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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Obama Energy Studies, Oil Train Probe, Carbon Rules

Transportation secretary Anthony Foxx, in a meeting with lawmakers yesterday, said he would investigate the spate of derailments and fires involving crude oil trains. Regulations will investigate whether crude from the Bakken formation is more flammable than more conventional crude oil, The Hill reported. This week another oil train derailed, this time in New Brunswick near the Maine border, and about 150 people were evacuated.

President Obama is setting up a panel to carry out comprehensive studies of US energy strategy and report to the White House every four years, the AP reports. Business groups, local governments and academics will participate alongside officials from the White House, Pentagon, Treasury and departments of Energy, Interior and Agriculture. The first report is due in January 2015. It will focus on energy infrastructure, including crude oil transportation, The Hill reports.

The EPA formally published its proposed carbon standards for new power plants in the Federal Register. The agency aired the proposal last September, replacing a standard proposed in April 2012. That earlier standard is now withdrawn.

The House approved HR 2279, the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act, by a vote of 225 to 188. The bill seeks to increase the role of states in Superfund cleanups. It also dismantles a requirement that the EPA revise solid waste disposal regulations every three years, and it restricts solid waste rules imposed on states, The Hill reports. The White House said it would veto the bill, which “could result in significant site cleanup delays, endangering public health and the environment.”

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) plan to launch a climate action task force, which would likely introduce small-scale legislation – such as bills to protect the government’s renewable fuel standard, and to raise energy efficiency in federal buildings – and push for more climate discussion in the full Senate, Reuters reported. In a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed on Wednesday, Boxer and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) argued for the US to introduce a price on carbon.

China is considering a nationwide pollution permit trading system, Reuters reports. And on Friday, the country’s seven pilot carbon trading markets signed an agreement with other environmental exchanges to look into trading pollution, water and energy use credits. The country already has 20 local trading platforms for pollutants, but they have had a limited impact.

China has found nearly 20,000 disaster risks in its oil and gas sectors, Reuters reports. The countrywide safety probe followed the Sinopec pipeline explosion that killed 62 people in Qingdao last November.

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