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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Calif. Car Standards, Dam Removal, Gulf Lease Sale, Biorefinery Help

The California Air Resources Board has unanimously approved new emissions standards for cars and light trucks, for model years 2017 to 2025. The standard cuts greenhouse gas emissions to 166 grams per mile, which ARB says is 34 percent below predicted 2016 levels, and cuts smog-forming pollution by an extra 75 percent from 2014 levels.

An Interior Department decision on whether to remove four hydroelectric dams owned by PacifiCorp on the Klamath River, per the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) of 2010, is expected this spring, and the DOI has published a draft report summarizing two years of scientific and technical studies on the impact of dam removal. The public comment period on the Klamath Overview Report is open through February 5, 2012.

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has scheduled the consolidated Central Gulf of Mexico lease sale 216/222 in New Orleans for June 20, 2012. The proposed lease sale includes approximately 38 million acres located from three to about 230 miles offshore, in water depths ranging from three to 3,400 meters. The terms of sale include conditions to protect the environment, and the minimum bid for deepwater has increased to $100 per acre, up from $37.50. The region could produce 1 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the DOI said.

The House Natural Resources Committee will meet Wednesday to review three oil-and-gas development bills: one to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling; a second to require oil-and-gas leasing off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and remove restrictions in the eastern Gulf of Mexico; and a third to require commercial leasing for oil shale projects in Western states, The Hill reports.

Chevron Corp, Transocean Ltd, and local managers including the chief executive of Chevron’s Brazil unit, are expected to face criminal charges in the coming weeks in addition to the $11 billion civil lawsuit following the November offshore oil spill. Brazilian prosecutors are said to bring aggressive charges against alleged polluters to encourage offenders to settle cases, Reuters reports.

Delegates from 65 countries attending the United Nations Global Conference on Land-Ocean Connections (GLOC) in the Philippines have agreed to step up efforts to protect the world’s oceans from land-based activities. The Manila Declaration contains 16 provisions for actions over the period 2012 to 2016 at international, regional and local levels to develop policies to reduce and control wastewater, marine litter and pollution from fertilizers.

An EU-commissioned study has determined that the current EU law regulating shale gas exploration provides adequate protection of the environment, but may need changes once Europe enters the production phase. Member states control their own energy mix decision; for example, Bulgaria and France have banned shale gas activity for environmental concerns. But the EU can tighten existing laws or introduce new ones, Reuters said.

A report on Britain’s plan to tax carbon dioxide from power stations on top of EU emissions costs may harm industry and raise energy costs without helping the environment, according to the panel of lawmakers. The tax, effective for 2014, will raise about $1.1 billion in the first year, but it may also increase power imports from France and the Netherlands if U.K. energy prices are higher than the rest of Europe, Bloomberg said.

The USDA Biorefinery Assistance Program has approved a conditional commitment for a 60-percent loan guarantee of $232.5 million to ZeaChem Boardman Biorefinery. ZBB will operate a 25-million gallon per year biorefinery along the Columbia River expected to be operational by late 2014. About half of the output will be advanced biofuel, and the remainder will be biobased chemicals, such as acetic acid and ethyl acetate, the USDA said.

The Oregon Potato Company will pay a a $66,000 penalty to the EPA related to a 2009 release of about 300 pounds of anhydrous ammonia at their facility in Warden, Washington. The unintended chemical release was not immediately reported – violations of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), the EPA said.

CTS Corporation will conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) to evaluate soil and water contamination and associated health and environmental risks at the CTS of Asheville site in Asheville, NC. CTS Corporation manufactured electronic components and used chemical compound trichloroethene (TCE) at the facility until 1985, and in 1987 the 57-acre property was developed a 48-acre residential neighborhood, the EPA said.

Photo: KlamathRestoration.gov

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