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Policy & Enforcement: EU 2020 Targets, Japan Nuclear Safety, Light-Duty Vehicle Emissions

A European Commission analysis said that raising the EU’s 2020 emission reduction target to 30 percent may be less costly than previously reported. The cost of going to 30 percent, previously estimated at about $42 billion, is likely lower due to the economic downturn and resulting lower emissions, and costs for richer and poorer EU nations could be addressed with adjustments to the supply of carbon allowances on the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), Reuters said.

In Japan, a group of protesters delayed a hearing evaluating the nation’s nuclear reactors at the trade ministry, demanding more access to the deliberations and questioned the impartiality of the presenters – Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). NISA reported that the two reactors from Fukui prefecture’s Ohi nuclear power plant had passed stress tests similar to the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima plant, Reuters said.

A law professor who is also an ex-Canadian MP is challenging the legality of Canada’s announcement to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol without first consulting Parliament. The suit is based on the premise that the ruling party has acted without the consent of Parliament and with disregard for legislation that brought Canada into the protocol, writes The Globe and Mail.

U.S. business groups including the American Petroleum Institute and National Association of Manufacturers were critical of President Obama’s decision to reject a construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. The negative reaction included a range of comments about the nation’s energy security, the impact of jobs creation, and results of earlier environmental reviews, writes Industry Week.

The National Automobile Dealers Association was one of few dissenters at a public comment forum in Detroit on the proposed Light-Duty Vehicle Emission and CAFE standards, voicing concerns that the consumer demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles ten years forward was difficult to predict. The Obama administration this month extended the public comment period for the proposal till Feb. 13, writes the New York Times.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a bill to allow so-called domestic alternative fuels to compete alongside the corn ethanol for a U.S. renewable fuels mandate. The bill would make coal and natural gas-based ethanol eligible for renewable-fuel targets set out in the Renewable Fuel Standard program, writes Bloomberg.

Duke Energy will phase out more than 1600 MW of old coal-fired power plants in the Carolinas in a settlement with environmental groups that had challenged the air pollution permit for construction and operation of a new coal-fired unit at Duke Energy’s Cliffside power plant near Shelby, N.C. The Southern Environmental Law Center negotiated the settlement on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Environmental Defense Fund said.

In Seattle, a petition drive to gather signatures to put to vote the recently-enacted plastic bag ban has failed, and the ban will go in effect on July 1. The petition gathered about 3,000 signatures – well below the 16,500 needed for a referendum, writes Waste & Recycling News.

Oregon’s legislature will consider a proposal to limit the amount of mercury in household CFLs sold in the state to 3.5 milligrams, and also limit mercury levels in linear fluorescent bulbs. The proposed mercury caps are not a difficult target for bulb manufacturers who are in compliance with strict European standards, writes Oregon Live.

Patriot Coal said it will pay $7.5 million in civil penalties to the federal government and the West Virginia Land Trust to resolve claims related to a consent decree it signed with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Inc, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Inc and the Sierra Club. The consent decree resolves claims under the Clean Water Act relating to the company’s mining activities in West Virginia and levels of selenium on its properties, Reuters reports.

The EPA has reached a settlement with Naval Base Kitsap Bangor related to alleged links from pipes and underground fuel storage tanks in Silverdale, Wash., in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which protects groundwater. The Navy will pay about $161,000 in fines, the EPA said.

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