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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Hurricane Sandy, BP, Sulfur Limits, Chinese Mining

In assessing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, insurance industry analysts say that the government’s national flood insurance program is already $20 billion in debt since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. It is expected that Sandy will exhaust the NFIP’s remaining $3 billion of statutory borrowing authority, and the program will need to request more money from Congress to pay its claims, Reuters said.

BP said there is significant uncertainty as to whether an agreement with the US government can be made over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill. BP could owe as much as $21 billion in Clean Water Act fines, in addition to potential criminal penalties for gross negligence for the accident that killed 11 people, The Hill said.

EU environment ministers backed sulphur limits for shipping fuel in a final stage before official publication of the law. From 2015, the maximum sulphur content of shipping fuels will be cut by 90 percent to 0.1 percent in restricted Sulphur Emission Control Areas. Beyond controlled areas, the IMO limit of 0.5 percent will be mandatory in EU waters by 2020, Reuters said.

Mining projects in China, including copper, lead, and zinc mining, may see tighter environmental requirements with the issuance of new guidelines this year. Authorized firms would be required to submit mining project proposals to the Ministry of Land and Resources and also receive approval from environmental authorities, Reuters reports.

The International Energy Agency and Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy estimate that worldwide hydroelectricity production could be doubled by 2050, and as a result, annual emissions of up to 3 billion tons of CO2 from fossil-fuel plants could be prevented. Their new report urges policymakers to update the inventory of hydropower potential, set hydropower development plans with targets, and develop a policy framework to encourage hydro projects.

Two non-profits, the European Environmental Bureau and ClientEarth, condemned a decision by the European Commission to appeal against rulings by the General Court instead of focusing efforts on improving the law. The Aarhus Convention and Regulation 1367/2006 are supposed to protect public rights regarding access to information in governmental decisions concerning the environment, but the EC is appealing because the rules grant public rights to challenge only a very narrow categories of acts, the EEB said.

A Harris Interactive election poll shows Americans ranking energy policy ahead of environmental policy. The poll found that 67 percent said a candidate’s environmental policy was either very important or important, while 77 percent surveyed said the same of energy policy. For clean coal, 42 percent said it was not harmful, with 34 saying it was damaging to the environment. With natural gas, 60 percent said it was not harmful, with 23 percent describing it as harmful, The Hill said.

The EPA has reached a settlement of $1.44 million with TDY Industries to help pay for cleanup of groundwater polluted with industrial solvents, such as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, at the San Gabriel Valley Area 1 Superfund Site in Los Angeles, Calif. Since EPA began cleaning up this site in 2008, more than 12.5 billion gallons of drinking water have been treated and about 5,500 pounds of contaminants have been removed from groundwater, the agency said.

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