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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Better Buildings Act, Chinese Investments, California Drought, Monsanto

The House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved The Better Buildings Act (HR 2126), a bipartisan energy efficiency bill authored by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep. David McKinley (R-WV).  As part of the bill, energy efficiency best practices will be established for tenants in commercial building spaces and awarded certification similar to the existing Energy Star program.

China’s southern Guangdong province plans large investments in natural gas and clean energy to cut coal and oil use to slow growth in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a provincial climate change plan, Reuters reports. Guangdong’s is estimated to have surpassed $1 trillion in 2013, plans to cut coal’s and oil’s share of its energy mix to 60.6 percent in 2015, from 73 percent in 2010.

The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection released a list of products and crafts that companies are advised to avoid as they pose high pollution risks, according to the state news agency Xinhua. The list  includes 722 products and 92 crafts, and has also been offered to 13 departments including the People’s Bank of China and the ministries of commerce and finance for guidance.

Republicans running against incumbent Democrats aim to use California’s record drought to their advantage, arguing the increasingly dry Central Valley is a product of Democratic policies on the environment, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Scientists and biotechnology companies are developing what could become the next powerful weapon in the war on pests by disabling their genes, the New York Times reports. But some specialists fear that releasing gene-silencing agents into fields could harm beneficial insects.

Critics of genetically modified crops protested at Monsanto Co.’s annual shareholders meeting, calling for the world’s largest seed company to provide a report on contamination in non-GMO crops and to stop fighting mandatory labels on foods containing GMO ingredients. The requests came in the form of two shareholder resolutions that were backed by environmental, food safety and consumer activist groups, Reuters reports.

The Solar Foundation released National Solar Jobs Census 2013, which found that the US solar industry currently employs over 142,000 Americans, an increase of nearly 24,000 solar workers over the previous year.

The EPA reached a settlement with CTS Printex, Inc. and ADN Corporation to complete the remaining groundwater contamination cleanup at the CTS Printex, Inc. Superfund site in Mountain View, Calif. The companies will spend a total of about $2 million on a system to monitor and treat low levels of contaminated groundwater remaining at the site, monitor the site to ensure that vapor intrusion does not impact residents of current or future buildings on the site and reimburse $850,000 to EPA for cleanup costs.

A coalition of a dozen free-market and taxpayer groups are calling an alternative approach introduced by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to a measure they say would gut reforms of the indebted National Flood Insurance Program. They say the Toomey proposal would address affordability concerns raised by some policyholders, while still preserving reforms to the program, which is nearly $25 billion in debt.

The EPA this week deleted more than 1,900 acres of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine, Calif. from the National Priorities List of Superfund sites. Hazardous wastes at this major portion of the site were cleaned up through activities that included soil sampling and excavation. To date, the Navy has spent approximately $165 million on the cleanup, and anticipates that the remaining work will cost an additional $50 million.

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