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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Methane Hydrate, Canada Opposition on Keystone, Calvert Cliffs 3

Japan has extracted gas from offshore methane hydrate deposits for the first time in the world, as part of a project to achieve commercial production within six years. State-run Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp tapped the gas from methane hydrate, a frozen gas known as “flammable ice”, near Japan’s central coast. Japan’s trade ministry said the production tests will continue for about two weeks, followed by analysis on how much gas was produced, Reuters reports.

Canada’s opposition leader Tom Mulcair from the New Democratic Party will visit Washington, DC, this week to counter statements by Canadian officials supporting the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. Mulcair’s message is that the Canadian government is “playing people for fools” by championing the nation’s environmental record when the proposed Keystone pipeline would transport carbon-intensive oil to Gulf Coast refineries, and the government has already withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol, The Hill reports.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission upheld the licensing board’s decision to deny a construction and operating license for the proposed 1,500 MW Calvert Cliffs 3 nuclear reactor in Maryland. The denial of a license to the petitioner UniStar Nuclear was based on a finding that the nuclear plant would have been in violation of key provisions of the Atomic Energy Act. This is the first time in history that the NRC has upheld a license denial for a commercial nuclear reactor, and only the second time a commercial nuclear facility has been denied a license at all, Power Engineering said.

United Nations officials said at the opening of the “High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy” in Geneva that countries need to create formal national preventive policies against droughts to make the world less susceptible to the impacts of water scarcity. Organized jointly by the UN World Meteorological Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and partners, the five-day meeting seeks to achieve a policy framework, and an exchange of information about drought preparedness measures, the UN News Center said.

In China, more than 2,200 dead pigs have been found in one of Shanghai’s main water sources. The carcasses were probably dumped in the Huangpu river in Zhejiang province, and the total number was expected to increase, the Shanghai Songjiang District Environmental Protection Bureau said. The Shanghai government said it was closely monitoring the water quality although no pollution has been found so far, Reuters reports.

Draft carbon tax legislation affecting heavy polluters such as electricity generators and petroleum refineries would direct the Treasury Department to collect the fees based on emissions data from the EPA. The new bill is not likely to progress in the House or Senate, and is one of several proposal initiated in Congress as climate change awareness grows. The bill comes from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), House Energy and Commerce ranking member Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), The Hill said.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the US Coast Guard have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate with each other on the development of hydrokinetic projects – projects that generate power from waves, tides, ocean currents, and the flow of rivers. The MOU will advance interagency cooperation in protecting navigation safety, maritime security, and environmental resources when considering license proposals for hydrokinetic energy development, the FERC said.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold a hearing Thursday on “The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Program: A Progress Update” to review facilities’ implementation of security plans to protect against terrorists threats. Witnesses include representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the Government Accountability Office, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and Greenpeace.

Groeller Painting of St. Louis, Mo., has agreed to pay a $23,000 civil penalty to settle allegations that it failed to use proper lead-safe work practices during the renovation of a pre-1978 multifamily unit property, in violation of the Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule. The company also failed to notify residents about lead-based paint risks before the company or its subcontractors performed renovation work at their homes, the EPA said.

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