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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Arkansas GHG Plan, Science Advisory, Keystone Vote

The EPA has approved Arkansas’ program for permitting new and modified facilities that emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases – making the state the first in the region to replace a federal implementation plan with its own state program. This means businesses need to seek air permits from one regulatory agency instead of two, the EPA said. The agency says Arkansas serves as a model for other states in developing state-lead GHG permitting programs. Arkansas’ authority to issue GHG air permits will start in April.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has recommended the implementation of carbon standards for existing sources of emissions, along with expansion of shale gas production, as two means to combat climate change. It also called for infrastructure planning to integrate climate risks, and measures to decarbonize the economy, the Hill reported. 

The Senate voted 62-37 in favor of building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, in a non-binding vote on a bipartisan amendment. The Washington Post says it is unclear how much the vote will sway President Obama, whose state department has the final say on TransCanada’s application.

Two other non-binding and largely symbolic Senate votes on Friday showed that both Republicans and centrist Democrats are standing against fees on GHG emissions, the Hill reported. Senators voted 41-58 against Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-RI) proposal that revenue from any carbon tax be reimbursed to taxpayers through deficit reductions, rate cuts and other means. Meanwhile, Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) plan to require a 60-vote majority for passage of carbon tax legislation itself needed 60 votes to pass, and only got 53 – but that included eight centrist Democrats. 

And in another symbolic vote, Senators voted 47-52 against James Inhofe’s (R-OK) proposed ban on federal greenhouse gas regulations. The EPA published draft carbon emissions standards for new power plants a year ago, but the timescale for the rules’ completion is unclear, the Hill said.

President Obama has nominated Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Allison Macfarlane for a new, five-year term. She took over the position last summer after then-chairman Gregory Jaczko resigned, amid allegations of bullying, the AP reports.

The EPA has lodged a proposed consent decree requiring Lake Michigan Carferry Service, Inc. (LMC) of Ludington, Mich., to eliminate the discharge of coal ash from its SS Badger ferry, the last coal-fired ship on the Great Lakes, by the end of the 2014 sailing season. In 2013 and 2014, the ferry will reduce its discharge of coal ash into Lake Michigan and LMC will pay a $25,000 civil penalty for violating mercury water quality standards in 2012, according to the proposed consent decree. The boat was ordered to stop the dumping by the EPA in 2008 and was given a four-year grace period, which expired in December. LMC recently asked the agency for more time to comply with the 2008 order but the EPA said it plans to disregard that request.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued orders concluding that PJM Interconnection and the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) have largely complied with the requirements of Order No. 1000, designed to make major progress towards a more productive and efficient electric transmission grid, but the agency directed the organizations to clarify and refine their proposals. FERC concluded that WestConnect region compliance filings partially complied with Order No. 1000, but offered guidance to  public utility transmission providers in the region and directed further compliance filings.

Kansas City, Kan., and the Unified Government of Wyandotte Co. agreed a settlement with the federal government to address unauthorized overflows of untreated raw sewage and to reduce pollution levels in urban stormwater. The county must perform initial work to address overflows, implement improved operation and maintenance programs, and institute improved storm water management and overflow control plans. Since 2004, the Unified Government has reported more than 450 illegal sewer overflows that discharged raw sewage into the Missouri River, the Kansas River and their tributaries, the EPA said.

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