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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: MATS Senate Vote, Building Efficiency Centers, Fukushima Radiation

The Energy Department and the U.S. Department of Commerce have selected three Centers for Building Operations Excellence, which will receive $1.3 million to train and expand building operators in energy efficiency, as part of the Better Buildings Initiative, which aims to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020. The centers are: The Corporation for Manufacturing Excellence in California, partnering with Laney College and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39; the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center in Pennsylvania, partnering with Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania College of Technology, and Drexel University; and the New York State Department of Economic Development in New York, partnering with City University of New York and Rochester Institute of Technology.

A measure to throw out the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) was defeated in the Senate, 53-46, the New York Times said. Sponsor James Inhofe (R-OK) said that by voting against his proposal, Senators were “effectively killing coal in America,” the Boston Herald reported.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry and its Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency failed to disclose data collected by US military aircraft about the spread of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which resulted in some evacuees fleeing in the same direction as the radioactive emissions. Neither agency informed the prime minister’s office, which was overseeing the evacuations, Reuters said.

The shutdown at San Onofre Nuclear Power plant in Orange County, Calif., which has been ongoing since January, resulted from leaking tubes that were not properly tested by the manufacturer prior to installation, according to regulators. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission blamed Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the leak, saying the company significantly underestimated the velocity of water and steam moving through the generator during computerized tests, Reuters reports.

Home construction company Toll Brothers Inc. has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $741,000 to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations at its construction sites, including sites located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Toll Brothers will also invest in a company-wide training and oversight of a stormwater compliance program. The majority of the 600 alleged violations involve Toll Brothers’ repeated failures to comply with permit requirements at its construction sites, the agency said.

The House passed legislation that ties the use of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to an expansion in domestic oil leasing, and would also require an assessment on how environmental rules affect gas prices. The bill also blocked the EPA from completing three new air pollution rules until an interagency committee studies the effects of EPA policies on fuel prices and the economy, The Hill said.

The BLM approved a natural gas project in Utah’s Uinta Basin that would drill up to 1,300 new wells over 15 years. The plan includes measures to minimize impacts on sensitive areas, such as reduced surface disturbance and directional drilling, for the development of an area that could yield nearly three trillion cubic feet of gas over the next several decades, the Interior Department said.

A group of 38 lawmakers in the House of Representatives sent a letter to the Obama administration asking for expanded regulations for fracking for natural gas, saying companies should be required to reveal the chemicals before and after drilling takes place. The Interior Department updated fracking rules in early May, Reuters said.

A new concept for a carbon market that would treat the greenhouse gas like a commodity was discussed at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum-Wall Street conference organized by the American Council on Renewable Energy. Such a market might increase interest in carbon capture projects, the New York Times said. Carbon dioxide is also used for enhanced oil recovery to force extra oil out of the fields, and companies said that the supply of the gas currently does not meet demand.

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