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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: GMO Bill, Ozone Agreement, Coal Slurry Danger

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a bill Wednesday to require labeling for foods made with genetically modified organisms, Reuters reported. The bill has 31 co-sponsors. But executives from Monsanto, Dow Chemical and DuPont said they are planning a campaign to turn public opinion against such proposals.

China has agreed to eliminate its industrial production of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) by 2030. The UN says it will provide China – the world’s largest producer and consumer of HCFCs – with up to $385 million for ODS eradication. China estimates the move will prevent over 4.3 billion metric tons of CO2e from entering the atmosphere, and the UN says the project will help pave the way for similar actions in other developing countries.

Many impoundment ponds for storing coal mining slurry are poorly constructed and have dangerously weak walls, according to a study for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement obtained by the Washington Post. Only 16 out of 73 field tests in the study met standards.

Designers of products including mobile phones and electric car batteries should vastly improve recyclability, to help address skyrocketing demand for metals, according to two reports by the United Nations’ International Resource Panel, Reuters said. The reports also called on governments to agree on best available recycling technologies.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has introduced a bill to make violations of chemical reporting rules a federal crime, the Hill reports. Lautenberg was spurred by the fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14 people in West, Texas last week. He said today’s chemical reporting laws are “toothless.”

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking Republican Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have introduced a bill that would change how the country stores nuclear waste. The bill would let state and local governments apply to host a national waste repository, and it would create a new federal agency to manage the waste, the Hill reports.

The House Natural Resources Committee has passed HR 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, which would reduce regulatory hurdles for the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill passed 24-17.

A Senate Finance Committee white paper has proposed a carbon tax as one possible policy option to reform the federal tax code. But the paper warned that its proposals do not necessarily have the backing of committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), and the Hill says that a carbon tax is likely still “dead on arrival.”

The Department of Agriculture has renewed an agreement with dairy producers to increase the construction of anaerobic digesters and explore innovative ways to repurpose waste. The USDA said this work will help the industry reach its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

The House Committee on Natural Resources is holding a legislative hearing today on HR 1548, which sponsors say would reduce federal regulations that impede tribes’ energy development on Indian lands.

The House science committee’s subcommittees on energy and environment are today holding a hearing today entitled Review of Federal Hydraulic Fracturing Research Activities. The hearing will examine progress under Executive Order 13605, which mandated the creation of an interagency working group to facilitate coordinated natural gas policy efforts. 

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