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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: A123 Systems, Black Elk Spill, BP Civil Penalties

Electric car battery maker A123 Systems received a $946,830 check from the Energy Department on the day it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month; it has received more than $133 million from the government and may still get tens of millions more. The Energy Department has said it will consider distributing the rest of the grant funding to A123 or to its eventual buyer despite the company’s bankruptcy, The Hill reports.

Two workers are missing, with at least one presumed dead, and 11 others were hospitalized after a fire on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, ABC reports. The Coast Guard said that it expected only a small spill because the Black Elk Energy platform had been shut and was not producing. In the area of the platform, located in 56 feet of water about 20 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La., there was a sheen of oil a half-mile long by 200 yards wide, the New York Times said.

Officials with the Justice Department are conducting negotiations over a potential payout from BP of $20 billion or more in civil pollution penalties. In the process DOJ must represent the sometimes conflicting interests of federal government as well as the five gulf state governments. BP and the Justice Department said they intended to take the matter to trial in late February, Reuters said.

A group of senators is asking President Obama for a meeting about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The letter from 18 senators, led by Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), urges Obama to back the project for its job creation and energy security provision, The Hill said.

The Department of Justice ended its antitrust investigation into Monsanto’s soybean genetic traits business and the seed industry. DOJ closed the inquiry without taking any enforcement action, and with the cooperation of the agriculture company, Monsanto said.

An oil spill at an ExxonMobil facility offshore from the Niger Delta has spread at least 20 miles from its source, coating fishing waters in sludge.  Residents say it is the worst spill in the area since Exxon started its operations. Oil spills are common in Nigeria where enforcement of environmental regulations is lax and pipelines are frequently damaged in theft operations, Reuters said.

The EPA has resolved an enforcement action against Lealani Corp. and Poipu Inn, owners of Brennecke’s Beach Broiler, for failing to close two large capacity cesspools in Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii. The company will pay a $47,455 fine, and has closed and replaced its two large capacity cesspools. The restaurant owners also paid for and completed a $500,000 supplemental environmental project in the County of Kauai, the agency said.

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