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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Colo. Methane Limits, Tesla Fires, Yucca Mountain

Colorado governor John Hickenlooper has proposed tough limits – stronger than federal standards – on leaks of methane and other gases from oil and gas wells and storage tanks, the New York Times reports. He developed the rules in negotiation with three major oil and gas developers: Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Encana Corporation and Noble Energy.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a preliminary investigation into two fires that erupted in Tesla Model S vehicles, after roadway debris hit the cars’ undercarriage, Green Car Congress reports. Stocks in the electric car company tumbled earlier this month as news broke of three Model S fires in less than two months.

A federal appeals court yesterday ruled that the Department of Energy must stop collecting fees from consumers for a non-existent nuclear waste disposal program, the New York Times reported. The DOE has spent about $7 billion from these funds, mostly on the Yucca Mountain disposal project, which President Obama halted. Despite the suspension, the DOE continued to collect about $750 million a year for the program.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has directed its staff to complete a safety evaluation report for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site. The commission has also requested DOE to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement. The actions are in response to an August court of appeals decision, ordering the agency to continue its review of the Yucca Mountain application, after the Obama administration stopped the program.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, along with its subcommittee on clean air and nuclear safety, will hold a hearing tomorrow on “NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety.” Witnesses are to include Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Allison Macfarlane, along with four other NRC commissioners.

Europe’s Emissions Trading Scheme will auction 926.2 million spot carbon permits next year, Reuters reported. German energy exchange EEX will auction about 819.7 million allowances on behalf of 27 countries, and London-based ICE Futures Europe will sell 106.5 million for the UK government.

This week the House of Representatives is scheduled to consider H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act. Republicans say that the bill, authored by Energy and Commerce Committee member Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), will modernize the permitting process for interstate natural gas pipelines.

The House is scheduled to vote to today on HR 1965, the Federal Lands, Jobs and Energy Security Act of 2013, which would force the Interior Department to offer more land for oil and gas development, and set new deadlines for drilling permits. The chamber is also set to vote on HR 2728, the Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act, which would block the Obama Administration’s planned fracking regulations. But neither bill is expected to advance in the Senate, The Hill reports.

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