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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Dam Removal, Barging Frack Water, Superfund

The Interior Department yesterday recommended that four PacifiCorp hydroelectric dams be removed from the Klamath River in Oregon and California, at a cost of $450 million, to aid salmon runs and water allocation. Several species of fish in the river are on the federal threatened and endangered species list, and droughts have repeatedly forced water managers to allocate flows to the fish rather than to irrigation, Reuters said.

The Coast Guard has sent the White House’s Office of Management and Budget a plan to allow the barging of fracking wastewaterReuters reports. Companies backing the plan say barges are a safter transportation method than trucks and trains, which are now commonly used. But some environmental groups say the water could spill into waterways through barge accidents or leaks.

Fifty-eight percent of Republicans believe global warming is a “hoax,” according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. But in another poll this week, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 44 percent of Republicans said there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth is rising.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment on the agency’s proposed regulatory changes to ensure US nuclear power plants can safely withstand a “station blackout,” or complete loss of alternating current power. The agency amended the rules the based on lessons learned from the March 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan. The proposal will available on the federal government’s rulemaking website under Docket ID NRC-2011-0299 and in NRC’s electronic document database, ADAMS, under accession number ML13077A453.

The Sierra Club, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Friends of the Columbia Gorge and RE Sources for Sustainable Communities announced their intention to sue BNSF Railways and six coal companies, to force the firms to better contain coal shipped in open-topped train cars, the Seattle Times reported. The non-profits said the shipments are violating the federal Clean Water Act by showering coal dust and debris into the Columbia River, Lake Washington Ship Canal and other waterways in the northwest.

Air quality has improved in the Arkansas town where Exxon Mobil Corp’s Pegasus pipeline leaked, but is still unhealthy where workers are cleaning up the spill, the company and the EPA said, according to Reuters. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality is posting air quality data related to the spill here.

The EPA has finalized a plan to clean up additional contaminated soil and ground water at the Saratoga Springs, NY Superfund site of Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (which does business as National Grid). The site, which was once used to manufacture gas from coal, contains hazardous substances, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds, that were produced as byproducts and disposed of on site, the EPA says. The agency expects National Grid to perform and pay for this $6.5 million final phase of the cleanup.

The EPA is withdrawing approval, issued from 2006 to 2012, for the import and sale of up to 74,000 gas-powered on- and off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles from China. The agency believes that it received misleading emissions information in applications from the two companies involved, Snyder Technology, and Snyder Computer Systems (doing business as Wildfire Motors Corporation). 

Torromeo Industries has agreed to pay $700,000 and restore a significant area of filled wetlands as a penalty for the unpermitted filling of approximately 12.5 acres of wetlands and streams at its sand, gravel and stone mining and ready-mix concrete plant plant in Kingston, N.H., the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services said. In a parallel settlement with the EPA, will pay a $135,000 civil penalty, institute a $500,000 supplemental environmental project, implement storm water pollution control measures and completely eliminate process wastewater discharges from the plant, to amend for discharging stormwater and process water into wetlands and waterways without the needed authorization, the EPA said.

Hydrofarm, one of the nation’s largest distributors of agricultural and hydroponic supplies, has agreed to stop selling two unregistered pesticides and to pay $316,000 in fines, the EPA said. Hydrofarm sold the vaporizing sulfur and 29 percent hydrogen peroxide products without adequate directions for use, in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, the agency said. 

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