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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Carbon Tax Axed, EPA Sued over ‘Sue and Settle’

Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd yesterday announced that the country will replace its carbon tax with a market-based trading system one year ahead of schedule, the New York Times reported. The change is expected to sharply cut the July 2014 cost of carbon, from a projected US$23.30 per metric ton to about $5.50, costing the government about $3.5 billion in tax revenue over the next financial year.

Attorneys general from 12 states filed a lawsuit to demand documents from the EPA related to the so-called “sue and settle” phenomenon, in which the agency responds to environmental NGO lawsuits by settling and sometimes issuing regulations. The states are Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, Power Engineering reports.

Friends of the Earth filed a lawsuit yesterday to force the State Department to release communications with lobbyists for the Keystone XL pipeline, the Hill reports. The environmental group said the department has refused to provide the requested information because several of its officials ended up working as pipeline lobbyists.

The EPA is developing a rule to revise or end existing authorized uses of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), if the conditions under which the uses were authorized – more than 30 years ago – have changed. The rulemaking may address PCBs in fluorescent light ballasts and natural gas pipelines. The agency is seeking representatives of small businesses to provide input to a federal panel exploring the changes.

Countries made significant progress in nuclear safety last year, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency report, Reuters says. Since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, most IAEA member states with nuclear power plants have carried out safety stress tests, and many have added safety measures.

Eleven House Republicans wrote a letter to the Interior Department to ask the status of long-delayed enhancements to safety standards for subsea oil and gas blowout preventers, the Hill reports. One such device failed to function properly when BP’s Macondo well ruptured in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

BP has claimed that about 10 percent of the crude oil that entered the water in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill should not count towards civil fines because the oil dissolved before it could reach the surface – an argument that, if accepted, could save BP $1.7 billion. The claims emerged from court papers filed by the federal government, objecting to the argument, FuelFix reports.

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