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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Halliburton Pleads Guilty, Energy Firms Sued

Halliburton will plead guilty to destroying evidence related to the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Department of Justice said yesterday, according to Reuters. The company will pay a maximum $200,000 statutory fine and has agreed to three years’ probation. It also voluntarily paid $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Halliburton said yesterday that the US government has contacted the company regarding potential antitrust violations in the market for pressure pumping services used in hydraulic fracturing. Its competitor Baker Hughes already received a civil investigation demand from the Department of Justice. Halliburton is the largest provider of such services, Reuters reports.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East filed a lawsuit Wednesday in civil district court against dozens of energy companies, including BP and Exxon Mobil. The authority is seeking compensation for decades of damage to coastal wetlands. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal denounced the suit, the New York Times reports.

China plans to invest 1.7 trillion yuan ($277 billion) to battle air pollution over the next five years, Reuters reports, referring to Chinese state media. The government will target northern China, where it plans to reduce air emissions by 25 percent by 2017, from a 2012 baseline.

Sen. Ed Markey is using Hercules Offshore’s recent natural gas well blowout and rig fire in the Gulf of Mexico to argue for stricter oversight of offshore energy production, the Hill reports. He said Congressional action is needed to make sure companies drill safely and are held accountable for spills and natural gas releases.

Cheese company Sorrento Lactalis will pay $91,352 in a settlement for violations of Clean Air Act regulations intended to prevent chemical accidents, the EPA said. Sorrento’s manufacturing facility in Nampa, Idaho failed to meet risk management requirements such as properly inspecting and testing process equipment, annually certifying operating procedures, and conducting a compliance audit at least every three years, the agency said. The alleged violations relate to anhydrous ammonia.

House Republicans have proposed two amendments that would limit the EPA’s use of its social cost of carbon metric when the agency drafts regulations, the Hill reports. The Obama administration recently increased its estimate of this metric.

The House of Representatives approved H.R. 2218, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, with a vote of 265 to 155. The legislation creates a state-based program to sets enforceable federal standards for coal ash.

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