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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: West Fertilizer Explosion, TX Agency Appeals its Own Win

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed $118,300 in penalties for Adair Grain, the operator of West Fertilizer Co., whose West, Texas fertilizer plant exploded in April, killing 15 people and injuring more than 160. OSHA cited Adair for 24 safety violations including unsafe handling and storage of chemicals. But a larger investigation into the cause of the explosion is on hold because of the government shutdown, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Exide Technologies has agreed to set aside $7.7 million to pay for a new storm-water system, filters and improvements to lower its arsenic emissions, as well as tests for lead and arsenic in the neighborhood surrounding its Vernon, Calif., plant, in a deal with the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. The DTSC had sought to temporarily close the plant over airborne arsenic emissions that may have threatened the health of over 100,000 people. Exide filed for bankruptcy protection in the spring, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is appealing a decision by District Judge Gisela D. Triana of Travis County, who said the agency could decide not to institute greenhouse gas regulations. Even though Triana found in TCEQ’s favor, the agency is insisting that the court did not have the right to hear the case in the first place, and that Triana made a flawed judgment in finding that Texas must protect “all natural resources of the state including the air and atmosphere.” A group of parents brought the lawsuit on behalf of their children, demanding that TCEQ work to cut carbon emissions, the Texas Tribune reports.

The Department of Energy will begin an auction today of Fisker Automotive’s outstanding government loan, in a move designed to revive the ailing hybrid car maker. The DOE is seeking bids for a minimum of $30 million of the $168 million that Fisker owes. The company laid off most of its employees in April after running out of funds, Reuters reports.

The European Union has cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 18 percent below 1990 levels, almost reaching the 20 percent target set for 2020, according to official figures cited by Reuters. The news is stoking debate on how quickly the EU should target further cuts.

The Ontario government is ditching plans to build two nuclear plants and will instead focus on refurbishing existing plants. Nuclear made up about 56 percent of the province’s energy output last year, and energy minister Bob Chiarelli said nuclear will still be an important part of Ontario’s energy mix, Reuters reports.

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