Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Solar Loan Guarantees, Keystone XL Delays, Merck Penalty

by | Sep 30, 2011

The Energy Department has finalized more than $1 billion in loan guarantees for two large-scale solar projects, just before the Sept. 30 deadline expires for the government’s controversial renewable-energy incentive program, The New York Times reported.  Deals were completed to give $737 million in financing for a 110-megawatt solar thermal plant near Tonopah, Nev., sponsored by SolarReserve LLC and $337 million in financing for a 150-megawatt photovoltaic solar project in Arizona sponsored by Sempra Energy.  Observers had been watching to see if the government financed additional projects despite the unfolding controversy over the failed $500 million loan to solar manufacturer Solyndra.

Analysts say that even if the Keystone XL oil pipeline receives final approval from the State Department, TransCanada Corp. will face more hurdles before it can begin construction on the controversial project, Reuters reported.  The $7 billion project will face inevitable court challenges, including a lawsuit seeking to block the project over its effect on wildlife, and political opposition in Nebraska, where a lawmaker is introducing legislation that would give the state authority to regulate oil pipelines.

The EPA announced Thursday that it has released the final health assessment for trichloroethylene to the Integrated Risk Information System database.  The final assessment characterizes the chemical as carcinogenic to humans and as a human noncancer health hazard.  Trichloroethylene is frequently found at Superfund sites across the country and can move from contaminated ground water and soil into the indoor air of overlying buildings.

The EPA announced Thursday that Trident Seafoods Corp., one of the world’s largest seafood processors, has agreed to pay a $2.5 million civil penalty and invest $30 million to $40 million in seafood processing waste controls to settle alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.  The EPA said the company engaged in unauthorized discharges of seafood processing waste that lead to large waste piles on the seafloor in Alaska.  The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period.

The EPA announced Thursday that pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. has agreed to pay a $1.5 million civil penalty to settle alleged violations of Clean Air Act emissions reporting and recordkeeping requirements and allegations that it discharged pollutants in excess of limits in its Clean Water Act permit at two Pennsylvania plants.

The United States, on behalf of the EPA, on Thursday filed a civil complaint against MotorScience, Inc., for allegedly arranging to import more than 24,000 uncertified vehicles that do not comply with the Clean Air Act’s emissions requirements, the agency announced.

The EU’s top energy official said Thursday that it was unlikely member nations would meet a 2014 deadline to create a single EU market for gas and electricity, Reuters reported.  In 2009, the EU adopted rules to liberalize energy markets.  The European Commission also said on Thursday it initiated legal actions against 18 nations, including Britain, France and Spain, for missing a March 3 deadline for adopting the EU liberalization rules in national law.

British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened on Thursday to support regulations on plastic bag use in the United Kingdom, saying that increases in the number of bags are “unacceptable,” businessGreen reported.  Cameron said the most recent government figures showed a spike in plastic bag use from last year.

Europe will open the first exchange for trading wood pellets on Nov. 3 in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Reuters reported.  The European market for biomass is growing as countries continue policies to slash carbon dioxide emissions.

Green groups and Alaska native groups have filed a lawsuit against the Interior Department over its approval of Royal Dutch Shell’s plan to begin offshore drilling in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea, The Hill reported. The groups allege that Shell lacks adequate oil-spill cleanup plans, and that the department’s offshore drilling agency violated the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

GOP representatives in the House of Representatives announced on Thursday that they are introducing draft spending legislation that would block any fiscal year 2012 funding for the Labor Department’s Green Jobs Innovation Fund, according to The Hill.  In other news from the House, Republicans will bring up legislation to delay three EPA regulations to cut emissions from cement plants and commercial boilers for 15 months.

The EPA is pushing back against an inspector general report (see separate story) that claims the agency peer review of a document that helps form the basis for Clean Air Act regulation of carbon dioxide was not adequate, The Hill reported.  The EPA said “the report importantly does not question or even address the science used or the conclusions reached.”  The report addresses process, not the validity of the science of climate change behind the agency’s 2009 “endangerment finding,” the agency said.

In news from the House, Republicans will bring up legislation to delay three EPA regulations to cut emissions from cement plants and commercial boilers for 15 months.

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