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Policy   Policy

EPA moves to lower ozone limit

The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday took a middle ground approach in proposing a lower standard for smog-forming ozone.

The proposal of 65-to-70 parts per billion would, if finalized, replace a 75 parts per billion standard put into place in 2008. EPA said it would also take comment on leaving the current standard untouched, as well as a lower standard of 60 parts per billion.

White House veto threat shelves possible tax plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — A White House veto threat appears to have put on ice a congressional effort to permanently renew a handful of generous tax breaks for businesses and individuals. Officials say that the plan, brewing behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, favored corporations over the working class.

The unusual veto threat came before the parameters of a potential agreement were even revealed, although the controversial tax credit for wind power would have been phased out in three years. Some of its biggest supporters have been been Midwestern Republicans.

Thanksgiving holiday publishing schedule for EnergyGuardian

As is tradition during the Thanksgiving holiday week, EnergyGuardian will publish a single midday edition on Wednesday and will not publish its normal newsletters on Thursday or Friday this week. Of course, we'll cover any breaking news with alerts, and then resume normal publishing on Monday morning. We wish you and your family the happiest of Thanksgivings and thank you for your support all year long.

Oil

Saudis suggest no need for OPEC output cut

VIENNA (AP) — Top OPEC producer Saudi Arabia suggested Wednesday there is no need for the cartel to cut its output ceiling despite a plunge in prices that has poorer members of the organization hurting.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi told reporters he expects the oil market to eventually "stabilize itself." That suggests the Saudis, who effectively determine OPEC's production policy, will not back any calls for reducing output by other nations at Thursday's oil ministers' meeting.

Hungary looks to develop gas production

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Hungary is looking to start extracting unconventional forms of natural gas in a bid to help Europe become less dependent on Russian energy imports, government official said Wednesday.

Hungary's unconventional gas deposits are estimated at some 1,500 billion cubic meters — enough to supply all of Europe for three years — but they are deep and hard to access.

26 coal miners die in fire in north China mine

BEIJING (AP) — A fire sparked by underground tremors tore through a coal mine in northeastern China early Wednesday, killing 26 miners and leaving several others with life-threatening injuries, state media reported.

Another 50 miners were injured in the disaster, which broke out in the complex run by the state-owned Fuxin Coal Corp. in Liaoning province, China's official Xinhua News Agency and state broadcaster CCTV said. Of those, 30 had serious burns, eight were in intensive care and four were still in danger of dying, Xinhua said.

Dutch seek to harness energy from salt water mix

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Dutch researchers are seeking to add a new, largely untapped renewable energy source to the world's energy mix with the opening of a "Blue Energy" test facility on Wednesday.

Blue energy takes advantage of the difference in salt concentration between sea water and fresh water to produce electricity. A similar test plant was launched in Norway in 2009.

Obama administration sets stricter smog standard

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration took steps Wednesday to cut levels of smog-forming pollution linked to asthma, lung damage and other health problems, making good on one of President Barack Obama's original campaign promises while setting up a fresh confrontation with Republicans and the energy industry.

In a long-awaited announcement, the Environmental Protection Agency said it prefers a new, lower threshold for ozone pollution of 65 to 70 parts per billion, but said it would take public comments on an even lower standard of 60 parts per billion sought by environmental groups. The current standard is 75 parts per billion, put in place by President George W. Bush in 2008.

AP sources: US to propose stricter smog standard

WASHINGTON (AP) — Coming full circle on a campaign promise, the Obama administration will propose Wednesday to reduce the amount of smog-forming pollution allowed in the air, which has been linked to asthma, lung damage and other health problems.

The stricter standard makes good on a pledge President Barack Obama made during his first campaign for the White House and one of his first environmental actions as president: reversing a decision by President George W. Bush to set a limit weaker than scientists advised.

In 2011, amid pressure from Republicans and industries, and facing a battle for re-election, Obama reneged on a plan by then-Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson to lower the permissible level to be more protective of public health.

The initial range of 60 to 70 parts per billion proposed by the EPA in January 2010 would make it one of the most expensive regulations ever issued, with an estimated $19 billion to $90 billion price tag and would have doubled the number of counties in violation.

People familiar with the new proposal told The Associated Press that the agency would propose a preferred range of 65 to 70 parts per billion. The agency's scientific advisers had endorsed a standard of 60 parts per billion.

The agency will seek comment on 60 parts per billion as well as the current standard of 75 parts per billion put in place by Bush in 2008. Those familiar with the proposal were not authorized to discuss it by name ahead of the official announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. The agency was under a court-ordered Dec. 1 deadline to issue a new proposal.

Holland & Knight

Split emerges between biofuels leaders in wake of EPA delay

The decision last week by the Obama administration to delay a final biofuels rule for 2014 is leading to conflict within the industry over the future of the program.

Mike McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, on Tuesday renewed his call for Congress to write new legislation to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard, a stance that put him at odds with other biofuels groups.

He argued that the approach adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency to keep biofuels at about 10 percent of the motor vehicle fuel market, based on the predominant blend of ethanol into gasoline sold to consumers, threatens to kill investment into ethanol made from non-corn cellulosic feedstocks.

"It's time for Congress to step in and do something," McAdams said in an interview.

Supreme Court takes up challenge to EPA mercury rule

WASHINGTON (AP) — Environmental Protection Agency rules designed to clean up chromium, arsenic, acid gases, nickel, cadmium as well as mercury and other dangerous toxins in the air will be reviewed by the Supreme Court. The pollutants contribute to respiratory illnesses, birth defects and developmental problems in children.

Justices have agreed to look at a ruling that upheld emission standards for coal- and oil-fired power plants in the face of a challenge from industry groups and 21 states. The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld the EPA regulations in April.

Oil

US stocks dip as oil pushes energy sector lower

NEW YORK (AP) — A slump in energy prices pushed the stock market back from record levels on Tuesday.

Energy stocks slid as the price of oil resumed its descent. Traders speculated that member nations of the oil-producing group OPEC would fail to agree on production cuts at an upcoming meeting in Vienna on Thursday. Oil has now dropped almost a third from a peak in June.

Oil

As OPEC faces tough test, lower oil prices loom

NEW YORK (AP) — These are the moments OPEC exists for: A sharp drop in global oil prices has reduced the amount of money OPEC countries take in by nearly $1 billion a day.

The 12-member group's purpose is to coordinate how much oil is produced in order to keep prices high and stable and maximize member countries' revenue while making sure global demand for oil stays strong. A steep, coordinated cut in output could stop and possibly reverse what has been a 30 percent decline in prices over five months.

Oil

Guessing game: What are OPEC nations thinking?

NEW YORK (AP) — Does Saudi Arabia have it out for frackers in the U.S.? Or Iran? Or Russia? Will low oil prices make it easier to fight the Islamic State? Or harder?

Trying to guess what OPEC members are thinking in the run-up to Thursday's meeting in Vienna is a high stakes parlor game for energy analysts, political scientists and armchair geo-politicians.

United States subpoenas Brazil's Petrobras

SAO PAULO (AP) — The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has subpoenaed documents in its investigation into corruption allegations at Petrobras, Brazil's state-run oil giant said.

In a statement late Monday, Petrobras pledged to "cooperate with the United States public authorities with the same dedication it has been cooperating with Brazilian public authorities."

Shale gas company extends exploration in Poland

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Oil and gas firm San Leon Energy is extending its licenses to explore for shale gas in northern Poland, a company official said Tuesday.

The decision is good news for the shale gas sector in Poland, where, after an initial rush, major exploring companies pulled out citing difficult geological conditions and restrictive regulations.

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