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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: SCOTUS on Logging, NV Energy ‘Phony’ Reports, Pfizer

The US Supreme Court has voted 7-1 to reverse a 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that active logging roads need Clean Water Act permits to help control their runoff, the Oregonian reports. SCOTUS ruled on a lawsuit by the Oregon-based Northwest Environmental Defense Center. Last year the EPA issued a rule stating that it would not regulate these roads as it does industrial “point” sources, such as factories, but said states need plans to handle pollution from non-point sources.

Leaders of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians said they have found evidence that from 2006 to 2011, NV Energy wrote “phony” reports to Nevada about airborne pollution levels near its Reid Gardner Generating Station. The tribe said NV Energy wasn’t even measuring the pollution, the AP reports. NV chief executive Michael Yackira that irregularities were found in a contractor’s measurements from July 2011, but said reports of falsification are “patently false.”

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Water Resources Development Act, which would make low-interest loans available for water infrastructure projects across the US. The American Water Works Association said the passage was a “pivotal moment” in addressing the country’s water infrastructure challenge, WaterWorld reported.

China has imposed stringent fuel economy standards, cutting passenger cars’ average fuel use to 6.9 litres per 100 kilometers (34.1 mpg) by 2015, and 5 litres per 100 km (46.9 mpg) by 2020, the Indian Express reports. Reuters said the change would be especially difficult for smaller automakers.

The Senate on Wednesday rejected, 40-59, an amendment that would divert about $60 million away from the military’s biofuel testing program. Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA) had sought to attach the amendment to the Senate’s budget bill to keep the federal government operating through September 30, DomesticFuel reports.

Bipartisan talks have shown that measures on energy efficiency, hydropower and nuclear waste management could pass both chambers of Congress, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said, according to The Hill. There are still some disagreements on methods. For example, Democrats want to encourage efficiency through tax credits and standards, but Republicans want to avoid mandates and measure that would widen the deficit.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved President Obama’s pick for secretary of the interior, REI president Sally Jewell, in a 19-3 vote. An aide said Senate majority leader Harry Reid hoped to bring a vote before the full Senate shortly after spring break, the New York Times reported.

Four professional beekeepers and five non-profits sued the EPA yesterday, claiming the agency should place an immediate ban on clothianidin and thiamethoxam, insecticides they say are linked to honeybee decline. The plaintiffs, which include the Sierra Club and the Center for Environmental Health, say the EPA has failed to protect the bees and their role in pollinating vital food crops, Reuters reports.

European industry commissioner Antonio Tajani insisted the EU would continue to enforce a ban on vehicle air conditioning coolants with global warming potentials more than 150 times that of CO2, Reuters says. Daimler AG has refused to use the alternative, less polluting coolant, calling it dangerously flammable, and German ministers asked for the law to be suspended.

Today will see a “vote-o-rama” on amendments to the Senate’s budget plans, The Hill reports, with several energy and climate-related items on the agenda. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) proposed a measure to prohibit federal agencies from evaluating emissions produced outside the country by any US export, and Sen. Blunt (R-MO) filed an amendment requiring a 60-vote threshold for any legislation imposing a federal carbon tax or fee.

The EPA has signed an agreement with Wyeth Holdings Corporation, a subsidiary of Pfizer, to perform pre-construction design work, an initial step in the cleanup of the American Cyanamid Superfund site in Bridgewater Township, NJ, the agency reported. Wyeth has also agreed to continue to operate a system for collecting and treating contaminated ground water underneath the site to prevent it from seeping into the nearby Raritan River, Cuckhold’s Brook and Middle Brook.

Portland, Maine has agreed to pay a penalty of $53,250 to settle EPA claims that the city did not adequately prevent raw sewage overflows to surface waters from its sewer system. The city agreed to address erosion along the banks of Dole Brook. EPA previously issued a related order requiring Portland to better manage its sewer system to prevent overflows, the agency says.

The West Virginia Department of Transportation (W.Va. DOT) has agreed to pay a $30,000 penalty to settle alleged violations of underground storage tank (UST) regulations at 10 facilities operated by the department’s Division of Highways, the EPA said. As part of the settlement, W.Va. DOT has also agreed to statewide improvements of its UST monitoring procedures.

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