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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Oil Spill Loopholes, McCarthy Vote

Gina McCarthy’s nomination for EPA administrator could face a Senate vote on Tuesday, after majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) yesterday filed for cloture, the Hill reports. But procedural battles continue, with Reid threatening to use the “nuclear option,” by changing Senate rules to bar a filibuster.

A loophole and declining revenues have cut Maine’s emergency fund for oil spills by more than 40 percent over the last nine years, and major oil transporter Pan Am Railways stopped paying any fees into the fund in April, Reuters reports. Maine is one of the biggest channels for shipping crude from the US to Canada, and the fund is under further scrutiny after the Lac-Megantic rail disaster in Quebec.

An official at the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said eight more Chinese cities will likely introduce policies to restrict new vehicle purchases, possibly cutting vehicle sales by 400,000 units, or about 2 percent of 2012 domestic sales, Reuters reports. The government did not make any announcement on a potential restriction. But it is feeling the pressure to act as public anger over pollution grows. Environment minister Zhou Shengxian said his ministry ranks among the world’s “four major embarrassing departments,” but said the agency is hindered by overlapping departmental functions.

The House on Wednesday voted 227-198 to pass a $30.4 billion Department of Energy and water project spending bill for 2014, the Hill reports. All but eight Democrats opposed the bill, arguing that it makes too many cuts to renewable energy and science research. President Obama has threatened to veto the legislation, and the bill is not likely to survive in the Senate. The House bill also includes an amendment prohibiting the Department of Energy from enforcing federal light bulb standards.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee released the fifth and final white paper in a series examining issues with the Renewable Fuel Standard. The committee is seeking responses to questions posed in the white paper, as well as comments on any aspect of the RFS, by July 26.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subpanel on energy and power on Wednesday approved H.R. 1582, the Energy Consumers Relief Act, which requires that the secretary of energy make determinations on all EPA energy-related rules costing more than $1 billion; H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, which expedites the federal review process for natural gas pipeline permits; and H.R. 83, which requires the Secretary of the Interior to assemble a team of experts to address the energy needs of the insular areas of the US.

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