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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: FY 2013 Budget, ITC Wind Tower Decision, PVC Emissions

President Obama has proposed his FY 2013 budget, whose measures include the cancellation of $4 billion a year in oil and gas tax breaks and an extension for the Section 1603 tax credit, which covers up to 30 percent of the costs for renewable energy development, according to the Chicago Tribune and Business Week. The budget proposes a 3.2 percent increase in funds from last year’s level for the Department of Energy, to $27.2 billion, including $2.3 billion for research and development into energy efficiency, biofuels and advanced vehicles. It increases funding by 50 percent for a state pipeline safety grant program, allots $12 million for research to improve the safety of natural gas development, including fracking, the Chicago Tribune said. Acccording to Waste & Recycling News, the budget cuts back funding for Superfund site cleanup from FY 2012’s $1.2 billion, to $755 million. The budget has little chance of surviving in Congress, the Tribune said.

Eleven states, including New York, New Mexico, Connecticut, and California, have sued the EPA over the agency’s delays in tightening air quality standards involving fine particulate matter, or soot, from diesel trucks, buses, power plants and other sources. A scheduled review of soot standards under the federal Clean Air Act was delayed last falls, the New York Times said.

The EPA issued final standards requiring facilities that produce polyvinyl chloride and copolymers (PVC) to reduce harmful air emissions, such as dioxin and known-carcinogen, vinyl chloride. There are 17 PVC production facilities in the U.S., mostly in Louisiana and Texas, and the standard applies to all existing and new facilities, the EPA said.

The EPA has released the final health assessment for tetrachloroethylene – also known as perchloroethylene, or perc – to EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) database. The assessment replaces the 1988 IRIS assessment for perc and for the first time includes a hazard characterization for cancer effects. Perc is a chemical solvent widely used in the dry cleaning industry as well as for the cleaning of metal machinery and in some manufacturing, the EPA said.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has issued a preliminary determination that imports of utility-scale wind towers from China and Vietnam have materially injured the domestic wind energy industry. Prior to ITC’s vote, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) conducted three investigations into the case brought by the Wind Tower Trade Coalition (WTTC) finding possible dumping margins up to 213.54 percent with Chinese producers, and 140.54 percent and 143.29 percent margins with Vietnamese producers, North American Windpower reports.

EU officials are expected to vote next week on a draft law that would label fuel produced from tar sands as more polluting than fuel from other forms of oil. Under the proposal, tar sands are assigned a default greenhouse gas value of 107 grams of carbon per megajoule, informing buyers it has more climate impact than conventional crude with 87.5 grams, Reuters reports.

The European Parliament’s committee on industry (ITRE) may back a plan to temporarily withhold some carbon permits from the market after 2012 to address oversupply and falling prices. The Feb. 28 vote would signal the European Commission that it has the political support to propose a set-aside measure; member states remain divided over the need to implement more stringent climate policies, Bloomberg reports.

The Energy Department is near to finalizing the $8.3 billion taxpayer-backed loan to Southern Co. for two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle power plant in Georgia, a project approved last week by the NRC. Meanwhile, critics in the House say the Department should not act on final approval of the loan guarantee unless all of the improvements recommended in the Solyndra follow-up report have been put in place to reduce taxpayer risk, The Hill reports.

The Washington State Senate passed a bill requiring electric car owners to pay a $100 annual fee, so that EV owners pay their share of road maintenance costs normally collected with the state’s gas taxes. The bill goes next to the House for a vote, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. agri-business Monsanto will appeal a decision in French court that found the company responsible for the health problems of a farmer who inhaled the weedkiller Lasso while cleaning the tank of his crop sprayer. The farmer blames Monsanto for not specifying on the label the presence of chlorobenzene, Reuters reports.

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