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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Chemicals Act, Efficiency Bill, Luminant Wins Against Sierra Club

House Energy and Commerce environment and the economy subcommittee chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) unveiled the Chemicals in Commerce Act, legislation aimed at modernizing chemical regulation through updates to the Toxic Substances Control Act. But ranking committee member Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said the bill would weaken chemical rules and “endanger public health,” The Hill reported.

Environmental Resources Management, the contractor that prepared an environmental analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline, did not violate conflict-of-interest rules even though it had previously done work for pipeline builder TransCanada, an investigation by the State Department inspector general found on Wednesday.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) yesterday reintroduced their energy efficiency bill, which stalled in September. This time the bill includes 10 extra amendments, including a program to promote efficiency in leased commercial buildings, The Hill reports.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced new subcommittee chairmanships resulting from Max Baucus’s recent departure from the Senate. They include Thomas Carper (D-DE) for transportation and infrastructure; Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for clean air and nuclear safety; and Cory Booker (D-NJ) for oversight.

US District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. ruled Wednesday against the Sierra Club, which had argued that power company Luminant allowed its Big Brown coal-fired plant in Fairfield, Texas to pump out amounts of particulate matter above legal limits, breaking state and federal rules.

The Senate confirmed Michael Connor to be deputy secretary of the interior, by a vote of 97 to 0.

An Interior Department environmental impact statement released yesterday said companies exploring for oil and gas may use seismic air gun testing in Atlantic waters. This marks a first step towards allowing oil and gas drilling off the US east coast, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In a letter to secretary of state John Kerry, senator David Vitter (R-LA), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, along with John Barrasso (R-WY), John Boozman (R-AR), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Roger Wicker (R-MS), expressed concern about the level of transparency around global climate negotiations.

The Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to reject proposals for a coal and petroleum coke export facility at the Charles P. Howard Terminal in Oakland, citing environmental issues, public health hazards, economic problems and public opposition, the Sierra Club says.

The Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy filed legal action in the US District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, arguing that Pocahontas Land Corporation is discharging pollutants without a permit at two former mining sites.

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