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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Wheat Bans, Plastic Bag Bill, Nile Dam

South Korea and Japan halted some US wheat imports and the European Union advised member states to test certain shipments, the Washington Post reported, following the discovery of a test strain of Monsanto genetically modified wheat on an Oregon farm. South Korea later said it did not detect GMO wheat in its US imports so far, but testing will continue, Reuters reports.

California’s Senate Bill 405, a bill to ban single-use plastic bags, failed to get the votes it needed in the state Senate. But the bill could be reconsidered by a Senate committee and could return to the floor of the upper chamber, Waste & Recycling News reported. The bill would ban supermarkets and large retailers from handing out the bags, starting in 2015, and would expand to smaller stores in 2016.

Ethiopia has not adequately studied the potential environmental, economic and social impacts of its $4.7 billion, 6,000 MW hydroelectric project planned for the Nile River, according to the office of Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi, citing a panel of experts from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. Ethiopia has started work to divert the river, sparking deep concern in Egypt, which depends on the Nile for nearly all its water, Reuters said. Ethiopia plans to spend over $12 billion on hydroelectric projects, to become Africa’s leading power exporter.

The Department of Commerce has crafted a new sequestration plan allowing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to cancel a four-day furlough planned for all 12,000 of its staff. NOAA runs the National Weather Service, and acting NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan said the recent deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma emphasize how essential its employees are, The Hill reported.

The government of Kunming, China will publish an environmental impact assessment of China National Petroleum Corp.’s plans to build a paraxylene plant near the city, Reuters reports. The refinery plans have sparked mass protests, and companies have suspended two other chemical plant projects after similar outcry.

The EPA has finalized plans to clean up lead contamination at the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund site in Old Bridge and Sayreville, NJ, at an estimated cost of $79 million. The agency says NL Industries may be liable for the cost of cleanup.

The House Committee on Natural Resources will hold an oversight hearing tomorrow on “Defining Species Conservation Success: Tribal, State and Local Stewardship vs. Federal Courtroom Battles and Sue-and-Settle Practices.” The committee says the hearing will discuss positive species conservation efforts happening “on the ground,” and compare this to the “seemingly never-ending cycle” of Endangered Species Act (ESA) litigation.

House Natural Resources Committee chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) has introduced the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act, which he says would remove government barriers blocking domestic energy production. The bill would require the White House to implement a five-year offshore leasing plan, and include areas containing the greatest oil and natural gas resources.

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