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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Autumn Statement, China PM2.5, Toxic Train Wreck

UK Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement to parliament said that the UK will consider tax breaks for shale-gas exploration, as the ban on fracking is set to soon expire. The chancellor wants to give priority to gas because it’s cheaper than renewables and less harmful than coal. Osborne also confirmed that the Carbon Reduction Commitment green tax, which aims to cut emissions from large public and private organizations, will be retained in a simplified form, Bloomberg writes. In the statement, Osborne also announced a new Private Finance Initiative for the financing of public infrastructure. The renewed model aims to speed up and reduce procurement costs for new facilities and provide access to wider sources of debt finance. However, with constraints left on the Green Investment Bank’s ability to borrow, possibly until 2016 or 2017, the budget plan was criticized for failing to promote the green economy, Waste Management World reports.

China announced a new air pollution reduction plan addressing PM2.5 fine particulate matter and called for cutting the PM2.5 intensity at least 5 percent by 2015 in 13 major areas covering 117 cities. To meet the new air pollution targets, China will limit coal-fired power, promote the use of clean energy and limit the number of industrial programs with high-energy consumption and pollution, United Press International said.

The US Coast Guard said that it may take until next week to clear the air of toxic chemicals spilled after a train wreck in Paulsboro, N.J. Evacuations continue due to low levels of vinyl chloride, a highly toxic and flammable industrial chemical, that must get back down to zero before residents may return home. A gash in one of the seven derailed freight cars allowed the leak of more than 12,000 gallons of vinyl chloride, authorities said at the time of the wreck, Reuters said.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Jon Wellinghoff said recent multimillion-dollar fines imposed against JPMorgan and Barclays for alleged power market manipulation could become more frequent as the commission now has the resources and support to conduct investigations. Congress gave FERC the authority to penalize power market manipulators in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, following the Enron case. Wellinghoff said FERC’s actions have widespread support, The Hill said.

Italian prosecutors are reviewing a natural gas pipeline project in Algeria built by energy services company Saipem, which is controlled by Italian oil company Eni. Although no executives from Saipem have been charged with corruption, the chief executive has resigned, two other Saipem executives were suspended and the chief financial officer of Eni stepped down. Prosecutors are focusing on a suspicious payment of $180 million to $200 million in connection with the pipeline project, the New York Times said.

The EPA and the DOJ have reached two settlements for more than $50 million related to cleanup at the B.F. Goodrich Superfund Site in San Bernardino County, Calif. Under one agreement, Emhart Industries will perform the first portion of the cleanup, which is estimated to cost $43 million over the next 30 years. A significant portion of these funds will come from other settling parties, including the Department of Defense. As part of the second agreement, six entities, including Pyro Spectaculars, Inc. and its former subsidiary, will pay the EPA $4.3 million toward cleanup at the site and $1.3 million to the cities of Rialto and Colton and San Bernardino County, the agency said. The site was used to store, test and manufacture fireworks, munitions, rocket motors, and pyrotechnics, and these activities contaminated groundwater with trichloroethylene and perchlorate, closing drinking water supplies.

Strategic Materials will pay a penalty of $159,750 to settle EPA’s claims that it violated the federal Clean Water Act. The agency said that a glass recycling facility in Franklin, Mass., emitted polluted storm water into nearby waters, failed to obtain permit coverage for its storm water discharges and did not prepare a storm water pollution prevention plan.

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