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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Keystone XL, Australia Carbon Tax, EU ETS Permit Supply, U.S. GHG Report

The White House backed TransCanada Corp.’s bid to build a major portion of the Keystone XL oil pipeline – a $2.3 billion section called Gulf Coast Project, which runs from Cushing, Okla., to Texas. It would carry crude oil pumped in the Midwest to refineries in Texas, The Hill reports.

The EPA released a statement proposing not to change the phased-in approach to greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting thresholds for the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V Operating Permit programs. The PSD permits require new and existing facilities that have chosen to make major modifications to implement energy efficiency measures. New and existing facilities with GHG emissions above 100,000 tons per year of CO2e must also obtain operating permits, the EPA said.

A coalition of power plants, business groups and 37 states are expected to argue today in federal court that exempting some facilities such as schools from the EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions rules is a regulatory attempt to rewrite the Clean Air Act. The petitioners argued Tuesday that the EPA had used faulty science and uncertain evidence in determining that greenhouse gas emissions endangered human health and cause harmful climate change, Reuters said.

Overall greenhouse gas emissions increased in the U.S. by 3.3 percent in 2010 from the previous year. Total emissions from GHGs were about 6,866 million metric tons of CO2e. Overall, emissions have grown by 11 percent from 1990 to 2010, according to the EPA’s draft release of Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2010, a report for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The EPA is seeking public comment on the report until March 28.

Australian state-owned power company Macquarie Generation has topped a list of the country’s biggest carbon emitters, and could pay nearly half a billion dollars under the carbon tax law coming into effect on July 1. The government has also set aside $5.5 billion for the most emissions-intensive generators, to help transform the sector, writes the Sydney Morning Herald.

Members of the European Parliament backed a set of energy efficiency proposals that could be passed into law by June. One article requires utilities to find yearly energy savings equal to 1.5 percent of their sales, while another calls for 2.5 percent of the floor area of public buildings to be renovated. Without this draft law, the EU is expected to only make it halfway to meeting a proposed 20 percent improvement in energy saving by 2020, Reuters said.

The European Parliament’s industry committee passed a proposal to withhold an unspecified number of carbon permits from the bloc’s emissions trading scheme from 2013. This would let the European Commission take action to intervene in the market to prop up low prices and stimulate the move towards a low carbon economy. Such a move would require approval by member governments and Parliament before becoming a law, Reuters said.

Johnson Controls’ China International Battery Co was ordered to suspend production after the Shanghai Environment Production Bureau found that the company is the main polluter in the region, linking it to incidents of lead contamination that have sickened 49 children. But a study by the China Electric Equipment Industry Association suggested a garbage recycler as the main source of lead contamination, Reuters said.

Sumter Coatings (SCI) agreed to pay a $55,000 civil penalty as part of a settlement with the EPA related to alleged hazardous waste violations at its Sumter, S.C., facility in April 2010. As part of the settlement, SCI agreed to develop a personnel training program, develop a schedule for training program implementation and identify facility employees that require training, the EPA said.

The DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has narrowed the focus of a 164,750-acre Wind Energy Area for commercial wind leasing off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. BOEM has excluded commercially important fishing grounds from the area, and it will continue to assess factors such as vessel traffic, visual and cultural resources, and the endangered North Atlantic right whale, North American Windpower writes.

A lawsuit raised by a consortium of U.S. organic farmers and seed dealers against Monsanto has been dismissed. The groups claimed that the industry is at risk from Monsanto’s growing market strength. Monsanto has filed 144 patent infringement lawsuits against farmers between 1997 and April 2010, and won judgments against farmers, but has not sued any of the plaintiffs, Reuters reports.

Today EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson is testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to answer questions related to the proposed FY 2013 budget. The agency head testified Tuesday to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittees on Energy & Power and Environment & the Economy.

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