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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Deepwater Horizon, Shell Oil Sheen, YPF Nationalization, Keystone XL, LNG Exports

A presidential commission investigating the 2010 Gulf oil spill found that Congress has failed to pass any change to laws governing offshore drilling that could help prevent a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. On its scorecard, Congress earned a D, the administration landed a B, and industry got a C+, Fuel Fix said. A U.S. District Judge extended a filing deadline for lawyers and a magistrate judge handling paperwork for 100,000 private plaintiffs against BP to complete supporting documentation and exhibits. The deadline was extended from Monday to today, Reuters said.

The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) found that the oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico last week came from a natural sea floor seep and not from Royal Dutch Shell offshore production platforms, Reuters said.

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner authorized the seizure of a majority stake of 51 percent of YPF, the Argentine oil unit of Spanish energy firm Repsol, effectively nationalizing the company. Spain is preparing retaliatory measures, and the European Commission canceled bilateral trade talks between Argentina and the EU, Bloomberg said.

The YPF takeover has called into question the ownership of carbon credits from two CDM projects the company has developed at refineries in the Latin American country, Point Carbon said.

The White House threatened to veto House legislation to extend the transportation bill because of language that mandates approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. The House is slated to vote on the measure today, The Hill said.

The Sierra Club is challenging Freeport LNG’s bid to export liquefied natural gas from a facility in Texas, with a protest lodged with the Energy Department. The group asks for a broader review of the environmental consequences of the likely surge in natural gas drilling that would result from selling the fuel overseas, Fuel Fix said.

Plastic bag manufacturer Hilex Poly Co. has appealed the Los Angeles Superior Court ruling which upheld Los Angeles County’s ban on plastic bags and 10-cent fee on paper bags. Hilex Poly and other plaintiffs argue that the measure is a tax that requires approval by voters, Waste & Recycling News said.

A UK government-appointed panel recommends that hydraulic fracturing continue after an assessment of the seismic risk, and confirms that minor earthquakes detected near fracking sites were caused by the fracking. The report did not look at groundwater contamination, Platts said.

The EU Energy Commissioner said that the EU needs a new set of policy goals beyond its target for 20 percent renewably sourced energy by 2020 to increase confidence among investors, and that a functioning ETS and credible carbon price are pre-conditions to a mood of investor confidence, Reuters reports.

President Obama asked Congress to fund a surveillance and enforcement staff overseeing oil markets at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. He also is seeking to increase penalties for market manipulation to $10 million from $1 million, Bloomberg said.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power approved a pair of bills: the Gasoline Regulations Act which is aimed at controlling gas prices, and the Strategic Energy Production Act, legislation to tie a tap of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to an increase in American energy production.  The bill would require an interagency study on the cumulative impacts of EPA rules that may affect the price of transportation fuels, employment, and the economy, before the rules could be finalized.

The Energy Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has a hearing today  at 10:30 a.m. discussing “Budget and Spending Concerns at DOE.” Witnesses include representatives from the DOE and the GAO.

Meanwhile the committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy has a hearing on Thursday, April 19, at 9:30 a.m. discussing the bill “The Domestic Fuels Protection Act of 2012.” Witnesses scheduled include members of the American Fuels and Petrochemical Manufacturers, National Association of Convenience Stores and the Renewable Fuels Association.

The House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs will hold an oversight hearing on “Bureau of Land Management’s Hydraulic Fracturing Rule’s Impacts on Indian Tribal Energy Development” on Thursday, April 19, at 11 a.m.

The EPA has approved Nebraska’s list of impaired waters, which removes 21 waters from the list and adds 92. The state now has a total of 330 impaired waters, meaning that pollutant levels prevent the lake, river, or stream from attaining its beneficial uses, the EPA said.

The EPA will hold three public hearings to hear from stakeholders and the public about 36 draft permits for coal mining discharges in Kentucky. The EPA said it filed a specific objection to the 36 permits because of concerns for water quality, the environment and human health consistent with the Clean Water Act.

Cattle feedlot Petersen-Bubke in Monona County, Iowa, has agreed to pay a $10,000 civil penalty related to discharges of pollutants into Rush Creek and its tributaries. By agreeing to the settlement, Petersen-Bubke has certified that it is in compliance with the Clean Water Act, the EPA said.

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