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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: GHG Ruling, Exxon Fined $105m, Natgas Blowout

The US Court of Appeals on Friday rejected a legal challenge by Texas, Wyoming and several industry groups, who objected to the EPA forcing states to set greenhouse gas limits on industrial facilities. In a 2-1 ruling, the court said the parties did not have standing to sue because they could not show they suffered an injury, or that axing the EPA plan would benefit them. The decision is the latest in a string of legal wins for the EPA, Reuters says.

The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a 2009 ruling against Exxon Mobil and ordered the company to pay $105 million in damages, finding that Exxon contaminated New York City groundwater when methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) leaked from underground storage tanks in Queens. The court rejected arguments that the Clean Air Act forced Exxon to use the additive. The company said it would appeal to the Supreme Court, Reuters reports.

President Obama derided Republican arguments that the Keystone XL pipeline will be a major jobs creator. In a New York Times interview, Obama said the pipeline might create about 2,000 jobs during the one to two years of construction, but employ only 50 to 100 people thereafter. He repeated his promise to evaluate the pipeline based on its potential contributions to atmospheric carbon.

Officials from the Interior Department and its subsidiary Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement will meet in Houston with oil and gas executives to discuss risk reduction, in the wake of last week’s Hercules natural gas well blowout in shallow Gulf of Mexico waters. BSEE is investigating the accident, the Hill reports.

Congressmen Matt Cartright (D-Pa.) and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to end a federal waste law exemption for the oil and gas industry. They said that currently these companies do not have to test waste for toxicity. The bill also covers the geothermal industry, the Hill reports.

The Department of the Interior, Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Navajo Nation, Gila River Indian Community, Salt River Project, Environmental Defense Fund, and Western Resource Advocates agreed a plan to reduce air pollution from Central Arizona Project’s Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired plant that is one of the largest sources of nitrogen oxide in the country. They sent the agreement to the EPA, for consideration as the agency develops the final Best Available Retrofit Technology rule for NGS.

At least one EPA employee argued internally that pollutants released during natural gas drilling had contaminated drinking water in Dimock, Pa. – contradicting the agency’s official line, the Los Angeles Times reports. The EPA has curtailed its investigation at the site.

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