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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Drought Plan, India Responsibility Reports, Sears Freezers

President Barack Obama, while campaigning in Iowa, announced $170 million in government meat and fish purchases to help farmers struck by drought. The plan to purchase up to $100 million of pork, $50 million of chicken, and $10 million each of lamb and catfish is in addition to the $30 million in drought assistance announced last week, Bloomberg said.

Indian market regulator Sebi has called for the submissions of an annual business responsibility report from listed companies. The reporting would be mandatory for top 100-listed entities on the Bombay and national stock exchanges, and then for all listed companies, starting with the financial year ending on or after December 31, 2012. Companies will have to disclose whether they have strategies to address climate change, along with details about any clean tech, energy efficiency or renewable energy programs, The Times of India said.

The US DOE Office of Enforcement issued a Notice of Noncompliance Determination to Sears, Roebuck & Co. regarding two Kenmore-brand chest freezers that are privately labeled, distributed in the US by Sears and manufactured in China. DOE’s testing found that basic model 19702 consumed energy at an average rate more than 50 percent over the federal limit, and basic model 19502 consumed energy at an average rate more than 25 percent over the federal limit.

International Energy Agency executive director Maria van der Hoeven told a Toronto audience this week that putting a price on carbon emissions is one of the key elements of a move toward a sustainable energy future. She called for global governments to put more effort put into clean coal, carbon capture and storage, and biofuels for transportation, and said that carbon pricing ensure that energy prices reflects their true costs, The Globe and Mail reports.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has set strategic rules to regulate rare earth mining, which raises the minimum scale of production. The new rules also alter environmental standards, softening the country’s stance on ore that causes radioactive pollution, such as monazite ore. Vegetation recovery rates and noise criteria are no longer addressed. An official from the Ministry of Commerce said the changes were made because it’s too hard to quantify environmental standards, Emerging Money reports.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, in an agreement with FirstEnergy, has initiated shutdown of Little Blue Run, one of the largest US impoundments for waste ash from coal power plants. The closure of the 1,700-acre coal ash pond follows a consent decree filed in July in federal court. It is the first time a regulatory agency has taken such an action against this type of facility, despite reports of groundwater or surface water contamination at least 157 coal ash disposal sites nationwide, National Geographic said.

Energy companies failed to list more than two out of every five fracked wells in eight US states from April 11, 2011. The reporting comes from a voluntary website – FracFocus.org – which oil and gas companies helped design in response to calls for mandatory disclosure. The gaps indicate potential shortcomings in the voluntary approach to transparency on the site, which has received funding from oil and gas trade groups and $1.5 million from the DOE, Bloomberg reports.

Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation said it may resolve by the end of 2012 all issues regarding the proposed operation of new-generation European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) nuclear plants, and the office is processing licensing of the EPR design for operation. French companies EDF and Areva, with junior partner Centrica, plan to build four EPRs in Britain. The new nuclear plants would still need other government approvals before construction could begin, Reuters said.

The American Petroleum Institute is conducting a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign in five swing states considered friendly to natural gas – Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina. The API said it intends for the campaign to inform and educate voters about public policy that will help create jobs, The Hill said.

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