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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Rio+20, ‘Crucifixion,’ Ozone Standards, Greywater

Corporate sustainability reporting may drop out of the main negotiating text for the upcoming UN Rio+20 meeting, according to remarks from participants at informal discussions ahead of the June conference. Other points, including one calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, also may be dropped, Reuters said.

EPA Region 6 administrator Al Armendariz has resigned following the fallout for his remarks for comparing enforcement of environmental laws to crucifixion. In a video released last week, Armendariz said, “You find people who are not complying with the law and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them. There’s a deterrent effect there. And companies that are smart see that. They don’t want to play that game and they decide at that point that it’s time to clean up.” Armendariz oversaw oil-and-gas-producing states including Texas and Louisiana, The Hill said.

The EPA has determined that 45 areas across the country are not meeting the 2008 air quality standards at 75 parts per billion for ground-level ozone. Only three areas will be identified for the first time as not meeting these smog standards; the other areas already have programs in place to improve air quality because they did not meet the 1997 smog standards, the EPA said.

The USDA has proposed new guidelines for the BioPreferred program that would expand the ability of USDA to designate biobased products for federal purchasing guidelines. The department said it is proposing to allow for the designation of intermediate ingredients such as fibers, resins, and chemicals so that the products made from them could more easily be designated for preferred federal procurement.

The EU is in talks with Russia on an “EU-Russia 2050 road map” for natural gas supply agreements, but for the bloc to continue using Russian gas beyond 2035, it needed carbon capture and storage technology to limit greenhouse gas emissions, Reuters said.

Government planners in India say that water management issues may impact economic growth and political stability. Despite India’s strong economy, development is uneven and rural areas have limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Programs to manage the problem include the development of water-saving farming technologies, sewage treatment facilities, and a new legal framework for the sector, Reuters said.

The New York City Council unanimously approved zoning changes to facilitate energy efficiency upgrades. The Zone Green amendment includes provisions to ease maximum building height limits to permit solar panels, green rooftops or greenhouses, allows for a gas boiler room as a permitted obstruction on a rooftop and allows the use of exterior solar shades, the New York Times said.

The Oregon DEQ will begin issuing permits for the reuse of greywater for landscaping purposes. The rules forbid the water from touching the edible parts of food plants. The cost for a permit ranges from $90 to $584 per year, the Salem Statesman Journal said.

The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is investigating the Exxon Mobil pipeline shutdown after detection of a leak in Louisiana. The regulator has not issued any enforcement orders, but the repaired section would have to meet PHMSA safety requirements, the Orlando Sentinel said.

The EPA published a list of 28 chemicals and two viruses that approximately 6,000 public water systems will monitor from 2013 to 2015 as part of the agency’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule 3. The agency said it will spend more than $20 million to support the monitoring, the majority of which will be devoted to assist small drinking water systems with conducting the monitoring.

The House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will have an oversight field hearing on “Federal Regulation: Economic, job and energy security implications of federal hydraulic fracturing regulation” today in Denver, Colo. Witnesses include representatives from the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, the Utah Office of Public Land Policy Coordination, Magna Energy Services and Western Energy Alliance.

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