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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Obama Climate Czar, Carbon Capture, CDM

White House deputy director for climate Dan Utech has become President Obama’s top energy and climate change advisor, The Hill reports. Utech replaces Heather Zichal, whose last day was Friday.

The Department of Energy will invest nearly $84 million in 18 projects to research second-generation technologies for carbon capture from coal-fired power plants. The DOE said the projects will help improve efficiency and drive down costs. The Obama Administration says it has invested $6 billion to date in clean coal technologies.

The European Commission has proposed that governments in the bloc approve an insect-resistant corn developed by DuPont and Dow Chemical, the third ever GMO crop approved for use in the market, and the first not created by Monsanto. Countries now have three months to vote on the issue. The EC also called for talks to address whether member states could create individual GMO bans, Reuters reports.

The UN executive board in charge of the Clean Development Mechanism proposed cutting the administration budget for the carbon credit system by 14.2 percent or $5.5 million next year, to $32.9 million. Requests for CDM project registration are at their lowest levels since 2005, Reuters reports.

Hannelore Kraft, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia and a leading Social Democrat, warned that the EU planned to investigate Germany’s renewable energy discounts, and the VIK – a lobby for heavy energy users – said such action could cost companies billions. Germany levies surcharges on power users to help fund solar and wind, but heavy electricity users including cement, steel and some chemical plants are exempt from the charges, Reuters says.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subpanel on environment and energy will hold a hearing Wednesday on S. 1009, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act. This will be the House’s first hearing for the Senate legislation, which Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced in May, The Hill says.

The US government, on behalf of Department of Defense branch the Defense Logistics Agency, has agreed to pay $475,000 under a settlement to reimburse the EPA’s past costs for cleaning up the Birch Swamp Road Superfund Site, in Warren, R.I. The DLA sold about 4.2 million pounds of surplus military equipment to Amilio Zompa, who used the one-acre site to operate an unlicensed junk yard that became contaminated with PCBs, lead and other heavy metals. Zompa is now deceased, but under the settlement, his estate agreed to pay $92,000 and 82 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of two properties.

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