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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Arch Coal Setback, Texas Water Case, $1bn Utility Settlement

The US Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the EPA can revoke Arch Coal‘s permit for its Spruce No. 1 mountaintop mine in West Virginia, the Wall Street Journal reports. The US Army Corps of Engineers approved the permit. A lower court will now consider whether the EPA’s revocation was arbitrary, as the company alleges.

The Supreme Court appeared skeptical yesterday of Texas‘ claim that it has a right to buy and draw water from Oklahomathe AP reports. Texas says it has the right under the 30-year-old Red River Compact between the two states, plus Arkansas and Louisiana.

A federal court yesterday rejected the energy industry’s plea to overturn a 2010 order, which forced the EPA to review power plant runoff rules, the Hill reports. The agency proposed options for dealing with power plant runoff last week.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Reps. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) will today reintroduce the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act, which would extend the financing mechanism to renewable energy development. MLPs are currently only available for oil and gas, the Hill said.

Wisconsin Power and Light, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (WPSC), Madison Gas and Electric Company, and Wisconsin Electric Power Company agreed to invest more than $1 billion in pollution control technology, spend a total of $8.5 million on environmental mitigation projects, and pay a civil penalty of $2.45 million to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Air Act from three coal-fired plants, located near Portage, Sheboygan, and Cassville, Wis. The settlement also requires WPL and WPSC to permanently retire, refuel, or repower four additional coal-fired units. The EPA and Sierra Club were co-plaintiffs to the settlement.

Beef Products Inc. (BPI) has agreed to pay a $450,000 civil penalty and conduct third-party audits to settle alleged violations of Clean Air Act regulations. The settlement stems from a 2007 incident at the now-closed Waterloo, Iowa, facility that released more than 1,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia, killing one worker and permanently disabling another, the EPA said. BPI also directed its employees to enter the facility while dangerous levels of airborne anhydrous ammonia remained present, the agency said.

Halliburton says it is in advanced talks to settle most claims related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the AP reports. The company was BP’s cement contractor on the rig.

EPA acting administrator Bob Perciasepe and acting chief financial officer Maryann Froehlich are testifying today before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, to discuss the EPA’s proposed FY 2014 budget.

The EPA this week called the State Department’s 2,000-page draft review of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline “insufficient,” and said the department must examine climate impacts more closely. The agency also said it was concerned about safety, in light of a high-profile Michigan river spill in 2010, Reuters reported.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will today hold a hearing on Department of Energy loans made to the troubled electric car maker Fisker Automotive. Witnesses will include Fisker executives and a DOE officer.

The House Committee on Natural Resources will today hold a vote on HR 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, which aims to speed up development of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is putting a procedural hold on Ernest Moniz‘s nomination for energy secretary, the Hill reported. Graham plans to block Moniz until he gets answers about how the nominee will address a delayed nuclear waste disposal program in South Carolina.

The EPA and the Arizona Department of Transportation have reached an agreement to improve the state’s stormwater management program. ADOT voluntarily agreed to add positions in its Office of Environmental Services, and to map its storm drain outfalls and roadside water filters. The agreement requires ADOT to conduct additional corrective measures, and establishes a series of compliance dates, ending in March 2014.

The Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have agreed to perform collaborative research related to airborne emissions and air quality at natural gas drilling sites. They join a cross-functional team of scientists from the DoE, Department of the Interior, and the EPA.

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