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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Abound Solar, EPA Budget, NY CO2 Limits, Texas Electricity Prices

DOE loan guarantee recipient Abound Solar will file for bankruptcy and dismiss its 125 employees, citing falling prices and competition from Chinese manufacturers in the solar equipment market. Abound Solar received a $400 million loan guarantee, and drew down about $68 million before the Energy Department cut off its credit last September, the New York Times said.

The US Commerce Department said that Chinese solar-product imports should be subject to additional tariffs to offset government subsidies. The department announced anti-dumping duties as high as 250 percent on Chinese imports in May, and has identified additional state subsidies benefiting Chinese producers. A final decision on additional duties is scheduled for Oct. 10, Bloomberg said.

The House Appropriations Committee sent a bill to the House floor to cut funding for the EPA by $1.4 billion. The bill includes riders to limit the EPA’s ability to expand the scope of Clean Water Act oversight, and to block the agency from finalizing greenhouse regulations on electric utility plants that use fossil fuels and on cars for model years after 2017, The Hill said.

The transportation-student loans legislative package moves to the House for voting today without a Republican provision forcing approval of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. Passage of the two-year highway bill would keep the government’s authority to spend on highways, bridges and transit systems from lapsing Saturday, along with its ability to collect gasoline and diesel taxes, the Associated Press said.

New York has adopted CO2 limits for new and expanded power plants, effective July 12, that are more strict than proposed federal limits. This could block future development of new coal units in the state. The regulations set emission limits for proposed new major power plants that have a generating capacity of at least 25 MW, and for increases in capacity of at least 25 MW at existing facilities, Reuters said.

Australia’s carbon tax comes into effect this Sunday, requiring about 300 companies to pay A$23 (US$23.50) per metric ton of carbon emissions, the Guardian reports. But firms are feeling less supportive of the program now than they were 12 months ago.

The Texas Public Utility Commission voted for a 50 percent raise to the wholesale electricity price cap – from $3,000 per MWh to $4,500 effective Aug. 1 – a move which may lead to the construction of new power plants. The three-member commission, all appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, also are considering a price of $9,000 for 2013, the Associated Press said.

The Obama administration’s 2012-2017 drilling plan opens more areas of the Gulf of Mexico, but limits access to the Arctic. Three potential lease sales in areas offshore Alaska are included but the auctions would not be held until the final years of the plan because of environmental concerns. The plan is subject to a 60-day review in Congress before approval, Reuters said.

California Gov. Jerry Brown is likely to withdraw his proposal to protect the California bullet train project from injunctions sought by environmental lawsuits. The plan called for modifications to the California Environmental Quality Act, within the $6 billion legislative package to start construction of the high-speed rail project, the Los Angeles Times said.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Power has a hearing today titled “The American Energy Initiative: A Focus on EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations,” with EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation Gina McCarthy.

The Indian state of Haryana plans to mandate zero wastage of water for all new residential, commercial and industrial sectors due to high demand from Delhi. A government official said that demand is 36 million acre feet water annually but the water available was only 14 million acre feet, the Times of India said.

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