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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Solar Tariffs Escalate, Exxon Subsidiary to Pay $20m

China plans to levy tariffs that could exceed 50 percent on imports of US and South Korean solar-grade polysilicon, a key ingredient in solar panels. This escalation of the long-running solar panel trade dispute hurts the US polysilicon industry, which relies on China as its largest customer, the New York Times says.

XTO Energy, an Exxon Mobil subsidiary, will spend an estimated $20 million on improvements to wastewater management expected to reduce total dissolved solids discharges by 264 million pounds over three years, under a settlement to resolve an alleged violation of the Clean Water Act. XTO must also pay a penalty of $100,000. The EPA alleges that the company improperly discharged wastewater from fracking and natural gas production, from its facility in Penn Township, Lycoming County, Pa., and that pollutants from the release were found in a tributary of the Susquehanna River basin.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has ordered Barclays Bank and four of its traders to pay $453 million in civil penalties, after finding that company and its employees manipulated electric energy prices in California and other western markets between November 2006 and December 2008. FERC ordered one of the traders to pay $15 million, and the others to pay $1 million each. FERC also ordered Barclays to disgorge $34.9 million, plus interest, in unjust profits to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Programs of Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington.

FERC has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulesmaking, providing explicit authority to interstate natural gas pipelines and public utilities that own, operate or control interstate electric transmission facilities, to voluntarily share non-public, operational information that they determine would help to promote reliable service and operational planning. FERC said the order would remove potential barriers to communication.

Lawmakers from both parties challenged the Obama administration yesterday on what they say is poor transparency, in the White House’s decision to up its figure for the social cost of carbon. But the head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Howard Shelanski, said the figure is based on independent, peer-reviewed scientific studies, resulting in the best possible estimate.

European regulators have approved Germany’s program to compensate energy-intensive industries such as steel and cement for the higher electricity costs caused by the EU emissions trading system. The German initiative aims to prevent these companies from relocating outside Europe. But the EU rejected Germany’s separate €40 million compensation program for non-ferrous metal producers, introduced in 2009, Reuters reports.

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