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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: CSAPR, Mass. Solar Panel Tax, London Low Emission Zone

A federal appeals court in Washington approved the request of more than a dozen electric power companies, municipal power plant operators and states to delay the EPA Cross-State Air Pollution rule set to go into effect January 1, which aimed to reduce power plant pollution in 27 states. The court is asking that oral arguments take place by April 2012, the Associated Press reports.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of private property owners’ challenge to an EPA administrative compliance order after the property owners filled in wetlands with rock and dirt in order to build a house. Major business interests, including General Electric co., have joined the property owners in urging the court to make it easier to contest EPA compliance orders issued under several environmental laws. Arguments are set for Jan. 9, the Associated Press reports.

Massachusetts regional assessors in MetroWest towns are reviewing factors that will determine the appropriate tax rate for solar panels, including the value of solar renewable energy credits (SREC) purchased by utility companies. Another factor to consider is that the more efficient systems usually sell energy back to the grid, disqualifying them from a Massachusetts law that exempts solar panels from tax for 20 years. Solar companies are already shopping for tax-free communities, writes the Milford Daily News.

The Missouri Energy Development Association (MEDA) will propose renewable energy legislation during the next session of the Missouri Legislature this month, reviewing a range of options including a rate increase to households and small businesses as high as 10 percent or capped at a one-percent increase to all customers, MEDA said.

Illinois residents as of Jan. 1, 2012, are banned from disposing of electronics waste into the residential waste stream, and trash haulers may not pick these items up. The new ban extends a 2008 state law that required manufacturers to set up recycling programs for their electronic products, and it includes fines for violators as well as restrictions on any charges to consumers at recycling points for e-waste, writes the Associated Press.

Under a new New York State law effective from Jan. 1, 2012, private and public haulers are prohibited from collecting electronic waste, unless it is designated for recycling. The law also requires haulers and waste facility operators to educate customers about options for recycling electronics, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Missouri’s and more than a dozen other states’ highway departments could lose 5 percent of their federal highway funds, or about $30 million in Missouri, as a penalty for not adopting new safety requirements for commercial truck drivers. A Jan. 30 deadline requires state licensing offices to verify that interstate truck drivers have proof from a medical professional that they are healthy enough to drive, USA Today said.

The City of South Bend, Indiana, has agreed to make an estimated $510 million worth of improvements to its combined sewer system to reduce overflows of sewage to the St. Joseph River, a tributary of Lake Michigan. The settlement follows allegations from the United States Attorney’s Office and the EPA that the South Bend’s Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) violated the Clean Water Act because they exceeded limitations and conditions in the city’s pollution discharge permits, the EPA said.

The EPA and the DOJ have reached a settlement with Essroc Cement Company with the company agreeing to pay a $1.7 million penalty and invest approximately $33 million in pollution control technology to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at six of its Portland Cement manufacturing plants. The company will also demonstrate a selective catalytic reduction system (SCR) at two long wet kilns in an Indiana plant. The arrangement is expected to reduce NOx and SO2 emissions by more than 7,000 tons each year, the EPA said.

A maritime court in Tianjin, China, accepted a case of compensation claims from aquaculture farmers against the China unit of ConocoPhillips. More than 100 fishermen filed the lawsuit seeking about $78 million in compensation for dead clams they said were killed by a spill from an oilfield operated by ConocoPhillips, Reuters reports.

London’s Low Emission Zone has expanded to include large vans and minibuses that are more than ten years old, and if emissions are not at EU standards, owners face a fine of about $150 per day. The new restrictions effective yesterday also apply fines to large vehicles – trucks, buses and coaches – of about $300 per day if emissions are not at EU standards, the BBC reports.

In Plymouth, England, vehicle emissions restrictions come into effect January 10 requiring cabs and private hire cars licensed after April 1, 2010, to be compliant to Euro 3 emissions standards, with new taxi vehicles licensed after April 2012 to be compliant with Euro 4 standards. Some vehicles may use a conversion kit estimated to cost about $3,000 to meet the emissions standard, according to ThisIsPlymouth.com.

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