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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Ship GHGs, Solar Panel Duties, McCarthy Vote Scrapped

Republicans boycotted a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on Gina McCarthy’s nomination for EPA administrator, leaving Democrats unable to get a quorum and forcing them to cancel yesterday’s planned vote, the Hill reported. GOP senators are also discussing a filibuster – the first ever on a cabinet-level position – and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said he doesn’t think Democrats will muster the 60 votes needed to overcome that.

Canada is tightening greenhouse gas standards for ships to align itself with US regulations, in a move that transport minister Denis Lebel said would cut GHGs by 11 megatons a year by 2025, the CBC reported. The government said its new standards will reduce ships’ sulphur oxide emissions by 96 percent and nitrogen oxide by 80 percent, both by 2020, and cut carbon dioxide by 30 percent over 12 years.

S.761, the energy-efficiency bill co-sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), sailed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, 19-3. The committee also approved four bills that would relax permitting for small hydropower projects, and Wyden said he expects those to pass a full Senate vote, the Hill said.

EU commissioners backed trade chief Karel De Gucht’s proposal of import duties on Chinese solar panels, to come into force by June 6, Reuters reported. Shares in Chinese manufacturer Suntech fell sharply on the news, while shares in Germany’s SolarWorld, Phoenix Solar and Centrotherm rose.

Van maker Vehicle Production Group LLC, which received $50 million in Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loans from the Department of Energy, has halted operations and laid off nearly all its employees, Bloomberg reports. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said the latest closure of a DOE-funded business signals that the loan program is a failure.

The Senate agreed unanimously to five amendments to the Water Resources Development Act, including one authorizing the Army to build river and harbor projects,  and another that would give towns smaller than 25,000 people extra help to develop infrastructure. The bill, S. 601, would also authorize navigation, ecosystem restoration, and flood risk reduction projects, the Hill said.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee released the third in a series of white papers examining issues with the Renewable Fuel Standard. The latest paper examines greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts associated with the RFS. Comments are requested by May 24.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, a bill to streamline the federal review process for natural gas pipeline permits. Pompeo says the current regulatory process delays construction of critical infrastructure.

The EPA has approved Pennsylvania’s 2012 final list of impaired waters, part of a bi-annual monitoring and assessment report. The list contains 7,009 impaired waters, adding 263 and removing 39.

Texas state representative Wayne Smith is proposing a bill that would limit the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to keeping five years of records on companies’ compliance with state and federal laws, NBC DFW reports. The Texas League of Conservation Voters said the law would limit the public’s access to company records.

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