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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Toxics Release Inventory, Climate Hubs, WV Chemical Spill, Keystone XL Pipeline

Total releases of toxic chemicals decreased 12 percent from 2011-2012, according to the EPA’s annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report. The decrease includes an eight percent decline in total toxic air releases, primarily due to reductions in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions. The 2012 data show that 3.63 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were either disposed or otherwise released into the environment through air, water, and land. There was also a decline in releases of HAPs such as hydrochloric acid and mercury, which continues a long-term trend.

The Obama administration will announce the formation of seven “climate hubs” to help farmers and rural communities adapt to extreme weather conditions and other effects of climate change, a White House official told Reuters. The hubs will act as information centers and aim to help farmers and ranchers handle risks, including fires, pests, floods and droughts, that are exacerbated by global warming. The hubs will be located in Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon and New Mexico, with “sub hubs” in Puerto Rico, California and Michigan.

West Virginians demanded information about the safety of their drinking water in the wake of a chemical spill in January that left 300,000 of them without safe tap water for more than a week. West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant asked lawmakers at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to support a 10-year study into the effects of the January 9 spill into the Elk River near Charleston, the state capital, according to Reuters. Residents around Charleston were left without drinking water for more than a week after a Freedom Industries tank leaked coal-processing chemicals into the river.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) said Keystone XL advocates in the Senate have nearly enough votes to push through legislation that would set a hard 60-day deadline for President Obama to make a decision on the project, according to The Hill. Lawmakers are ready to pursue multiple options to push a decision on the pipeline after the State Department’s approval. Hoeven said he has 55 out of the required 60 votes to set a deadline, at a press conference on Keystone with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer and union leaders.

The EPA has given the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality authority over greenhouse gas permitting, ending a long battle between the federal agency and the state.  Texas, the country’s leading producer of greenhouse gases, was the only state in 2010 that refused to meet new federal emission rules, placing some of the nation’s largest refineries in limbo. There will be a 30-day public comment period, the New York Times reports.

The US District Court in Omaha, Neb., has ordered Stabl Inc. to pay a $2,285,874 civil penalty for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Nebraska Environmental Protection Act at its Lexington, Neb., rendering facility. The Court supported findings by the EPA and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) that Stabl had a long history of serious violations and that Stabl’s efforts to comply with environmental regulations were minimal.

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