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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Australia Carbon Tax, Japanese Nuclear, More Fracking Rules

The Australian government’s preliminary list of companies facing a carbon tax included 248 names, much lower than the expected total of 500. Those on the list – primarily power generators, mining companies and heavy industry firms – will pay $23 per ton of carbon beginning in July, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors – which have provided about 30 percent of the country’s electricity needs – are now off line after the government did not win public support for nuclear safety reviews in the aftermath of Fukishima. The government aims to give an estimate by mid-May of anticipated summer power shortages and develop a conservation plan, Reuters said.

The Vietnamese Ministry of National Resources and Environment has announced a plan for a 20 percent GHG emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 for the agriculture and forestry sectors. The plan also seeks to establish a domestic carbon market and open participation in the international carbon market, the Malaysian National News Agency said.

China has announced that by 2020, 30 percent of all new construction projects should be energy-efficient buildings, to bring its building energy consumption in line with that of developed countries, Reuters said.

The World Bank says that a reduction of Chinese cities’ emissions through energy-efficient buildings and industries, improved public transport, and better water and waste management is critical if China is to meet its 17 percent reduction target for carbon intensity from 2011-2015, Reuters reports. China’s number of urban residents is expected to increase by 350 million over the next 20 years.

Businesses including Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever, Acciona, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone have advised EU officials that carbon prices on the EU ETS should triple – to about 20 euros ($26.30) per ton – if the EU expects to meet its green targets. As well, the group said that renewable energy commitments and carbon emissions reductions are also required, Reuters said.

The Obama administration released its rules Friday for oversight on public lands of oil and natural gas drilling using fracking technology. The proposal includes new reporting standards and requires that companies get approval before using the drilling technique, but disclosing of chemicals used for fracking is required only after the process is complete, Reuters said.

The EPA released draft permitting guidance for an underground injection control program for the use of diesel fuel in oil and gas hydraulic fracturing. Fracking operations are exempt from the requirement to obtain a UIC permit, except in cases where diesel fuel is used as a fracturing fluid. The guidance is open to public comments for 60 days, and in the interim decisions about permitting hydraulic fracturing operations that use diesel fuels will be made on a case-by-case basis, the EPA said.

TransCanada submitted its new application for the Keystone XL pipeline to the State Department as expected on Friday. The new plan includes a number of environmental review steps, as well as a route which sidesteps the Sand Hills region of Nebraska. The review process for the revised plan is expected to take until the first quarter of 2013, the New York Times said.

The California Air Resources Board has posted its cap-and-trade program’s compliance offset program application forms, outlining steps for accrediting offset verification bodies. Only ARB-accredited verifiers may then approve offset project registries and early action offset programs, ARB said.

The Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians have sued to block coal leases in Wyoming, related to what is called one of the largest coal-mining plans ever approved by the US government. The groups say that the BLM has not considered the impact of emissions when coal is burned in power plants in the US and in Asia. The leases related to roughly 2 billion tons of coal, the Chicago Tribune said.

Portland, Oregon-based chemical manufacturer Kanto Corporation will pay a penalty of $58,200 and has corrected violations related to reporting use of toxic chemicals at its facility. The EPA said that the company used more than 25,000 pounds each of ammonia, hydrogen fluoride and nitric acid in 2009 and failed to report under the federal Toxics Release Inventory Program.

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