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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Exxon $236m Penalty, Biofuel Makers’ Unusual Request

ExxonMobil must pay $236 million to New Hampshire after a jury found the company liable for groundwater contamination caused by the gasoline additive MTBE, the AP reports. MTBE reduces smog, and oil companies accelerated their use of the chemical in the 1990s to comply with Clean Air Act requirements, NPR says.

The Renewable Fuels Association has urged the EPA to lower this year’s biofuel standard, saying the federal quotas are unrealistic, the Hill reports. The EPA set the 2013 standard for cellulosic fuel at 14 million gallons, up from 8.65 million gallons in 2012.

Energy secretary nominee Ernest Moniz sailed through a hearing with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday, Politico reported. Ranking Republican Lisa Murkowksi said she didn’t think her party would object to the nomination. The committee has not yet scheduled a vote to confirm Moniz.

Tomorrow, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing on the nomination of Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s pick for EPA administrator. She is likely to face tough questioning, Reuters says.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee is meeting today to discuss H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, which would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill would eliminate the need for a presidential permit, address all other necessary federal permits, and limit litigation that could doom the project, according to its author, Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE). A top TransCanada official said an administration decision on the project appears to be months away, the HIll reports.

The committee will also meet tomorrow to discuss the Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2013. Witnesses will include representatives from the EPA, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Top White House climate adviser Heather Zichal said the administration will enact greenhouse gas rules for power plants in the “not-too-distant future,” the Hill reports. The rules were proposed about a year ago.

The Carlsbad Irrigation District in New Mexico has voted unanimously to make a “priority call” on the Pecos River, which could force the state’s Office of the State Engineer to reallocate supplies by assigning water to users based on seniority. This could deprive some users of their water supplies, the New York Times said. The CID said its actions will ensure that its alfalfa farmers receive the water they are entitled to.

The EPA has finalized a plan to address contaminated ground water at the Cayuga County Superfund site in Cayuga County, NY. General Electric‘s semiconductor manufacturing in Auburn, NY was the major source of ground water contamination in the area, along with its joint venture Powerex, and the EPA says the companies will be responsible for cleanup costs, estimated at $20 million.

Shield Packaging Company has agreed $484,900 in penalties to settle EPA claims that it violated hazardous waste management, chemical accident prevention, hazardous chemical inventory reporting, and oil pollution prevention rules at its liquid and aerosol packaging facility in Dudley, Mass. The company violated the Clean Air Act, the Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Mass. Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, the EPA said.

Advanced BioEnergy of Bloomington, Minn., agreed to pay penalties of $136,500 to settle claims related to alleged violations at its Huron and Aberdeen, SD ethanol production facilities. The violations are related to the facilities’ risk management programs and the failure to properly file Toxic Release Inventory forms detailing with the use and management of chemicals, the EPA said.

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