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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: $1.5bn Sewer Upgrades, Ocean Plan, Chevron Report

The carbon intensity of the world’s energy supplies has barely changed in the past 20 years, despite implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and a boom in renewable power, the International Energy Agency said in a report. “The drive to clean up the world’s energy system has stalled,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said, according to Bloomberg.

The August fire that severely damaged Chevron‘s Richmond, Calif., refinery and caused 15,000 people to seek treatment for respiratory problems occurred because state rules allowed the company to simply monitor potential problems rather than fix them, the US Chemical Safety Board said Monday. Board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said the way refineries do business in California and across the US must change, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

King County and the city of Seattle will make nearly $1.5 billion in upgrades to sewage and combined stormwater collection, piping and treatment under settlements with the Department of Justice and the EPA, to address raw sewage discharges and other alleged violations. King County will make improvements costing about $860 million and pay a $400,000 penalty. Seattle will spend about $600 million on upgrades and pay a $350,000 penalty.

The White House yesterday released the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan, which the administration says will help coordinate the 27 federal agencies that enforce over 100 ocean-related laws, the Environmental News Service reports. President Obama issued the policy by executive order in July 2010. 

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Power voted 17 to 9 in favor of HR 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, which aims to speed up approvals for the Keystone XL pipeline. The full committee is due to vote on the bill today. But President Obama retains the final say on the pipeline’s northern leg because it crosses a federal border, the Hill says.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are expected tomorrow to reintroduce a bipartisan energy efficiency bill, the Hill reports. The legislation is likely to focus on research and development funding, building codes, and incentives for industrial energy efficiency upgrades.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works  Committee, has introduced the bipartisan North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act, which would reauthorize the program to protect and restore wetlands in all 50 states through 2017. Authorization for the program expired at the end of fiscal year 2012, the committee said.

The House Natural Resources Commitee’s subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation will tomorrow hold a hearing on HR 657, the Grazing Improvement Act, which according to its sponsors would amend the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 to improve the management of grazing leases and permits. The subcommittee on fisheries, wildlife, oceans and insular affairs will tomorrow hold an oversight hearing on the president’s 2014 budget requests for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Insular Affairs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Grain Processing Corporation, in Muscatine, Iowa, has agreed to pay a $129,000 penalty for violations of the federal Clean Water Act, the EPA said. The agency said the company’s violations included exceeding the effluent limitations for biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids, temperature, and pH; taking unrepresentative flow measurements; failing to conduct settleability tests; and failing to maintain all facilities and control systems in good working order.

The EPA has reached two settlements with Mark West Liberty Midstream & Resources and the Laurel Mountain Midstream Robin Hill facility, which agreed to improve operation of their natural gas facilities in western Pennsylvania. The agency alleged that the companies failed to comply with federal clean air regulations to prevent accidental releases of flammable substances.

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