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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Marine Protection, Clean Water Act, NYC Recycling, Keystone XL

The Obama administration announced an ocean-protection strategy that outlines steps for federal agencies to meet the goals of a 2010 executive order. Elements of the plan include improved oil-spill response capabilities in the Arctic; an assessment of various regions to effects of climate change, including sea-level rise; improved management of ocean ecosystems; increased reliance on science and data; and increased collaboration with stakeholders and agencies, The Hill reports.

Keoje Marine Co. and two engineers from the fuel-carrying vessel M/T Keoje Tiger, pleaded guilty in Honolulu federal court, with Keoje Marine sentenced to pay a $1.15 million criminal penalty for violations of the Clean Water Act. Keoje Marine owned and operated the oil tanker, according to the plea agreement, and knowingly bypassed pollution control equipment and dumped oily bilge waste into waters off of Hawaii, writes the Hawaii Reporter.

The California Fish and Game Commission has started enforcing no-fishing regulations on about 50 marine reserves in southern California that protect about 350 square miles of state waters. The areas entered into enforcement under the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 on Jan. 1, 2012, writes the New York Times.

The EPA and Eaton Corporation have reached an agreement related to trichloroethylene (TCE) found in groundwater at its Vehicle Group Plant and surrounding areas in Kearney, Neb. The TCE contamination at the plant was first detected in 1986, from leaks in underground storage tank lines. The EPA’s administrative order on consent requires Eaton to operate and maintain on-site and off-site groundwater extraction systems to contain the underground TCE plume, the EPA said.

Water and wastewater services company Middlesex Water filed with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) for a general increase in water rates of about 17 percent for its system in New Jersey, or $11.3 million over current revenues and about $22.75 per quarter in increases for a typical residential customer. The revenue would be directed toward upgrades in infrastructure, the company said.

In Fort Wayne, Indiana, the Board of Public Works has approved a proposal for a 40-percent rate increase for water over two years for residents in order to raise about $12 million for system maintenance. The City Council and Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission must also approve the plan, writes The Journal Gazette.

In New Jersey, older sewage services area standards will remain in effect for another two years, allowing builders and property owners time to complete so-called shovel-ready projects when economic conditions improve. A 2008 sewerage area boundaries plan had aimed to pull back future sewer lines from about 300,000 acres in the state, writes the Ashbury Park Press.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced a plan to  increase the amount of garbage diverted from landfills over the next five years. Targets include increasing from 15 percent to 30 percent the amount of residential and other waste diverted from landfills by 2017, expanding recycling to include all rigid plastics by the summer of 2013, and increasing the number of recycling receptacles in public spaces from 600 to 1,000 by 2014, the New York Times said.

The California Energy Commission is considering first-of-its-kind energy-efficiency standards for battery chargers that would affect most consumer products by February 2013. Environmentalists say that more energy-efficient battery chargers would reduce GHG emissions by 1.8 million tons annually, and the commission says that the measure would save California ratepayers more than $300 million in wasted electricity or about 2,200 Gigawatt hours a year, writes Silicon Valley’s Mercury News.

The EPA has reached a settlement with Chinese recreational vehicle manufacturers, Loncin, Longting USA, and Chongqing Longting Power Equipment Co., to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act related to the import of 7,115 uncertified recreational vehicles into the U.S. The companies agreed to a civil penalty of $680,000, and complete an emissions mitigation project, the EPA said.

Congressional Republicans are drafting contingency legislation that would allow Congress to approve the Keystone XL pipeline in case the White House does not approve it. The grounds for the legislation derive from past constitutional debate over whether authority for cross-border permits should rest with the executive branch (e.g., the State Department) or Congress, Reuters said.

Polish internal security agency ABW detained seven people suspected of bribery related to the granting of shale gas exploration licenses. Those detained include three Environment Ministry officials, one employee of the Polish Geological Institute and three businessmen representing companies holding licenses for shale gas exploration. According to a study, Poland may hold some 5.3 trillion cubic meters of recoverable gas, Reuters said.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will hold meetings around the country, from January 17 through Jan. 30, seeking input from stakeholders on the proposed consolidation of OSM within BLM. The meetings will include discussions on OSM’s status as an independent bureau with regulatory responsibilities under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

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