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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Timberlands Water Pollution, Australia Carbon Tax, Keystone XL, NJ Solar

The Supreme Court will take up a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 2010 ruling that stormwater on industrial timberlands is the same as pollution discharged from factories, requiring an EPA Clean Water Act permit. The ruling on an Oregon case would apply to logging roads on state, private and national forest lands throughout the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit, the Washington Post said.

The Obama administration has granted construction permits for portion of the Keystone XL pipeline route that passes through Texas. The Army Corps of Engineers told TransCanada that it could begin construction on the final leg of the pipeline, which ends at the gulf port of Nederland, Texas. Permits for a section of the pipeline beginning at an oil depot in Cushing, Okla., and linking up with the final leg are still in review, the New York Times said.

The administration is also expected to finalize the 2012-2017 outer continental shelf plan for selling offshore drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico, along with three auctions of Arctic areas, this week. The plan closely follows the Interior Department’s November 2011 proposal, but it would briefly postpone sales of drilling rights in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas until 2016 and 2017, Fuel Fix said.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that regulators are still reviewing Shell Oil’s applications to drill up to five wells in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas this summer, but that it is “highly likely” that the permits will be issued, Fuel Fix reports.

Australian firms are feeling less supportive now for Australia’s carbon pricing legislation than they were 12 months ago; only one-third believe the opportunities will outweigh the risks in the long term, down from 50 percent in 2011. The country’s 300 biggest emitters will pay the tax from July 1, with two-thirds believing the $23-a-ton starting price is too high, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is expected to sign legislation that would increase the amount of solar energy state utilities must buy. The bill requires utilities to obtain 2.05 percent of their power from solar projects in 2014. Currently utilities must obtain 20.4 percent of all their power from renewable sources by mid-2021, with 2,518 gWh of that coming from solar, Bloomberg said.

Lawmakers in Germany have reached an agreement to cap solar power industry incentives. Under the compromise, one-off cuts in incentives from 20 to 30 percent from April are to remain, and incentives will be capped for installed capacity of 52 GW. In addition, medium-sized plants of 10-40 kilowatts (KW) will receive compensation of 18.5 cents per kilowatt hour, Reuters said.

A new Colorado state law will allow the sale of electricity at a vehicle recharging station with the use of a $5,000 permit. The law, which take effect in August, changes what has formerly been the sole right of utilities to sell electricity to customers, and it is expected that it will encourage more businesses to install vehicle chargers, Autoblog Green said.

The House Committee on Natural Resources will conduct a full committee oversight hearing today at 10 a.m. ET on the “Mandatory Conditioning Requirements on Hydropower: How Federal Resource Agencies are Driving Up Electricity Costs and Decreasing the Original Green Energy.” Witnesses include representatives from Public Utility District #1 in Okanogan, Wash., and Placer County Water Agency in California.

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