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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Rio+20, Passaic River Superfund, MATS, EPA Budget, Plastic Bags

The draft agreement put forward by United Nations envoys for the Rio+20 conference addresses cuts in fossil-fuel subsidies, provides support for renewable energy and includes measures to protect oceans; yet, environmental groups have called the text titled “The Future We Want” a watered-down “polluter’s charter” with all tangible outcomes removed or weakened. Groups including WWF and Greenpeace say a final agreement should contain stronger language on sustainable commitments, Business Week saidAccording to The Guardian, the text acknowledges the world’s serious environmental and social problems without planning how to deal with them. As it stands, the draft that will be presented to attendees contains almost no timetables, definitions or ways to monitor new sustainable development goals, nor any commitment for a “green economy” that integrates environmental and social costs into decision-making. Obstacles encountered during the drafting process include a backtrack on funding from the EU; and China and emerging economies dodging any terms that might commit them to environmental monitoring, The Guardian said.

One expectation from Rio is an update of a 2006 agreement called the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, which governs the global management of industrial chemicals. In the draft text of the Rio agreement the provision on chemicals has not yet been finalized. So far, it includes language to endorse a goal for global sound management of commercial chemicals and environmentally sound handling of hazardous waste by 2020, and a drawdown of HFC production, writes Chemical and Engineering News.

The EPA has reached an agreement with 70 companies to pay for the cleanup of approximately 16,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from a half-mile long area of the Passaic River in Lyndhurst, N.J. The $20 million Superfund project is scheduled to begin in spring 2013 and includes testing and monitoring while the EPA works on a final cleanup plan for the lower 17 miles of the river. Companies involved in this stage of the cleanup include BASF, CBS, Chevron, DuPont, GE, Honeywell, Alcatel-Lucent, Pfizer, Sherwin-Williams, and Tiffany & Company, the agency said.

The White House is likely to veto a GOP-led plan to overturn EPA’s MATS regulations, which require cuts in mercury and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants. The Senate is expected to vote this week on Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) resolution to block the regulations, The Hill said.

House Republicans introduced a bill to cut the EPA’s budget by $1.4 billion, about 17 percent less than its current funding, and bringing the EPA below fiscal 1998 levels. Overall the 2013 Interior and Environment bill has $28 billion in funding – $1.2 billion less than 2012, The Hill said.

Officials in Illinois have passed a bill that would block any measures to ban plastic bags and instead force manufacturers to set up recycling collection sites so that 75 percent of the state’s population live within 10 miles of a bag collection site by 2014. The measure applies to every community except Chicago, and also bans fees charged for bags, writes Waste & Recycling News. The bill awaits a signature from governor Pat Quinn.

A bill passed by the Rhode Island legislature would create a management program for unused paint. Senate Bill 2083 dictates that a paint trade organization be funded by a surcharge on retail paint products, to manage a program which would collect, transport, reuse, recycle or burn for energy unused paint products with environmentally sound management practices, writes Waste & Recycling News.

The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization said that it expects to release a draft proposal for aviation emissions by March 2013, not in 2012. The ICAO, which has been pressured to develop an alternative to the EU’s aviation emissions policy, is expected to discuss market-based measures to reduce emissions next week, and seek consensus at its fall 2013 full-member assembly, Reuters said.

Military use of renewable fuel for ships and jets is likely to remain substantially more expensive than petroleum products without a technological breakthrough, a U.S. Air Force study by the RAND Corporation think tank found. The study said that consumption by the Defense Department – about 340,000 barrels per day – is  too small to impact global prices, writes the Chicago Tribune.

The EPA, under court order to respond, told the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups that it has no immediate plans to introduce regulations for greenhouse-gas emissions from aircraft, ships or off-highway vehicles such as trucks used in mining operations. The groups say that these sources are responsible for 24 percent of US mobile-source GHG emissions and about 290,000 tons of soot every year, Bloomberg reports.

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