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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Keystone Approval, SCOTUS Backs EPA, Fracking Rules

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman approved a revised route for the Keystone XL pipeline through the state, which leaves final approval of the pipeline project in the hands of the Obama administration. The State Department must review the 1,700-mile pipeline because it crosses an international border, but an earlier impact statement found that the project would have minimal adverse effects along its route, the New York Times said.

The Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to the EPA’s authority to set air quality standards, leaving intact the agency’s new limit on sulfur dioxide emissions. Without comment, the court decided not to hear an appeal by Grupo Mexico SAB’s Asarco unit, of a lower court ruling that upholds a 2010 EPA rule limiting sulfur dioxide in the air to 75 parts per billion over one hour, Reuters said.

The Interior Department will issue revised rules on hydraulic fracturing on public land. The rules will replace a proposal released last May that was opposed by oil companies and state officials for conflicts with regulations in use on private lands, as well as for adding costs to drilling operations. Full details of the revised proposal were not disclosed, but the new rules will require disclosure of chemicals used in the process, control of methane emissions and careful management of drilling wastewater, the New York Times said.

President Obama’s second inaugural address made preventing climate change his most prominent policy vow. Obama failed to win passage of comprehensive legislation to reduce emissions in his first term, and this time, the White House plans to focus on administrative actions. The administration plans to supplement efforts within the EPA to reduce emissions from coal-burning power plants by adopting new energy efficiency standards for home appliances and buildings, the New York Times said.

Beijing’s mayor Wang Anshun said the city will take 180,000 old vehicles off the road and replace coal-burning heaters in 44,000 homes, a move he expects will cut air pollutants by 2 percent this year. The city will also promote the use of clean-energy vehicles for public services. Beijing also plans to reduce coal consumption by 1.4 million tons and emissions of VOCs by 8,000 tons, and close more than 400 factories, Bloomberg said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said making progress on a new global agreement to combat climate change is one of his priorities for 2013, The Guardian reports. His remarks come in advance of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland – a meeting of 2,500 government, business and civil society leaders – which opened yesterday.

The non-profit Institute for Energy and Environmental Research said that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is rushing an environmental impact statement on the long-term storage of nuclear waste, under pressure from industry trade association the Nuclear Energy Institute. The court-ordered EIS process is under scrutiny from 24 national and grassroots environment groups, who are voicing concerns over lost classified reports and a two-year window to complete the research, the environmental research institute said.

The EPA said it may be willing to grant the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona a five-year extension on the deadline to install expensive emissions reduction equipment. The Navajo Nation will have until 2023 to upgrade one of the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants, the New York Times said.

Consumer Watchdog opposes a permit issued to CleanTech Environmental by the Department of Toxic Substances Control. The permit grants permission for a new Irwindale, Calif., facility to process hazardous waste and recycle used motor oil, and the group says the DTSC granted the permit without performing a legally required Environmental Impact Report under the California Environmental Quality Act. Consumer Watchdog wants the permit to be reconsidered.

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