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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Chinese Wind Towers, Calif. Building Code, Yucca, Brownfield Grants

Wind energy towers produced in and exported from China have received production subsidies of about 14 to 26 percent and warrant US tariffs in the same range, the Commerce Department said in response to a petition from US wind tower manufacturers. The preliminary subsidy determination covers utility-scale steel towers that support wind turbines with electric power generation capacity greater than 100 kW, The Hill said.

The California Energy Commission yesterday approved building codes that are projected to achieve a 25 percent cut in energy use at homes and businesses, versus 2008 levels. The new code includes standards for windows, insulation, air conditioning and lighting, and will apply to new buildings, major additions and retrofits starting January 1, 2014, the Sacramento Bee reported. Commissioners described the standards as the strongest in the nation.

House Republicans and Democrats criticized the Obama administration’s plan to close the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site in Nevada, and indicated they would try to approve $25 million to keep the site active through a bill called the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, The Hill said.

SABIC Innovative Plastics US, and its subsidiary, SABIC Innovative Plastics Mt. Vernon, have agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty, reduce fugitive emissions and improve leak detection and repairs. The settlement relates to alleged emissions of hazardous air pollutants at chemical manufacturing facilities in Mt. Vernon, Ind. and Burkville, Ala., in violation of the Clean Air Act, the EPA said.

The EPA said it will conduct a cleanup to remove PCB oils from old leaking electrical transformers stored at the Guam Power Authority’s Apra Heights and Talofofo Substation facilities, and package the PCB waste for shipment and transport to the US mainland for disposal. The GPA has plans to repair and reuse the transformers, refilling them with non-PCB cooling oil.

The EPA has allocated $69.3 million in grants for communities to clean and redevelop contaminated properties for new investments. The 245 grantees include tribes and communities in 39 states across the country, funded by EPA’s Brownfields Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup (ARC) grants, and Revolving Loan Fund Supplemental grants. Approximately 29 percent of the grants are being awarded to non-urban areas with populations of 100,000 or less, the EPA said.

Included among brownfields grantees, Connecticut communities will receive $3.45 million to reclaim sites including old textile mills, sites containing hazardous substances and petroleum products, and other abandoned industrial and commercial properties.

The EPA said that approximately $3.8 million in funding from the brownfields program will support a pilot multi-purpose grants program. For example, Bay City, Mich., received a $400,000 multi-purpose grant to transform a 43-acre downtown, riverfront brownfield site into a LEED-certified, mixed-use, $150 million commercial and retail center with more than 25 buildings.

The Energy Department’s Small Business Innovation Research program has awarded $11 million in research and technology grants of up to $150,000 to 67 small businesses. The grants are for developing new energy technologies, and the businesses will be eligible to compete for a second phase of the program for awards up to $1 million over two years, the DOE said.

The Energy Department has made $500,000 available to test the technical readiness of technologies that harness energy from waves and supply renewable power to coastal regions. The funding will support a project to deploy and test a conversion device for one year at the Department of Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site off of the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu.

The House Natural Resources Committee has requested information on how much the federal government spends on Endangered Species Act-related litigation and settlement costs, in a series of letters sent to the Obama Administration. The Department of the Interior and the NOAA are actively involved in more than 200 lawsuits and legal actions related to the ESA, the committee said.

EU greenhouse gases emitted in 2010 were up 2.4 percent, or 111 million metric tons of carbon, over 2009 levels. Factors contributing to the increase, which ended a multi-year pattern of emissions declines, were a cold winter, economic recovery and the collapsed carbon price. Overall, EU emissions were down 15.4 percent below 1990 levels, Reuters said.

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