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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: BP Talks, Renewable Fuel Fraud, Monsanto, Corn Yields

Settlement negotiations between BP, the Justice Department and five states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — continued Sunday night ahead of the major civil trial scheduled to start today in New Orleans. A plan in discussion, worth a total of $16 billion, would limit the fines paid by BP under the Clean Water Act to $6 billion. BP also would pay $9 billion in penalties to cover damages to natural resources as well as the cost of restoration. Another $1 billion would be set aside in a fund for unanticipated environmental damages related to the spill, the New York Times said.

Rodney R. Hailey, of Perry Hall, Md., was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for selling $9 million in renewable fuel credits which he falsely claimed were produced by his company, Clean Green Fuel, LLC. US District Judge William D. Quarles enhanced Hailey’s sentence upon finding that he obstructed justice by concealing, selling and spending assets that were protected by court order. Judge Quarles also ordered Hailey to pay restitution of $42.2 million to more than 20 companies and forfeit $9.1 million in proceeds from the fraud, the EPA said.

Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition members Sean Parnell (Alaska), Pat McCrory (N.C.) and Phil Bryant (Miss.) hope to secure a bill that would award coastal states more federal revenues for energy developed off their coasts, as well as speed up the offshore energy permitting process. Currently, the federal government receives the royalties, but four Gulf Coast states are slated to receive a portion of those revenues capped at $500 million beginning in 2017, The Hill said.

The US Department of Agriculture projected a rebound in 2013 for US corn and soybean yields and high planted acreage. The yield predictions include the potential for record-large crops and for prices to decrease from 2012-13 levels. A larger US corn crop in 2013 will help push corn-for-ethanol usage to 4.675 billion bushels in 2013-14, up 175 million on the year but below 2011-12 levels. One-fourth of US soy oil will be used in making biodiesel this year, Reuters said.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power will continue its “American Energy Security and Innovation” series on Tuesday with a hearing, “An Assessment of Private-Sector Successes and Opportunities in Energy Efficient Technologies.” Witnesses include representatives from the US Combined Heat & Power Association, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the Industrial Energy Efficiency Coalition.

Monsanto will file an immediate appeal to a recent ruling by a single judge of the Superior Court of Justice, relating to the company’s request for term correction of a patent covering its Roundup Ready soybean product. Monsanto has previously obtained patent protection in Brazil for its first-generation Roundup Ready soybean products. In accordance with Brazilian law, Monsanto has sought to correct the term of its patent rights in Brazil to conform to the 2014 patent term granted in the United States, Reuters said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will meet with representatives of Southern California Edison this week to discuss the utility’s proposal to restart the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station’s Unit 2. Two San Onofre reactors have been shut down since January 2012 when a leak in a Unit 3 steam generator led to the discovery of unexpected wear in both reactors’ steam generators. The NRC required several actions by the utility before the agency would consider allowing the plant to restart, the NRC said.

FERC has released a final environmental impact statement for the Middle Fork American River Hydroelectric Project, for the relicensing of Placer County Water Agency’s (PCWA) existing 224 MW project. The project occupies 3,268 acres of federal lands located in Placer and El Dorado counties in California, the FERC said.

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