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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: US Sues Exxon, Smog Rules ‘Could Cost $1 Trillion’

The Justice Department and the state of Arkansas filed a lawsuit Thursday against Exxon Mobil over the 5,000-barrel Pegasus pipeline spill in Mayflower, Arkansas. The two parties are seeking civil penalties, and the state is also seeking a judgment on Exxon’s liability for damages. The March spill contaminated 22 homes, and cleanup operations continue, Reuters says.

New EPA smog standards expected in the next year will be the most expensive in history, even at the agency’s own estimate of $90 billion a year, but could actually cost businesses up to $1 trillion, Republicans said Wednesday. The GOP also said the standards will be impossible for some states to achieve, The Hill reported. The EPA is considering lowering the threshold from 75 to 60 parts per billion.

Five senators from states hit by Hurricane Sandy sent President Obama a letter, urging him to finalize carbon standards for new power plants, and to bring in carbon regulations for existing plants. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the urgency of addressing climate change’s causes and effects.

The UK government has laid before Parliament regulations requiring 1,100 of the country’s largest businesses to publicly report their greenhouse gas emissions, Construction News reports. Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg first announced the plan last June.

The House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday approved HR 2231, which calls for the coasts of South Carolina, Virginia and California to be opened to oil and gas drilling; HR 1964, which would speed oil and gas leasing and keep production going in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve; and HR 1548, which would remove restrictions on energy development on tribal lands. All three bills now advance to the House floor, The Hill reports.

A contractor missed a quarter-inch area of corrosion near the core of Duke Energy’s Shearon Harris nuclear reactor last year, a flaw which new contractors only found after the plant was forced to shut down May 15, Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors said. The NRC said the reactor vessel never leaked radiation, and the plant returned to full power Sunday, the AP reported.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation contractor, J.H. Lynch & Sons, will pay a penalty of $55,000 in settlement for EPA allegations that it violated a Clean Water Act Permit at a road construction project in Bellingham, Mass., by failing to properly minimize pollutant discharges to the Peters River and Arnolds Brook. MassDOT has taken steps to avoid this type of situation in the future, the EPA said.

Connecticut Freezers and Maritime International will pay a $50,000 penalty and perform $160,000 worth of environmental projects, including training for other companies and emergency responders, following the release of about 5,000 pounds of ammonia from a cold storage warehouse in New Haven, Conn., the EPA said. The release resulted from corroded piping and brackets that gave way.

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