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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: EPA Bee Report, Post-Sandy Aid, Energy Contracts Urged

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR, pictured) has urged President Obama’s administration to contract for the remaining $1.5 billion in energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) by the end of 2013. Obama committed the federal government in December 2011 to spend $2 billion on energy upgrades via ESPCs, as part of the president’s Better Buildings Challenge. The government has so far awarded about $500 million, the Hill reports.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will consider the nomination of Gina McCarthy for EPA administrator on May 9. The senators held a hearing on McCarthy last month.

The EPA has announced grants of $340 million to the state of New York and $229 million to New Jersey for improvements to wastewater and drinking water treatment facilities damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The Union of Concerned Scientists described the grant as a “band-aid,” the Hill reports.

Multiple factors contribute to honeybee colony decline, including parasites, disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure, according to a report by the US Department of Agriculture and the EPA. The researchers pinned a large part of the blame on a parasitic mite known as Varroa destructor, and said it is not clear whether pesticides are a major factor, the Guardian reported. The European Union voted Monday to impose a two-year ban on the pesticide class neonicotinoids, in an effort to protect bees.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht is poised to recommend placing import duties on billions of euros worth of solar panels from China, Reuters reports. The measures could come into force by June 6. But the EU and Beijing could also still negotiate an agreement to avoid the levies.

US carbon dioxide levels would remain flat from now to 2040 if the government made all current policies permanent, according to an Energy Information Administration analysis, reported in the Washington Post. But flatlined emissions wouldn’t be nearly enough to tackle climate change, the Post’s Brad Plumer says – and the Obama administration itself has set a goal of a 17 percent cut by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

At 160-nation talks in Bonn, Germany, the US is gaining some support for its plan to let all countries set their own climate goals, which would mean throwing out the blueprint of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. But countries’ pledges so far are too low to prevent substantial temperature rises, Reuters says.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it will increase oversight at Exelon Generation Co.’s Three Mile Island 1 reactor, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The NRC said inspectors conducting a post-Fukushima review at the Pennsylvania plant last year found unprotected electrical conduits, which in a severe flood could allow water to infiltrate the plant’s safety equipment.

An Ontario court has rebuffed attempts to force Chevron‘s Canadian subsidiary to pay a $19 billion judgment in the company’s long-running Amazon pollution case, the Wall Street Journal says. Chevron has refused to pay the penalty levied by an Ecuadorian court, and the company has no assets in Ecuador, so plaintiffs have tried to collect the money in Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

The EPA has announced an agreement with D.S.C. of Newark Enterprises to obtain a reimbursement for $1.6 million that the EPA spent to clean up the Friction Division Products Superfund site, which D.S.C. owned, in Lawrenceville, N.J. The property was littered with asbestos material, acids, flammable materials, waste oil, solvents, and metal compounds, the agency says.

The Moore Company, a manufacturer of rubber and elastic tapes, threads, sheets and rings, will pay a civil penalty of $198,500 for Clean Air Act violations at its facility in Brattleboro, Vt., the EPA says. The facility violated air permit conditions related to particulate matter, emissions control systems, and recapture of refrigerants during servicing, the agency says.

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