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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: E15 Ruling, EU Shipping, US Drought, Strategic Reserve

The US Appeals Court of the District of Columbia has ruled that gas retailers can offer E15 fuel for cars made in the 2001 model year or later if they follow set EPA guidelines. The American Petroleum Institute has opposed E15, saying that the fuel damages engines and US automakers will not honor warranties for wear and tear caused by E15 use, The Hill reports.

EU regulations on marine fuel will require hefty investments from shipping firms for filter technology and from refineries for upgrades to produce cleaner fuels. To comply with new EU law, shipping companies will have to spend 2.6 billion to 11 billion euros ($3.2-$13.6 billion) to switch fuels or to fit exhaust filters that would scrub out the sulfur in marine fuel oil. The cost for refiners to upgrade plants to produce more diesel is estimated at least $500 million, Reuters said.

The House and Senate are looking to cut about $6 billion from land conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to take crop land out of production and instead use it for trees and grass. Environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council say that the program prevents erosion during drought years, but some money for conservation programs has moved to cover emergency drought relief, The Hill said.

The White House is considering a potential release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and is monitoring gas prices to see whether they fall before making a decision. In the past two weeks, the average US price of a gallon of gasoline has increased 18 cents, the Associated Press said.

Republican lawmakers said that the GAO report on forthcoming EPA regulations, including the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, confirm their stance that electricity prices will increase and electric reliability is at risk. The report, they say, also adds support to Republican and utility industry claims that compliance deadlines are difficult to meet because the technology needed to clean up power plants is not widely available, The Hill said.

An audit of Indian coal concessions by the Indian Comptroller and Auditor General found that officials awarded 142 coal concessions since 2004 on favorable terms to private and state-owned firms without bidding – and lost nearly $34 billion in royalties. Power executives disputed the results, saying that only 28 of the 142 leases were able to produce coal because state and federal regulators have not yet granted environmental approvals needed to start mining, the New York Times said.

Shell’s vice president in charge of Alaskan operations, Peter E. Slaiby, said that the company expects to receive its final approval from regulators in time to begin drilling in Arctic waters this summer. Shell has scaled back plans during the wait, with plans to drill only one or two exploratory oil wells before the seas began freezing, the New York Times said.

The House Natural Resources Committee requested that the Obama Administration answer document requests and questions regarding the National Ocean Policy and mandatory ocean zoning initiative before finalizing the policy’s draft implementation plan. The committee said eight months have passed since the draft plan was released, containing more than 50 proposed actions, yet questions remain about its legal and regulatory status, funding sources, and economic impacts of the policy.

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