Policy & Enforcement Briefing: Keystone XL, Wyoming Aquifer, Alaska Energy Authority, EPA Enforcement 2011

by | Dec 12, 2011

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Republicans expressed confidence that Congress will reach an agreement that extends the payroll tax cut, now in the Senate. The House bill contains a measure to expedite a TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline – which President Obama said that he does not support – as well as a requirement to delay the EPA’s new pollution rules for industrial boilers, Boiler MACT, Bloomberg reports. At least 42 lobbying firms, associations and companies have lobbied on the Keystone XL pipeline since 2009. Of the 42 entities, 33 of them lobbied on the issue in the most recent quarter. The White House has not issued a statement that President Obama would veto the GOP legislation with Keystone tie-ins, expecting the bill not to pass in the Senate, according to The Hill.

EPA said that fluids used to drill for natural gas were the likely cause of pollution of a Wyoming aquifer for its first report that fracking pollutes drinking water. Wyoming produced more than 10 percent of U.S. natural gas last year, but the EPA said that the state was vulnerable to water contamination from fracking chemicals because of drilling close to the surface, Reuters reports.

The Alaska Energy Authority will file plans for a 213-meter megadam on the Susitna River. If approved, the $4.5-billion project would be the U.S.’s first large hydroelectric for 40 years, and its fifth tallest, according to the New Scientist.

EPA enforcement actions eliminated more than 1.8 billion pounds of harmful pollution during the past year, according to its annual enforcement and compliance results. Highlights of the year include a record-high $19 billion invested to improve environmental performance; a record-high $3 billion (included in the $19 billion) to clean up hazardous waste in communities and ensure polluter payment, and 89.5 years of incarceration for environmental criminals.

The U.S. in 2011 has a record-breaking 12 weather catastrophes that caused at least $1 billion in damage, NOAA’s benchmark for the worst weather disasters, and altogether the 2011 big disasters caused $52 billion in damage. A NOAA official said the year was not just an anomaly, but a sign of things to come, reports The Associated Press.

The Department of the Interior approved a transmission line, accessing a road and substation on public lands that will connect a 150-megawatt Rice Solar Energy Project to the power grid in California. The so-called power tower will be built on 1,410 acres private land in Riverside County and is expected to generate more than $48 million in state and local tax revenue in the first 10 years of operation.

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management announced that the oil and gas lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A) generated winning bids totaling $3,637,477 and covering 17 tracts on about 141,739 acres. Winning bids were received from 70 & 148, LLC, Woodstone Resources and ConocoPhillips Alaska.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved several pieces of legislation, including bills to help restore Lake Tahoe and the Delaware River Basin, and a measure to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network. The Committee also approved several General Services Administration (GSA) resolutions. The measures now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have told the White House that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko is causing damage to the agency that could harm the body’s ability to protect health and safety. The four commissioners say Jaczko ordered staff to withhold information meant for NRC members, and disregarded the will of the majority of the commission. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a Dec. 14 hearing on NRC leadership, according to The Hill.

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved legislation, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. The bill will prevent EPA from changing its standard for coarse particulate matter for one year and will exempt nuisance dust from federal regulation where such dust is already regulated under state, tribal, or local law.

Mexican environmental officials acknowledge that they lack the resources and technical capacity to police lead extraction methods in many parts of the country, and that the imports – either imported through official channels or smuggled – are often extracted by crude methods, exposing plant workers and local residents to dangerous levels of a toxic metal. About 20 percent of spent American vehicle and industrial batteries are now exported to Mexico, up from 6 percent in 2007, the New York Times reports.

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