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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Fracking Regs, Debt Ceiling Riders, Total Penalized

California governor Jerry Brown signed the country’s toughest fracking restrictions into law on Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports. SB 4, which takes effect in January, requires permitting of fracking wells, notification of people living near drilling sites, as well as a study of fracking’s environmental impacts. But many environmental groups had wanted a veto, saying the bill was not strong enough. Brown also signed SB 665, which would increase bonding requirements to ensure that drillers can pay for environmental repairs.

The European Commission may initiate legal proceedings against Italy for failing to control emissions of dioxins, benzoapyrene and other carcinogenic chemicals at an Ilva steel plant, the continent’s biggest, an anonymous EC source told Reuters. The plant has already started a two-year cleanup operation. Prosecution documents say the facility’s emissions caused an “environmental disaster” that damaged people’s health and hurt farming and fishing.

The EPA is attempting to establish authority over smaller estuaries, wetlands and other bodies of water, by releasing a draft report from a science advisory board showing how these bodies related to larger lakes and rivers, the Hill reports. The agency said the new rules help to clarify confusion, stemming from two recent Supreme Court cases, about which waters it can regulate under the Clean Water Act.

House Republicans plan to attach provisions to debt ceiling legislation to ease restrictions on onshore oil and gas drilling, greatly expand offshore leasing, and enable the Department of Energy to veto certain EPA regulations. They also plan to introduce riders to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and to block planned EPA regulations of coal ash, the Hill reports.

The Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill is being held off the Senate floor this week because of budget debates, the Hill reports.

The Democratic secretaries of state for West Virginia and Kentucky, Natalie Tennant and Alison Lundergan Grimes, who are both running for Senate, have both attacked the president for the EPA’s carbon standards on new power plants. Meanwhile centrist Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) has also slammed the standards, the Hill reports.

Total Petrochemical USA will pay an $8.75 million penalty for failing to comply with the terms of a 2007 settlement that resolved alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at its Port Arthur, Texas refinery, the EPA and Department of Justice announced. They say Total failed to comply with emissions limits for benzene and failed to perform corrective actions or to analyze the cause of over 70 incidents involving emissions of hazardous gases through flaring. The new enforcement action extends the benzene limit, set at 30 percent below the federally required levels, for another two years.

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