed country to support the Kyoto protocol, as Japan, Russia and Canada have abandoned the accord, and the US will not join.

Durban: Leading environmental groups sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State critical of the U.S. approach to Durban negotiations. Jonathan Pershing, the U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change, has said that voluntary cuts agreed to in Cancun were sufficient until 2020. The groups say that the U.S. refusal to negotiate toward legally-binding carbon emissions is a major obstacle, writes The Telegraph.

Britain will beat its 2020 emissions-cutting target of 34 percent and could potentially cut energy use per person in half by 2050 if an optimized strategy for energy mix and use of technology is followed. The country’s newly released Carbon Plan would include a mix with 33 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear, 45 GW of renewables and 28 GW of fossil fuels, Reuters said.

The International Civil Aviation Organization may establish a global carbon market for the airline industry as part of a deal to comply with the EU’s controversial cap-and-trade regulation for any flight within EU airspace. Other emission-reduction options of the plan – which would have to be ratified by the group’s 190 members – include the use of biofuels, standards to cut aircraft fuel use and more efficient flight paths.

The EPA is expected to move forward with Boiler MACT, issuing the proposal for public comment today, Reuters reports. The rule aims to cut emissions of mercury, soot and lead from boilers and incinerators, and the proposal has been delayed repeatedly by opposition from heavy industry and some members of Congress because of costs and job loss.

The EPA has issued two draft vessel general permits, the Vessel General Permit and the Small Vessel General Permit, that would regulate discharges from commercial vessels, but excluding military and recreational vessels. The proposed permits aim to protect the environment from ship-borne pollutants and reduce the risk of introduction of invasive species from ballast water discharges.

New Mexico utility PNM has asked a federal appeals court to suspend the requirements of the EPA’s Visibility Rule — a measure that requires the company to begin installation of costly SRC equipment at its coal-fired San Juan Generating Station. PNM is appealing the EPA’s decision to regulate haze altogether, and does not want to incur an estimated $246 million in costs through 2013 while the appeal is in the courts, the company said.

A team of scientists have used the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite to confirm major reductions in the levels of sulfur dioxide generated by coal power plants in the eastern United States. The scientists attribute the decline to the Clean Air Interstate Rule passed in 2005, saying that the sulfur dioxide levels in the vicinity of the plants have been roughly cut in half since then.

Oregon-based construction equipment manufacturer Johnson Crushers International has agreed to pay a $147,788 fine for Clean Air Act violations, and $27,212 in unpaid permit fees as part of a settlement with the EPA. The EPA claims that the company emitted excessive amounts of xylene, in violation of limits set by the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants between 2004 and 2009.

Alaskan native and conservation groups with environment law firm Earthjustice have challenged the EPA on an air permit given to a Shell Oil drilling vessel, the Kulluk, for summer drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Shell canceled drilling in Arctic in 2011, in part due to a successful appeal of air permits, Business Week said.

U.S. conservation group the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal challenge today over what they call Canada’s failure to protect polar bears under its Species At Risk Act. The challenge was filed with NAFTA’s Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an entity that monitors the three signatory countries’ compliance with their own environmental laws. The challenge relates to a recent status report in which Canada designated the bears as a “species of special concern,” a move that withholds meaningful protections for the bear, the group says.

U.S. battery maker Johnson Controls says a review by the China Electric Equipment Industry Association shows that a nearby recycling facility – not its battery factory – is responsible for high levels of lead and severe lead poisoning discovered in children earlier this year. According to the Associated Press, the Shanghai Environment Bureau says this investigation was not independent, and the bureau will do another test.

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