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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: EPA Overestimate, GMO Wheat, Compost Mandate

The White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs found that the EPA overestimated the benefits of proposed formaldehyde regulations by up to $230 million, according to newly released documents seen by The Hill. The EPA predicted savings of $91 million to $278 million, but the OIRA cut that to between $9 million and $48 million. The EPA issued the rules governing composite wood products last month, after the proposal stayed in its White House review phase past deadline.

Leaders of Denver, Cincinnati, Washington, DC, Sacramento, San Diego, Milwaukee, El Paso and other local governments have pledged to take cost-effective actions to prepare and protect their communities from the increasing disasters and disruptions fueled by climate change, such as heat waves, floods, droughts, severe storms, and wildfires. The 45 initial signatories of the Resilient Communities for America Agreement letter also called for more action and support from federal leaders.

The unapproved genetically modified wheat found on a farm in Oregon appears to be an isolated incident, the US Department of Agriculture has said, as it continues its investigation. The USDA interviewed about 200 area growers as well as seed company Monsanto, Reuters said.

China has adopted 10 air quality measures, including a requirement for heavy polluters such as coal plants and metal smelters to release detailed environmental data to the public. Many of the measures were previously introduced as pilots or as regulations in certain cities, the New York Times said.

New York City could, within a few years, require residents to separate food waste for composting, the New York Times reports. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office is expected to announce soon that the city is contracting with a composting plant to handle about 10 percent of residents’ food waste, and will also look for a company to build a waste-to-biogas plant.

United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called for the full implementation of the outcomes of the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy in Geneva in March, to further a global shift from crisis management to drought preparedness and resilience. He also called for implementation of last year’s agreement at the Rio +20 Conference on sustainable development to avoid and offset land degradation.

The continued delay in confirming Gina McCarthy as head of the EPA may be further stalling the New Source Performance Standard, a proposed emissions rule for new power plants, which the EPA was supposed to finalize April 13. Environmental groups, states and cities that filed intent to sue over the missed deadline could take legal action as soon as today, Reuters says. But President Obama has reportedly said he will issue revised guidelines in July.

Obama vowed to take action on climate with or without Congressional cooperation, but so far he has failed to strengthen the National Environmental Policy Act, one tool that does not need approval from legislators, Reuters says. The White House suggested in 2010 that it would update the act to count carbon emissions as an impact worthy of a NEPA review, but has so far left the proposals on ice.

The energy and power subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on U.S. Energy Abundance: Regulatory, Market, and Legal Barriers to Export.” Witnesses will include representatives from the Department of Energy, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, US Army Corps of Engineers, National Association of Manufacturers and the National Mining Association.

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