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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Existing Power Plants, Ethanol Credit Market

Forthcoming carbon standards for existing power plants will not require the facilities be retrofitted with carbon capture technology, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said, according to Reuters. The Obama administration has said the rules will be announced by June 2014 and finalized a year later.

The EPA’s carbon standards for existing coal-fired plants could encourage creation of regional cap-and-trade systems and help to push renewable energy and energy efficiency in states that have been previously resistant, the New York Times says. At the same time, the regulations could suffer from foot-dragging by states that don’t consider greenhouse gases to be a problem, the newspaper argues.

A government shutdown would almost completely suspend operations at the EPA, administrator Gina McCarthy has said, according to The Hill. Current funding for government operations ends at the end of this month, and legislators in the House and Senate are debating bills to keep the government running past that date.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) says the EPA failed to take small businesses into account when proposing extending its Clean Water Act authority to cover smaller water bodies, the Hill reported. In a letter to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the NFIB says the rules may prohibit development along certain streams, ponds and estuaries, and also argued that the EPA bypassed rulemaking requirements

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has called on the Commodities Future Trading Commission to launch an investigation into possible manipulation of the ethanol credit market, the Hill reports. Scott Mixon, acting chief economist of the CFTC, has said his agency may take a closer look at the market.

The International Monetary Fund has a role in helping to protect the environment, managing director Christine Lagarde said, according to Reuters. She said one way the IMF can help is by “trying to shine a light on the murky cobweb of energy subsidies” – an effort it has already started, with a research paper published in March.

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission may issue regulations over hydraulic fracturing later this year, requiring regulator approval before fracking is conducted, as well as neighbor notification, water well testing and chemical disclosure, Reuters reports. California governor Jerry Brown signed fracking regulations, including some chemical disclosure, into law last week.

The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs will pay civil penalties of $136,000 for alleged violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act at the Keams Canyon Public Water Supply system on the Hopi Reservation, in a settlement with the EPA. The EPA found that the BIA exceeded drinking water standards for arsenic and failed to monitor for arsenic and disinfection compounds. The newest action follows a previous EPA order in 2011 which resulted in the BIA spending nearly $1 million to install and operate an arsenic treatment system.

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