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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Soot Ruling, Chemical Hearing, Quake Stops Fracking

The US Court of Appeals in Washington ruled in favor of the EPA yesterday, finding that the agency didn’t violate rule-making procedures when it set standards for particulate matter emissions from new steam-generating power plants. The state of Texas and power company body the Utilities Air Regulatory Group had challenged the regulations. Court decisions on standards for mercury and other pollutants are still pending, Bloomberg Business Week reports.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered work stopped an seven oil and gas wells in Poland Township, including one undergoing fracking, after earthquakes of magnitude 2.6 and 3.0. The department said it acted “out of an abundance of caution” to halt operation by Hilcorp Energy, and it was too early to tell if drilling had caused the earthquakes.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subpanel on environment and the economy is holding a hearing today on the Chemicals in Commerce Act. Scheduled witnesses include Carolyn Duran, director of chemical risk and compliance, global sourcing and procurement for Intel; Connie DeFord, director of product sustainability and compliance for Dow Chemical; Jennifer Thomas, director of federal government affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Beth Bosley, on behalf of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates; Roger Harris, on behalf of the National Chemical Distributors Association; and Barry Cik on behalf of Companies for Safer Chemicals.

The California Air Resources Board has fined 12 shipping companies a combined $476,750 USD for failure to switch from diesel “bunker” fuel to cleaner, low-sulfur marine distillate fuel upon entering Regulated California Waters, as required by state law. The companies are Univan Maritime (Hong Kong), Firon Shipping, W. Bockstiegel GmbH & Co. Reederei KG (Germany), MK Shipmanagement Co. (Japan), Cosco Maritime (UK), Triton Schiffahrts GmbH, Dumun Marine S.A. (Panama), Peter Doehle Schiffahrts (Germany), Byzantine Maritime Corporation (Greece), Crowley Technical Management (USA), BigLift Shipping (Netherlands), and YA-SA Tanker and Transportation (Turkey).

Asia-Pacific nations are failing to stop the loss of natural forests and grasslands, with 2 million hectares (20,000 square km) rendered useless each year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Reuters reports. The losses worsen environmental problems like climate change and desertification while robbing people of their livelihoods, the organization said.

All the nuclear regulatory bodies in the 16 selected countries in a Government Accountability Office review have taken steps to strengthen nuclear safety in response to the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Japan in particular has fundamentally restructured its nuclear regulatory framework, and 3 other countries—China, Sweden, and Vietnam—are providing additional resources to their nuclear regulatory bodies. However,  the US does not have a specific timetable for ensuring that its systems can operate in emergency conditions such as the loss of off-site power, the GAO said.

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