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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Fracking Tests, MATS Hearing, Ballast Water, FOIA on Keystone

A first round of EPA tests showed no evidence that water at 11 homes in Dimock, Penn., near natural gas drilling operations of Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. had been polluted to unhealthy levels. Samples from six of the 11 homes had concentrations of sodium, methane, chromium or bacteria, all within safe ranges. Arsenic was found in water at two of the 11 homes, also at safe levels, Reuters said.

The Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety meets Tuesday for “Oversight: Review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for Power Plants.”  Witnesses include representatives from the EPA, the State of Maryland environmental department and the Environmental Defense Fund.

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold the seventeenth day of its hearing on “The American Energy Initiative: A Focus on the Future of Energy Technology with an Emphasis on Canadian Oil Sands” on Tuesday. Witnesses include representatives from the DOE, Greenpeace Canada, MEG Energy Corp. and Alberta Innovates.

Three House Democrats called for President Obama to deploy America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and have started a push to collect signatures on a letter to be sent to the president in the coming days. The letter cites past examples of when oil from the SPR has driven down prices.

The IEA and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) formally agreed to strengthen their collaboration in a range of areas relating to sustainable energy policies and technologies in commercial buildings. These include energy policies in the buildings sector, transport and renewable sectors, and policies and measures that address climate change, the IEA said.

The Coast Guard has introduced a new rule requires oceangoing cargo ships to treat ballast water onboard with ultraviolet light, chemicals or other methods before dumping it in U.S. waters. The rule aims to prevent the introduction of invasive species, the New York Times said.

President Obama said Saturday that regulating energy markets and cutting government subsidies to big oil firms will help control spikes in the prices of gas. The president said financial firms had been distorting oil prices and profiting in energy markets; Obama also repeated his call for Congress to end government subsidies to the oil industry, The Hill reports.

A pro-Keystone group, the Institute for Energy Research, is seeking internal Obama administration documents about the pipeline, to evaluate whether the rejection of the project was a political decision. The group filed a broad Freedom of Information Act request with the EPA for communications about the project with the State Department, the White House, several environmental groups, and Nebraska lawmakers, The Hill said.

France set a temporary new ban on the cultivation of Monsanto’s MON810 genetically modified maize, after a previous moratorium was annulled in courts in November. France, the EU’s largest grain grower, asked the European Commission last month to suspend authorization to sow the corn, the only GMO crop allowed for cultivation in the EU, Reuters said.

The EPA has issued a complaint against CRM Rental Management, Inc. of Rome, N.Y., for not informing residents of its buildings about potential lead-based paint in their apartments. The property management company faces more than $140,000 in potential fines for 43 instances in which the company allegedly failed to properly inform residents of four buildings, the EPA said.

The EPA has ordered the Buffalo Sewer Authority in Buffalo, N.Y., to comply with federal Clean Water Act requirements for combined sewer systems. The Buffalo Sewer Authority allegedly violated its environmental permit issued by NYS DEC, which required it to submit a plan on how the city would reduce sewage and other pollutants that flow out of 52 combined sewer points into the Niagara River and its tributaries, the EPA said.

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