Policy & Regulatory Briefing: Boiler Rule Delay, Obama’s 56 mpg Plans, Asbestos Exports

by | Jun 27, 2011

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The Environmental Protection Agency has further delayed issuing its final air toxics standards for boilers and certain solid waste incinerators, until April of next year. The EPA released the final Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators in February. At the time, the agency said it would “reconsider” certain aspects of the rules, and seek further public comment on those portions. In May, the EPA said it would solicit additional comments and information on the standards until July 15, and would then propose an updated rule. But on Friday the EPA announced that it will propose standards to be reconsidered by the end of October 2011, and will issue final standards by the end of April 2012. It is delaying the rules “to ensure that the agency’s standards are based on the best available data and the public is given ample opportunity to provide additional input and information,” the agency said.

The Obama administration is considering proposals that would require cars and light trucks to average 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025, the Detroit News reports. The plans, which would require an average of five percent a year increases in efficiency over eight years, took the big three automakers by surprise, the paper said. The change could raise the cost of vehicles by $2,100 or more, the News added.

Budget cuts at the EPA are being felt most by state agencies, the Washington Post reports. This spring’s deal to fund the federal government through October reduced the EPA’s budget by 16 percent, and has resulted in states cutting back environmental programs, the Post reported.

The EPA, Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture have released a memorandum of understanding establishing a common approach to address air quality issues related to oil and gas development on public lands. The agencies said the MOU should increase efficiency by eliminating variations in approaches used to determine the adequacy of air quality analyses, and in thresholds used as a starting point for analyzing impacts to visibility and other air quality related values.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has signed the Power NY Act of 2011, which reinstates Article X, a statewide power plant siting law. The Alliance for Clean Energy New York praised the law, which it says will streamline the siting process for wind farms.

The U.K. government has listed eight possible sites for nuclear power stations to be built by 2025, in its finalized Energy National Policy Statements (NPSs). The NPSs provide a framework for decisions on major infrastructure projects, Energy Efficiency News reports. The statements will go before Parliament for discussion.

U.K.  business minister Mark Prisk released a low-carbon construction action plan, calling for a joint government-industry board to publish an updated carbon plan, Energy Efficiency News reported.

A report by the Institute for Policy Integrity says that the EPA is 40 years overdue on a regulatory revision to restrict emissions from nitric acid plants, and at risk of allowing major costs to be imposed on the public. In that time the technology for reducing emissions has changed dramatically, leaving old rules outdated, the report said, according to Environmental Protection. The institute said that the emissions from these plants can cause illness and affect the climate, and cause more harm than originally thought.

Several countries including Canada and Ukraine have blocked Chrysotile asbestos from being listed as a hazardous industrial chemical that can be banned from import, Reuters reports. The scientific review body of the Rotterdam Convention had recommended including the substance on the “watch list” of the 2004 treaty, on health grounds, and the European Union, Australia and Chile had agreed. Substances added to the list at the meeting included the pesticides endosulfan, alachlor and aldicarb, bringing the list to a total of 43 substances.

Germany will not cut subsidies to the wind industry as quickly as previously announced, Reuters reported. Sources told the wire service that the annual reduction in feed-in tariffs (FIT) for land-based wind energy systems would remain at 1 percent from 2012 rather than doubling to 2 percent.

China is holding up Hong Kong Airlines’ multi-billion euro aircraft order from Airbus in protest at EU plans to expand the continent’s cap-and-trade system to include non-European airlines, German newspaper Handelsblatt reports (via Reuters). The paper said on Friday that the order was scheduled to be signed on Tuesday. Chinese airlines have joined U.S. companies in protesting the expansion, which would require airlines flying to Europe to be included in the trading scheme from January 2012.

New Jersey Democrats are pushing a number of bills to block governor Chris Christie from withdrawing the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The lawmakers admitted that the governor would likely veto their measures, but were hopeful that their bills could have an effect on future lawsuits or enforcement actions related to the state’s RGGI participation, Solve Climate News reported.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Ed Markey, (D-MA) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) have introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 (HR 2359), which would update the 1938 federal cosmetics laws that the representatives say allow chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and learning disabilities to be used in personal care products. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said that a recent study found arsenic and lead in lip gloss and other cosmetics, and that in April, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration warned salons to stop using keratin hair-straightening products like Brazilian Blowout, which contain the carcinogen formaldehyde.

Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has introduced measures to compensate those affected by the country’s planned carbon tax, promising that the measures will help up to three million households. The controversial tax continues to face opposition from the Liberal party, and recent polls have shown weakening public support for the proposal, Business Green reports.

Jeff Zients, the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, refused to appear at hearings on the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, citing “unusually short notice” and a prior commitment, the New York Times reports. He had been asked to appear before the house energy and commerce committee’s panel on oversight and investigations. Subcommittee chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) said the move was designed to “delay and frustrate” his panel’s investigation into a $535 million loan guarantee provided to troubled solar energy manufacturer Solyndra Inc.

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