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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Coal Ash Spill, Calif. Carbon Tax, Alt Fuel Cars

Federal prosecutors have served 20 more subpoenas to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as part of an criminal investigation into Duke Energy’s coal ash spill in the state, the AP reports. The feds are seeking documents and testimony from employees, including information on investments, cash or other items of value they may have received from Duke.

A judge Wednesday overturned a Nebraska law which allowed the governor to approve the Keystone XL pipeline‘s path through the state. Lancaster County judge Stephanie Stacy said the decision should have been up to the Public Service Commission. Attorney general Jon Bruning plans to appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court, NPR reports.

California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg yesterday outlined a proposal for a carbon tax, which would stop plans to bring fuels such as gasoline into the state’s cap and trade program, Reuters reported. The tax would start at 15 cents a gallon in 2015 and rise to 24 cents in 2020. Steinberg said the tax would raise about $3.6 billion in its first year, which would be used to alleviate poverty and to fund public transportation.

Over 120 congressmen – a majority of House Democrats – have urged US Trade Representative Michael Froman to continue to push for robust environmental rules in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the Hill reports.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed requiring car manufacturers to indicate what alternative fuels, if any, their vehicles can use. These fuels include ethanol, biodiesel, vegetable oil, hydrogen and electric batteries, The Hill reports. The rule is based on a directive from the Energy Independence and Security Act.

The California Chamber of Commerce is appealing a November ruling by Sacramento County judge Timothy Frawley, who found that the state’s cap-and-trade fees are legal, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Massachusetts regulators have approved Footprint Power’s $800 million, 630 MW gas-fired power plant proposed for Salem Harbor, but are requiring that the plant emit less and less carbon before closing in 2050, in what the New York Times describes as an unusual move.

Beijing raised its four-tiered alert system to “orange” for the first time today, with heavy smog forecast to smother the city over the next three days, Reuters reports.

The EPA proposed revisions to the Worker Protection Standard to protect farm workers and their families from pesticide exposure. The EPA proposed changes to worker training regarding safe use of pesticides, and it set no-entry zones of 25 feet to 100 feet around pesticide-treated fields, Reuters reports.

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