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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: E15 Approved, Dioxin Exposure, Fracking Study, Utility MACT, Shell

The EPA approved ethanol fuel blend E15 for voluntary use in all autos and light trucks built since 2001 after completing testing of E15’s impact on engine durability and auto emissions systems, writes Ethanol Producer Magazine. According to the Environmental Working Group, major automakers have warned that millions of vehicle warranties will be voided if drivers fill up with E15.

The EPA has finalized its non-cancer science assessment for dioxins, a class of toxic chemicals that occurs naturally but also enters the environment through forest fires, certain industrial activities, and residue from past commercial burning of waste. The review found that current exposure to dioxins does not pose a significant health risk, and that known and measurable air emissions of dioxins in the U.S. have been reduced by 90 percent from 1987 levels.

Hydraulic fracturing in shale formations has no direct connection to groundwater contamination, and reports of contamination can be traced to above-ground spills or other mishandling of wastewater, a study from the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin found. The study hasn’t yet undergone peer review, writes the San Antonio Express-News.

The National Mining Association has filed for a review of Utility MACT with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is lobbying to overturn the regulation, The Hill reports. The rule’s formal publication was Thursday.

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has approved Shell’s Oil Spill Response Plan (OSRP) for the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. With the new regulatory requirements that followed the Deepwater Horizon spill, Shell was required to prepare for a worst case discharge five times larger than their previous plan, to include planning for adverse weather conditions, and to develop special equipment and strategies that could respond to a loss of well control and a spill, the DOI said.

The DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released the draft plan for the Restoration Design Energy Project (RDEP) which seeks to identify lands in Arizona most suitable for wind and solar power projects. The project will look for renewable energy development areas on lands such as former landfills, brownfields, mines, and isolated BLM parcels, the DOI said.

 The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigative panel canceled plans to subpoena two White House officials and three officials of the Office of Management and Budget after the White House agreed to voluntarily make the officials available for Solyndra interviews. The panel sent a letter to White House lawyers last week giving a Feb. 17 deadline to agree to the meetings, The Hill reports.

The EPA has issued an administrative order on consent to Mississippi Phosphates Corporation (MPC) in Pascagoula, Miss., requiring corrective measures at the facility due to corrosive water discovered by the facility outside the West Stack perimeter dike in January 2011 and September 2011. EPA issued the order under Section 7003 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

The Department of Justice, the U.S. Coast Guard and the EPA announced that MOEX Offshore 2007 has agreed to settle its liability in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. MOEX, a minority investor in the lease for the Macondo well, will pay $70 million in civil penalties to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and will spend $20 million on projects in several Gulf states, the EPA said.

The Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee outlined a 2012 agenda that includes, in general terms, protecting jobs and the economy, increasing access to affordable American energy, and conducting oversight of the Obama administration. Specifically, the agenda includes oversight of the EPA’s Utility MACT, the mercury and air toxics standards for power plants (MATS), and lawsuits from environmental groups that reached settlement.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is seeking public comment on a proposal that would update standards for business practices of interstate natural gas pipelines. The proposed rule would incorporate with certain exceptions the latest standards adopted by the Wholesale Gas Quadrant of the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB) applicable to natural gas pipelines. These are known as Version 2.0 Standards, the FERC said.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced a $20 million partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Conservation Partners grants to increase technical assistance for management plans and projects in areas of water quality, wildlife habitat and soil productivity. Grant awards to selected proposals will range from $50,000 to $250,000, the USDA said.

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