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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: RFS Repeal Bill, Bayer Penalty, Superfund, PCBs

A bipartisan group of eight senators, led by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) has introduced a bill to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard’s ethanol mandate. The Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2013 would remove the “top-line mandate” for renewable fuels, The Hill reports, but not requirements for non-corn-based advanced biofuels. Meanwhile Christopher Grundler, the head of the EPA’s Transportation and Air Quality Office, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday that the country has hit the “blend wall,” and the RFS had threatened to force refiners to blend in more ethanol than cars could use.

The EPA knew as early as July 2010 that its employee John Beale was claiming excessive pay and bonuses but took no action for years, a report from the agency’s inspector general says. Beale claimed he was on assignment for the CIA in order to claim pay for hours he did not work, and in September pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $900,000 from the government. Now the agency is investigating another high-level official who approved many of Beale’s travel claims, the Washington Post reports.

Bayer CropScience has agreed to pay a $53,000 penalty and take steps to better protect worker health, in an agreement with the EPA to correct alleged violations of pesticide rules at the company’s research facility and nursery in Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico. Bayer has installed permanent decontamination stations at Sabana Grande and begun a review of its standard operating procedures at all of its research farms. 

Legislators agreed Thursday to open Mexico’s oil and gas sector to private investment, ending the monopoly of state-owned company Pemex. The legislation declares that Mexico still owns its oil, but lets private businesses drill on their own or in partnership with Pemex, the New York Times says.

The EPA is adding nine hazardous waste sites to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites, and is proposing to add another eight sites. The agency is also soliciting additional comments on the Smurfit-Stone Mill site and is changing the name of the B.F. Goodrich site in Rialto, Calif., to the Rockets, Fireworks, and Flares site.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is investigating the cause of a transformer explosion in an electrical switchyard at Entergy’s Arkansas Nuclear One nuclear power plant in Russellville, Ark. The explosion caused protective systems to shut down the plant’s Unit 2, while Unit 1 remains operating at about 95 percent power. No radiation releases have been reported.  

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