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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Duke Investigation, Cooling Towers, Chemical Studies

The federal government has launched a criminal investigation into Duke Energy’s February 2 coal ash spill in North Carolina’s Dan River. The US Attorney’s Office in Raleigh issued subpoenas seeking records from from Duke and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the AP reports.

The EPA has extended the comment period on its proposed Draft Guidelines for Product Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement, from February 25 to April 25.

An investigator from the Federal Railroad Administration is heading to the Pennsylvania site where a train carrying crude oil derailed yesterday, Reuters reports. A 120-car Norfolk Southern trail derailed, with 21 tank cars jumping the track and hitting a nearby industrial building. There were no reports of injuries.

Riverkeeper has reached a new agreement with the EPA, giving the agency until April 17 to finish its water discharge rules for existing power plants‘ cooling water towers. The EPA missed a previous January 14 deadline to finish the rule, called 316(b), Politico reports.

The White House’s Domestic Policy Council has made several appointments showing a renewed focus on climate, Politico reports. These include a new deputy director for climate policy position created for Rick Duke, who is also the associate director for energy and climate change at the Council on Environmental Quality. Ali Zaidi, the senior director for Cabinet affairs, will return to the DPC as deputy director for energy policy. His portfolio will include federal oil, alternative fuels and R&D.

EPA will perform routine five-year reviews this year to assess site clean-ups and remedies at 27 Superfund sites across New England.

The EPA announced over $3 million in grants for studies of how chemicals interact with biological processes and may alter brain development. The studies are focused on improving the EPA’s ability to predict the potential health effects of chemical exposures, the agency says.

Florida’s plan to build a commercial space launch center on about 200 acres of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, near the Kennedy Space Center, drew sharp criticism from environmentalists during a hearing. The refuge includes 18 federally listed endangered species, Reuters reports.

A draft environmental impact statement by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that the Constitution Pipeline Project and Wright Interconnect Project, which would build 124 miles of 30-inch-diameter natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania and New York, would have some adverse environmental impacts but these impacts can be reduced to less-than-significant levels.

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