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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Drought, Shell Arctic Drilling, Feed-In Tariff Damages

Drought conditions in more than 1,000 counties in 26 states have led to the nation’s largest national disaster declaration in history. The declaration from the US Department of Agriculture includes most of the southwest, parts of the midwestern corn belt, and the southeast. With 56 percent of the country experiencing drought conditions, it is the most extensive drought in more than a decade, The Guardian said.

A drill ship that Royal Dutch Shell plans to use in its Arctic drilling program slipped off its moorings and drifted to within 100 yards of shore Alaska’s Aleutian islands. Local news outlets reported that the 500-foot Noble Discoverer had run aground, but the Coast Guard said that the ship had not grounded and there are no reports of damage to the hull, Reuters reports. Environmentalists have been challenging Shell’s plans for drilling in the Arctic, and The Wilderness Society cited the recent news as a bad omen for such operations.

UK manufacturers’ association EEF said that UK steelmakers pay considerably more for energy than their competitors in other major countries, and that the net cost of energy taxes for energy intensive industries in the UK are significantly higher than elsewhere. EEF said that altogether key manufacturing sectors in the UK are being put at a significant competitive disadvantage because of energy and climate change policy.

Three solar power companies, Solarlec PV Solutions and two unnamed companies, have written to the UK government asking for £2.2m in damages related to cuts in 2011 to solar feed-in tariffs, and resulting business losses and downsizing. The cut led to a 90 percent drop in installations. The letter is not a formal legal move and the companies have given the Department of Energy and Climate Change two weeks to respond, The Guardian said.

The EPA has fined the Citation Oil and Gas Corporation of Houston, Texas, $22,000 for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act related to an 11,970-gallon spill of oil and salt water into Clear Boggy Creek and adjoining shorelines in Pontotoc County, Oklahoma. The settlement requires the company to pay the civil fine within 30 days.

In South Africa, mining multinational BHP Billiton says it is not responsible for the pollution with acid mine water of the primary water source for the Mpumalanga town of Carolina, and that along with Xstrata Coal, the company is cooperating with the government’s environmental official on the situation. The district municipality was ordered last week to supply Carolina town residents with at least 25 liters of drinkable water per person per day, writes Business Day.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has a field hearing in Virginia today on “The American Energy Initiative: A Focus on EPA’s Proposed Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standard for Utilities and the Impact this Regulation Will Have on Jobs.”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power has scheduled for Tuesday continuation of its American Energy Initiative hearing titled, “The American Energy Initiative: A Focus on Federal Government Perspectives Regarding Alternative Fuels and Vehicles.” Witnesses include representatives from the EIA and the EPA.

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