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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Arctic Council Spill Plan, Chu Resigns, Defense Nominee Backs Alt Fuels

The eight-nation Arctic Council’s oil spill response agreement, obtained by Greenpeace ahead of the council’s meeting of environment ministers February 5-6 in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, is vague and ineffective, Greenpeace said. The activist group says the draft contains a series of major omissions including any discussion of oil company liabilities or effective arrangements in case of a transboundary incident. The draft fails to outline any essential response equipment or methods for capping wells, Greenpeace said.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu offered his resignation to President Barack Obama Friday. Chu said he will stay at least until the end of the month, and may stay until a successor is confirmed. Chu’s departure had been expected and follows resignation announcements from interior secretary Ken Salazar, EPA chief Lisa Jackson and NOAA head Jane Lubchenco, the Washington Post said.

Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel said that that he will make programs to boost energy efficiency and alternative fuels a key focus at the Pentagon if he wins Senate confirmation. Hagel said such programs are a way to help lower the military’s estimated $18 billion-per-year energy budget, The Hill reports.

The European Commission plans to propose a ban on the use of the pesticides clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam, used in maize, rapeseed, sunflower and cotton farming, for their potential risks to declining bee populations. The ban would start in July. However, Britain, with German and Spanish support, is opposed to the ban and is preparing its own scientific study to challenge the EU’s research. The position comes despite the declining bumblebee and honey bee numbers in the UK, which may pose a threat to food security, The Telegraph said.

The EPA has published the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Major Sources: Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters Final Rule in the federal register. Existing structures will have until Jan. 31, 2016, to comply with the rule, while new sources must comply with the rule at startup, Power Engineering said. The EPA finalized the changes in December.

The UK’s Department for Food, Environmental and Rural Affairs released new plans to improve the quality of paper, card, metals, plastic and glass recycling collected from businesses and homes. The proposed new code of practice for recycling facilities is expected to help grow a stronger market for recycled materials, Defra said.

ClientEarth and BirdLife International filed an application to the General Court in Luxembourg against the European Commission over its failure to publish a review of greenhouse gas emissions from biomass. The groups say that with access to the study they could verify their claim that biomass used for heat and power is free of emissions, Reuters said.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has found two potential violations of state environmental requirements at ski area the Arizona Snowbowl, which recently became the first ski resort to make snow out of wastewater piped directly from a sewage treatment plant. The agency directed the ski area to place signs on snow guns informing the public that reclaimed wastewater is in use and should not be ingested, and to color-code pipes delivering wastewater to distinguish them from the potable water delivery system, the New York Times said. Last February the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected claims that the Snowbowl was violating Arizona laws on the use of treated sewage effluent.

Ten Michigan residents in Benzie County have filed a lawsuit against fruit processor Graceland Fruit and a septic hauler who dumped waste blueberry juice into a gravel pit in 2002, damaging a stream and contaminating groundwater. In a 2008 settlement, the companies promised to restore the waterway and pay $250,000 in fines and restoration costs, but residents say the creek and their wells are still polluted, the Detroit Free Press said.

The Senate Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power will have a hearing Tuesday on the topic “American Energy Security and Innovation: An Assessment of North America’s Energy Resources.” Witnesses include representatives from the Energy Information Administration, World Resources Institute, Institute for Energy Research and IHS.

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