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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Biofuel Fraud, Exxon Spill, DuPont MOU

A US district judge sentenced Jeffrey Gunselman to nearly 16 years in federal prison, $54.9 million in restitution and $175,000 in fines, for defrauding the EPA with a fake biofuel business. Gunselman admitted that his companies Absolute Fuels, Absolute Milling, Ellipse Energy, 21 Investments and YGOG Holdings – of which he was the only owner and manager – generated and sold renewable fuel credits without producing a single drop of biofuel.

The EPA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration are investigating an oil spill from ExxonMobil‘s Pegasus pipeline, which has forced the evacuation of 22 homes in Arkansas, Reuters reported. The company said it has recovered 12,000 barrels of oil and water. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said the spill was another example of why many Americans are against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

DuPont and the USDA‘s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) have agreed to set voluntary standards for sustainable harvesting of corn stover, an agricultural residue, for renewable fuel. Under the MOU, NRCS will provide conservation planning assistance for farmers who supply the stock, and DuPont will work with farms on practices to reduce flooding, keep soil out of water bodies and use nutrients efficiently. DuPont will first apply the agreement to its plant northeast of Des Moines, which will use residues from a 30-mile radius, the USDA said.

Canada is now the only one of 193 UN member states not party to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The UNCCD secretariat described Canada’s withdrawal as “regrettable,” but said it believes Canada will still seize every opportunity to support the convention’s implementation. The UN said the UNCCD is the world’s only legally binding instrument that addresses desertification, land degradation and drought. 

New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission said Friday that it will allow some taxi owners to buy hybrids, but only if the vehicles’ interiors measure at least 138 cubic feet – the same as the city’s preferred taxi, the conventionally fueled Nissan NV200. Two years ago New York awarded Nissan a 10-year contract to supply nearly all of the city’s 13,000 cabs. But the Greater New York Taxi Association is suing, saying the commission is required by law to allow hybrid cars as an option, the New York Times reports.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a supplemental draft environmental impact statement on the Downeast LNG Project, a liquefied natural gas import terminal, natural gas pipeline, and associated facilities in Washington County, Maine. Based on new information from Downeast, the Coast Guard and the departments of transportation and energy, FERC staff revised a reliability and safety analysis from their May 2009 draft EIS. Comments are due by May 20.

Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s nomination for energy secretary, will if confirmed resign a board position with General Electric’s Ecomagination branch, among other organizations. He made the pledge in a federal ethics and financial disclosure filing published on Friday, the Hill reported. Moniz also reported working as a consultant for BP from 2005 to 2012. He is due to appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on April 9. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, the American Lung Association and other groups petitioned the Supreme Court on Friday to review the August 2012 appeals court decision that threw out the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the Hill reports. In January, the appeals court denied the White House’s request for a full court review, and the EPA said it is deciding its next course of action.The EDF and NRDC also presented more than 60,000 signatures to the State Department last week, urging the US to back a market-based approach to cut carbon emissions from airplanes. Countries appear deadlocked over the geographic scope of such a mechanism, Reuters reported.

Chemical Waste Management has agreed to pay $311,000 in fines for failures to report 72 hazardous materials spills at a waste dump in the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles Times reported. The facility was the only one in California  licensed to accept polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a carcinogen. The company was previously fined for poor monitoring, environmental management violations and lack of permits in 1985, 2005, 2010 and 2011.

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