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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Transocean $1.4bn Fine; Exxon Delay ‘Made Spill Worse’

Transocean Deepwater Inc. has agreed to plead guilty to violating the Clean Water Act and to pay a total of $1.4 billion in civil and criminal fines and penalties, admitting its criminal conduct in relation to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Transocean has agreed to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties. Transocean Deepwater Inc. and Triton Asset Leasing GMBH have agreed to pay $1 billion to resolve civil penalty claims for the three-month-long oil spill at the Macondo Well, the EPA said. In November BP pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines for its part in the disaster.

As part of this week’s “fiscal cliff” deal, Congress renewed a tax credit for the biodiesel industry through the end of 2013, which includes a retroactive reinstatement of a dollar-a-gallon credit going back to January 2012, when the credit lapsed. The retroactive portion of the credit gives blenders an estimated $1 billion. With the credit in place, production will be about 1.6 billion gallons this year, the New York Times said.

A New York State health department report finds that fracking is not a danger to public health with proper safeguards in place; for example, the transport of drilling water that flows back out of wells after fracking should be subject to similar requirements ao the treatment of medical waste, the report said. Groups including the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York called on the Cuomo administration to lift the state’s four-year moratorium on fracking, Reuters said.

Kentucky Utilities Company will spend $57 million to install a sulfuric acid mist emission control system, replace a coal-fired boiler, and pay a civil penalty of $300,000 to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations at the Ghent Station facility in Ghent, Ky. The terms of the settlement with the DOJ and EPA requires Kentucky Utilities to adhere to more stringent and permanent emission limits that will reduce sulfuric acid mist emissions by more than two-thirds, the EPA and DOJ said.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform plans to review a shift in the language of the wind production tax credit. The renewal of the 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour credit for wind power production also changed the incentive to let wind projects under construction by the end of the year earn the credit – rather than just those that enter service by the deadline, The Hill said.

A Shell Oil drilling rig, the Kulluk, that ran aground in the Gulf of Alaska is in stable condition. The Coast Guard and company officials said there was no sign that any of its 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel and lubricants had leaked, and no sign of other environmental damage. The Kulluk was being towed to Seattle for maintenance after drilling a test well in the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska’s North Slope, the New York Times said.

Department of Transportation investigators said that delays in Exxon Mobil’s response to a July 2011 pipeline break beneath the Yellowstone River made an oil spill much worse than it otherwise would have been. The spill released about 63,000 gallons of crude oil into the river near the city of Laurel, about two-thirds more than if controllers in Houston isolated the rupture as soon as problems emerged, the New York Times reports.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will add a new energy subcommittee in the next Congress. Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) will chair the new Energy Policy, Healthcare and Entitlements subcommittee, which will allow oversight members to call for testimony on cross-jurisdictional energy policies, The Hill said.

EBV Explosives Environmental Company, doing business as General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems – Munitions Services, has agreed to pay a $580,135 civil penalty to settle alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act at its facility in Carthage, Mo. In February 2011, EBV sent a letter to EPA informing the agency that tests conducted in 2010 showed a hydrogen chloride emission rate above permitted levels, the EPA said.

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