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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: WV Spill Hearings, Pump Efficiency, Monsanto and SCOTUS

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said the Senate will hold hearings on the West Virginia chemical spill that left 300,000 residents unable to drink their tap water. She said a hearing in early February will address the spill itself, and this will be followed by work on chemical safety reforms, The HIll reported. Meanwhile House Speaker John Boehner said the spill did not indicate a lack of appropriate regulations, and said Republicans will continue to focus on paring back rules that are cumbersome and hurt the economy, Reuters reports.

A rider in the omnibus spending bill would prohibit Export-Import Bank guidelines, announced in December, that curtail funding for coal-fired power plants abroad, The Hill reports. The bill contains other energy and environment-related provisions including a ban on light bulb efficiency standards.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow entitled, “Review of the President’s Climate Action Plan.” Witnesses will include EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, Council on Environmental Quality chair Nancy Sutley, General Services Administration chief Dan Tangherlini and US Fish and Wildlife Service director Daniel Ashe.

Seventeen Democratic senators and one independent formally announced, on Tuesday, the creation of the Senate Climate Action Task Force. The lawmakers said an early goal is to push climate change onto the agendas of Sunday news programs, The Hill reported.

The Supreme Court decided Monday not to hear a case by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, along with dozens of farmers, seed companies and activists, thereby upholding Monsanto’s biotech seed patents, Reuters reports. The plaintiffs sought to prohibit the company from suing farmers if their fields become contaminated with GMOs. Monsanto said it could not accept a blanket ban on suits, but it has no intention of suing farmers whose fields become inadvertent hosts to the company’s seeds or crops.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter to President Obama regarding what he called the administration’s failure to fully implement the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008, which was sponsored by then-senator Obama.

The energy and power subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee approved HR 3826, the Electricity Security and Affordability Act, 18 to 11. The bill now moves to the full committee for consideration.

President Obama has selected Heather McTeer Toney as regional administrator for EPA Region 4, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and six tribal nations. McTeer Toney is an attorney and the former mayor of Greenville, Mississippi.

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