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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Scotts Miracle-Gro, Shell Drilling, Solyndra, APEC Summit

Pesticides producer Scotts Miracle-Gro was ordered to pay a $12.5 million in fines, penalties and project costs and perform community service violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Scotts will pay a $4 million fine for eleven criminal violations, and will pay over $6 million in penalties and spend $2 million on environmental projects to resolve civil violations. It will also contribute $500,000 to organizations that protect bird habitat. Scotts pleaded guilty in February 2012 to illegally applying insecticides Actellic 5E and Storcide II, which are toxic to birds, to its wild bird food products; falsifying pesticide registration documents; distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels; and distributing unregistered pesticides. The criminal and civil penalties are each the largest of their kind under FIFRA to date, the EPA said.

Royal Dutch Shell has received an EPA compliance order that allows the company’s Discoverer drill ship and its support vessels to emit pollutants at levels above limits initially set in a major permit for the Chukchi Sea. The loosened emissions limits are for the 2012 open-water season only. The company asked for a modification in standards for nitrogen oxides and particulates in June, Reuters said.

Solyndra’s bankruptcy plan includes the potential for its venture capital backers to receive $23 million in tax breaks. They are on top of $341 million in potential tax breaks available to Madrone Partners and Argonaut Ventures that Solyndra previously disclosed. A US bankruptcy judge cleared the way for creditors to vote on the plan, and scheduled a hearing to consider approval on October 17, Reuters said.

The 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation concluded a two-day summit in Vladivostok, Russia, agreeing to avoid protectionist measures on food exports as a response to US and Russian drought. APEC also endorsed a list of 54 environmental goods on which import duties will be reduced to no more than 5 percent by 2015, including equipment for renewable energy, waste treatment and environmental monitoring, writes Business World Online.

The US and Canada have signed the amended Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The agreement was last amended in 1987. New provisions address aquatic invasive species, habitat degradation and the effects of climate change, and support continued work on existing threats such as harmful algae, toxic chemicals, and discharges from vessels, the EPA said.

Russia’s state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom has signed an accord with Japan to construct a $13 billion natural gas terminal in Vladivostok. The final deal for gas trade will include an agreement on the price Japan will pay for the natural gas, the New York Times said.

The US Maritime Administration has adopted a new policy that excludes from artificial reefing consideration of any vessel that was built before 1985, and more likely to contain PCBs. The policy has not been announced publicly but became effective in May 2012, Basal Action Network said. The group says it seeks a similar policy change from the US Navy.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing, “Accountability in Grants Act of 2012,” on Tuesday, Sept. 11. The hearing will review the EPA program awarding grants to foreign recipients, including foreign governments, universities, and NGOs, and consider measures to block the program.

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