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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: ‘Innovative’ Stormwater Plan, Paint Take-Back, Microwave Standards

The Energy Department has finalized energy efficiency standards for microwave ovens. The DOE said the new rules will reduce energy consumption in standby mode by 75 percent in countertop microwave ovens and over-the-range microwave ovens without convection features, and by 51 percent for over-the-range microwave ovens with convection, preventing 38 million metric tons of carbon pollution over the next three decades. The standards will go into effect starting in 2016, and will save consumers nearly $3 billion on their energy bills through 2030, the DOE said.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill requiring manufacturers to fund and operate a paint take-back program. The law shifts managerial and financial burdens away from the state and local governments, the Product Stewardship Institute said.

An inspector general found the EPA’s Maryland warehouse suffering from “deplorable conditions” including vermin feces, mold and corrosion. The warehouse operated by Apex Logistics stored unopened appliances, unused furniture and surplus gym equipment, and warehouse workers were subject to unsafe conditions for which the agency could be held liable, the report said, according to The Hill. 

European Union tariffs on Chinese solar panels will come into force tomorrow, but for the first two months will be set at just 11.8 percent, a quarter of the average tariff proposed in a European Commission plan last month. The EU is delaying the full brunt of the duties to give manufacturers time to negotiate a settlement, in the hopes of defusing a trade war, the Wall Street Journal said.

The dramatically reduced rate follows pressure from some large member states including Germany. Today China retaliated against the tariffs with an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probe into European wine, Reuters reported.

The EPA approved what it called an “innovative plan” for the control of combined sewer overflows in Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio. The agency said the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Greater Cincinnati’s plan would cost $150 million less, in 2006 dollars, than a more traditional deep-tunnel system. The plan calls for separation of rainwater and sewer systems, and use of a green corridor and floodway to convey stormwater runoff.  

The EPA has proposed deleting 1,154 properties from the National Priorities List at the Omaha Lead Superfund Site, the nation’s largest residential lead remediation site. The agency placed the Nebraska site on the NPL in 2003, and has so far sampled more than 41,176 properties. It has cleaned up 11,425 residential yards, but about 2,000 sampled properties with elevated lead levels still need to be remediated.

The environment and economy subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding markup sessions today and tomorrow on several bills. One, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, would almost entirely remove the EPA’s authority to regulate coal ash, The Hill reports. Other bills under discussion include the Federal and State Partnership for Environmental Protection Act, the Federal Facility Accountability Act and the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act.

The House Committee on Natural Resources’s energy and mineral resources subcommittee will tomorrow hold two mining-related hearings: “Powder River Basin Coal Mining, the Benefits and Challenges” and “The Administration’s Use of Claim Maintenance Fees and Cleanup of Abandoned Mine Lands.”

Members of the committee will also meet to discuss a draft bill by chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), which would permit drilling offshore of South Carolina, Virginia and southern California, and make changes to the Interior Department’s offshore drilling branch, the Hill said.

The Natural Resources subcommittee on fisheries, wildlife, oceans and insular affairs will hold a legislative hearing tomorrow on several bills, including HR 1308, which would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to reduce predation on endangered Columbia River salmon and other nonlisted species; HR 1425, which addresses severe marine debris events; HR 1491, which authorizes funding to address the marine debris impacts of the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami; and HR 2219, which reauthorizes the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009.

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