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Policy & Enforcement: Wal-Mart Safety, S. Korea Power Crunch, Calif. Offshore Fracking

Wal-Mart Stores has resolved two Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement actions by agreeing to improve worker safety and health conditions in nearly 2,900 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores, following alleged repeat and serious violations at a store in Rochester, N.Y. The company also will pay a $190,000 fine, Bloomberg said.

South Korea’s energy ministry has issued a warning for serious power shortages this week due to a summer heat occurring while six nuclear plants are off-line. The ministry also said some companies, including Kia Motors and Hyundai, had not complied with energy regulations such as cutting power consumption during peak hours. South Korea’s power demand is projected to peak at up to 80,500 MW in the next three days while its power supply capacity is seen at 77,440 MW, Reuters said.

Several California lawmakers led by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, have asked the federal government to investigate hydraulic fracturing off the California coast where new oil leases have been banned since 1969. Federal environmental regulators have exempted fracking fluids from the nation’s clean water laws, so companies can flush treated discharges into the sea without a separate environmental review, the Associated Press said.

A federal appeals court issued an opinion that Los Angeles County is liable for excessively high levels of storm-water pollution. Environmental groups sued the county and its flood-control district in 2008 for pollution in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers, saying the entities were in violation of storm-water permits, the Los Angeles Times said.

The federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, which requires facilities to inventory potentially hazardous chemicals stored on their properties lacks oversight, a Reuters report finds. Facilities across the country often misidentify chemicals or their location, or sometimes fail to report the substances altogether. Also, federal or local authorities are not auditing the Tier II inventory reports for errors.

The Chinese government plans to accelerate investment into energy saving technology and pollution control. Currently, planned investments in energy savings and emissions reduction through 2015 total 2.3 trillion yuan ($375 billion), and the new plan would ensure the environmental protection industry grows by 15 percent annually, generating turnover of 4.5 trillion yuan ($735 billion) by 2015, Reuters said.

Howard Shelanski, head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), has written his first post on the White House blog in support of a regulatory “lookback,” promising to identify regulations currently in place to protect the nation’s health, safety, and environment that need to be modified, streamlined, or repealed.

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