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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Fracking Regs, EPA ‘Bias’, Cabinet Votes

The Department of the Interior yesterday released an updated draft proposal that it says establishes safety standards for hydraulic fracturing on public and Indian lands, while increasing flexibility for oil and gas developers. The department received over 177,000 public comments after it released an initial draft proposal in 2012.

Gina McCarthy squeaked through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee yesterday, as they voted 10-8 to approve her nomination for EPA administrator, the New York Times reports. But Republicans are threatening to filibuster the full Senate vote needed for her confirmation, unless the EPA provides more information, including health data underlying some air quality regulations.

The Senate has confirmed Ernest Moniz as energy secretary in a rare display of bipartisanship, sweeping him into office with a 97-0 vote, Politico reports. Both Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and energy committee chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) described Moniz as a pragmatic leader.

The EPA’s inspector general will review claims that the agency is biased, granting public records fee waivers for environmental groups but not for conservative organizations, the Hill reported. Republicans brought up the charges during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday, comparing the EPA’s actions to the ongoing IRS scandal.  

The Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act on Wednesday, 83-14, the Sacramento Bee reported. The $12.5 billion bill authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out projects for flood control, wetlands restoration, coastal storm protection and port improvement. Rep. Bill Shuster is expected to bring up the legislation soon in the House of Representatives, but the bill faces a bigger challenge in that chamber.

A Government Accountability Office report says the federal government must do more to help local governments integrate climate change adaptation into their infrastructure planning, the Hill reports. The GAO also pushed the White House to finalize guidance spelling out how federal agencies can include climate change effects in projects’ environmental reviews.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, industry groups and states including Texas and Virginia have filed nine petitions in recent weeks asking the Supreme Court to review four EPA greenhouse gas rules. The court’s decision to take up or dismiss the petitions – likely to occur in October – could help “shape or shatter” President Obama’s climate change efforts, Reuters says.

Airlines responsible for over 98 percent of the 2012 aviation emissions covered by the EU Emissions Trading System are complying with ETS legislation, surrendering carbon permits for every metric ton of CO2 emitted, Thomson Reuters Point Carbon says. The airlines only need to supply permits for flights within Europe, the EU says, due to a suspension enacted in November.

Quebec environment minister Yves-Francois Blanchet introduced a bill that would ban hydraulic fracturing, drilling and testing for natural gas in the St. Lawrence River valley for up to five years, or until a new exploration and production law can take effect. The legislation would suspend all existing licenses without compensation, Bloomberg says.

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