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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Arctic Protection, EU ETS Backloading, Bird-Killing Buildings

The UNEP Year Book 2013 released this week warns that the rush for Arctic mineral resources prompted by an apparent acceleration in sea ice melt calls for caution and effective governance to avoid damage to the fragile environment. Arctic summer ice cover in 2012 was 18 percent below the previous recorded minimum in 2007 and 50 percent below the average in the 1980s and 1990s. The report issued a number of recommendations to tackle the emerging environmental issues, but said that reducing greenhouse gas emissions remains the most important measure, UNEP said.

European lawmakers backed an emergency backloading plan for the ailing EU ETS that would temporarily remove some of the surplus allowances, but put off drafting the necessary legislation. The Commission is expected to decide next week whether to take the discussion straight to a plenary session of the European Parliament in April, or to speed up the process by initiating legal haggling between the parliament, Commission and member states ahead of the session, Reuters said.

Proposals from the German government to protect its output of big, luxury cars threaten EU plans to limit carbon emissions by 2020. The German car industry seeks increased allocation of supercredits, which allow manufacturers to produce cars that exceed the EU target if they also make very low emission electric or hybrid vehicles. However, the easement would lead to emissions in a range of 99 g/km to 123 g/km – compared with the EU goal of 95 g/km on average across all new EU vehicles by 2020, Reuters said.

Judge Melvyn Green of the Ontario Court of Justice ruled that the Environmental Protection Act and the federal Species at Risk Act are properly interpreted to prohibit the emission, intentional or unintentional, of reflected light where that reflection causes the death or injury of birds. Cadillac Fairview, one of Canada’s largest commercial property owners and managers, was charged with violating the acts during the 2010 spring and fall migrations. The ruling also means that the Ontario Ministry of Environment will now be obliged to regulate buildings with reflective windows that kill birds, the American Bird Conservatory said.

The Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy, a coalition of companies that import, install and service solar panels, said that that imposing tariffs on inexpensive panels from China would lead to hundreds of thousands of job losses in the EU. The comments came at a European Commission hearing on the EU’s antidumping case examining exports from China worth €21 billion ($28 billion) in 2011. The EU is the biggest export market for the Chinese equipment, the New York Times said.

BP will defend itself in court against what it deems to be excessive claims for civilian penalties and federal gross negligence charges stemming from its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The announcement comes after the company failed to reach a settlement with the Justice Department for up to $21 billion in civil charges. Judge Carl Barbier of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana will handle the case, which begins Monday, The Hill said.

The Institute for Policy Integrity, a group affiliated with New York University’s law school, is petitioning the EPA to act under Section 115 of the Clean Air Act, which enables the agency to demand action to curb pollution endangering public health or welfare in foreign countries. The attorneys argue that Section 115 should be employed to have EPA require states to control emissions and provides for the use of flexible regulatory tools such as cap-and-trade, The Hill said.

PNM Resources’ New Mexico utility, the New Mexico Environment Department and the EPA agreed to pursue a revised plan that could provide a new path forward for San Juan Generating Station to comply with federal visibility rules on regional haze. The terms would result in the retirement of SJGS Units 2 and 3 by the end of 2017, and the installation of selective non-catalytic reduction technology on the remaining two units in early 2016. The terms of the non-binding agreement would require several additional actions before becoming final, PNM Resources said.

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