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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: House Coal Bill, EU-China ETS, NY Fracking, Biofuel

The House will vote today on GOP legislation to roll back or prevent White House policies that Republicans call anti-coal. The bill would scuttle federal climate change regulations and rules to limit mercury and other toxins from coal-fired power plants, among other provisions. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, The Hill said.

The Cuomo administration says its decision on hydraulic fracturing in New York will wait until the state conducts a review of the potential public health effects of the process. The state has been studying the possibility of opening up the Marcellus Shale to natural gas drilling since 2008, and released a revised draft report on environmental effects last year. A state health review could take a few months or more than a year, the New York Times said.

The European Union will provide technical assistance to China as that country sets up an emissions trading program, Platts reports. The agreement between the two also covers the transition to a low-carbon economy, and the EU said it will grant €25 million ($32 million) to China over four years for three environmental projects.

The EU’s recent plans to cap the use of food-based biofuels at 5 percent of transport fuel are a major setback for the industry, Reuters said. Analysts predict the plan could trigger a wave of plant closures across Europe and raise the question of whether advanced biofuels can play a bigger role, the news service said.

Britain needs an updated program for low-carbon vehicles after sales of electric cars have disappointed, a UK parliamentary committee said. As part of its aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, the government has offered 25 percent off the price of a plug-in electric car, capped at £5,000. The committee said consumer demand was lagging and that the subsidy was ineffective because the purchase price was still too high, Reuters reports.

The European Commission is in talks with Russia and expects to reach a compromise on a legal dispute between the bloc and its biggest gas provider, Gazprom. The discussions so far have made clear the intentions to avoid disruptions to energy supplies, as the commission investigates whether the Russian gas company engaged in anti-competitive practices, Reuters said.

The Interior Department said that Royal Dutch Shell can begin limited preparatory measures for drilling in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s coast, though the company has already indicated it will not drill into oil-bearing zones this year. The company can do preparatory work in the Beaufort when the fall whale-hunting season ends, and must cease those activities by the end of October, The Hill said.

Kinder Morgan will pay a $316,000 penalty and improve accident prevention and preparedness at natural gas plants in Casper and Douglas, Wyoming. The EPA said the company reached two Clean Air Act settlements for alleged violations to Risk Management Plan provisions.

The EPA has signed an agreement with General Electric requiring the company to take over the maintenance and replace, if necessary, treatment systems on wells that supply drinking water to four properties within the Cayuga County Groundwater Contamination Superfund site. GE will pay $50,000 of the EPA’s past costs. The drinking water of properties near a semiconductors facility on Genesee Street in Auburn, N.Y., had become contaminated by VOCs that seeped into the ground water, the agency said.

The EPA has fined Denbury Onshore of Alvin, Texas, $16,600 for violating the Clean Water Act at the company’s Central Treating Station oil storage facility in Montgomery County, Texas. The agency said that the company had failed to develop and implement a Facility Response Plan as required by federal regulations. In July 2011, the company was fined $14,000 for a 7,560-gallon oil spill into Crystal Creek and $20,000 for a 14,700-gallon oil spill in July 2012.

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