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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: GHG Rule Delay, Suncor Spill, Chevron’s Strange Twist

The EPA said Friday that it will delay finalizing regulations that limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, and would rewrite the rules to address concerns raised by the electric industry, the New York Times reports. The agency would not say when the new standards would be issued. The rules proposed last March would have limited CO2 emissions to 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour. They were scheduled to be finalized last Saturday, and only last week, top White House climate adviser Heather Zichal said they would be enacted in the “not-too-distant future.” 

Suncor Energy’s wastewater spill into the Athabasca River on March 25 did not threaten human health, the Alberta Environment Department said, according to Reuters. But the department said the water was fatal to rainbow trout, due to high levels of naphthenic acid, and that other compound levels were higher than legal limits. 

The House energy committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power is scheduled to vote tomorrow on HR 3, The Northern Route Approval Act, which aims to speed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. The committee says the bill will address all necessary federal permits for the project and limit legal challenges that could further delay construction.

Chevron‘s two-decade-long legal battle over alleged pollution in the Ecuadorian Amazon has taken a strange twist after Stratus Consulting of Boulder, Colo., recanted research supporting local villagers’ pollution claims, the New York Times reported. Plaintiffs claim the move is an example of coercion by Chevron, which is trying to overturn a 2011 decision ordering it to pay $18 billion in damages.

The EPA says it has received more information from ExxonMobil about its Pegasus pipeline spill in Mayflower, Arkansas. The company answered EPA questions about the materials spilled and cleanup strategies used. Updates on the cleanup activities can be found on a webpage run by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

The Congressional Research Service has concluded that FutureGen, a coal power and carbon capture project awarded $1 billion in stimulus funding, may never be completed, the Hill reported. The stimulus money is scheduled to expire in 2015, and developers hope to complete the project in 2017. But backers the FutureGen Alliance said the project has enough money to see it through.

The US and China have established a Climate Change Working Group to find ways to advance their cooperation on technology, research, conservation and alternative energy, in an agreement brokered during secretary of state John Kerry’s visit to China, the Hill reported. The group will present a report at the next meeting of the joint Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July.

The EPA is expected to publish a draft document today that will change its advice to state and local governments about how to limit radiation exposure after a nuclear reactor accident. Groups opposed to nuclear power say the EPA document, and a Department of Homeland Security report, recommend greatly increasing the amount of radioactive contamination permitted in food and water, the New York Times reports.

The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a full committee oversight hearing on Wednesday to examine the difference in energy production and permitting on federal lands versus state and private lands.

Alaska‘s legislature yesterday approved a bill making deep cuts to taxes on oil production, Reuters reported. Supporters say the move will boost output, but critics say it will severely hurt state finances.

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