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US Files Complaint Against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche for Alleged Clean Air Act Violations - not the kind of German engineering the VW Group wants to be known for

January 4, 2016 - 3:56pm
The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, today filed a civil complaint in federal court in Detroit, Michigan against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC, Porsche AG, and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (collectively referred to as Volkswagen). The complaint alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impair their emission control systems and cause emissions to exceed EPA’s standards, resulting in harmful air pollution. The complaint further alleges that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act by selling, introducing into commerce, or importing into the United States motor vehicles that are designed differently from what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification to EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).“With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at EPA. “So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action.”“Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint.”

2015 Year in Review

December 31, 2015 - 7:10am
As 2015 comes to a close, Mongabay is looking back at the year that was. This year saw President Obama reject the Keystone pipeline as historic droughts and a vicious wildfire season wracked the western US and Canada. The world committed to climate action in Paris as Southeast Asia was choking on the worst Indonesian haze in years, Shell aborted its plans to drill in the Arctic for the “foreseeable” future, and ExxonMobil is being investigated for lying to the public about climate risks. Here, in no certain order, are the top 15 environmental stories of 2015.

Equity and Emission Trading in China, a new analysis by MIT

December 7, 2015 - 1:29pm
As representatives from more than 190 countries convene in France for the second week to address ways to slow global warming, an MIT-led team has published a paper outlining a set of options for incorporating equity considerations in a national Emissions Trading System (ETS) for China that could reduce carbon emissions while minimizing economic impact on poorer or less-developed regions.The paper, “Equity and Emission Trading in China,” published in the journal Climatic Change, outlines a sophisticated menu aimed at Chinese policymakers showing how the burden of reducing carbon emissions could be shared or divided across the country’s provinces under a market-based carbon pricing system.“Emission trading systems have been shown to be highly effective when they are allowed to work, but one of the toughest challenges involves how to distribute the cost,” said lead author Valerie Karplus, Assistant Professor of Global Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “We compare alternative schemes for allocating emissions rights that can effectively de-couple who pays for reductions from where the reductions actually occur.” 

New DOW weedkiller issues

November 26, 2015 - 8:40am
Dow AgroSciences, which sells seeds and pesticides to farmers, made contradictory claims to different parts of the U.S. government about its latest herbicide. The Environmental Protection Agency just found out, and now wants to cancel Dow's legal right to sell the product.The herbicide, which the company calls Enlist Duo, is a mixture of two chemicals that farmers have used separately for many years: glyphosate (also known as Roundup) and 2,4-D. It's Dow's answer to the growing problem of weeds that are resistant to glyphosate, which has become the weed-killing weapon of choice for farmers across the country.The new formulation is intended to work hand-in-hand with a new generation of corn and soybean seeds that are genetically engineered to tolerate sprays of both herbicides.

US Forest Service proposes coal mining expansion in Colorado

November 20, 2015 - 10:08am
National and local conservation groups today condemned a decision by the U.S. Forest Service to continue pressing to open national forest roadless areas in Colorado to coal mining.In a notice filed today, the Forest Service announced it would move forward by issuing a draft environmental impact statement on the proposal to pave the way for mining. The proposal would reopen a loophole in the “roadless rule” for national forests in Colorado to enable Arch Coal — the nation’s second largest coal company — to scrape roads and well pads on nearly 20,000 acres of otherwise-protected, publicly owned national forest and wildlife habitat in Colorado’s North Fork Valley.

Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

November 9, 2015 - 6:41am
In a crucial victory for the climate, wildlife and the millions who spoke against it, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL project today, saying that building the tar sands oil pipeline is not in the national interest.Over the past four years, scientists, environmentalists, tribes, farmers, celebrities and business people joined forces to fight the pipeline, with more than 2 million comments submitted to the U.S. State Department, tens of thousands participating in rallies against Keystone in all 50 states, and thousands of citizens arrested in peaceful civil disobedience.“This is a historic moment, not just for what it means about avoiding the impacts of this disastrous pipeline but for all of those who spoke out for a healthy, livable climate and energy policies that put people and wildlife ahead of pollution and profits,” said Valerie Love with the Center for Biological Diversity. “President Obama did the right thing, but he didn’t do it alone: Millions of Americans made their voices heard on this issue, and will continue pressing Obama and other political leaders to do what’s necessary to avoid climate catastrophe.”

Explaining Extreme Events from a Climate Perspective

November 9, 2015 - 6:11am
Human activities, such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use, influenced specific extreme weather and climate events in 2014, including tropical cyclones in the central Pacific, heavy rainfall in Europe, drought in East Africa, and stifling heat waves in Australia, Asia, and South America, according to a new report released today. The report, “Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 from a Climate Perspective” published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, addresses the natural and human causes of individual extreme events from around the world in 2014, including Antarctica. NOAA scientists served as three of the five lead editors on the report."For each of the past four years, this report has demonstrated that individual events, like temperature extremes, have often been shown to be linked to additional atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by human activities, while other extremes, such as those that are precipitation related, are less likely to be convincingly linked to human activities,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. 

Dirty pipeline: Methane from fracking sites can flow to abandoned wells, new study shows

October 21, 2015 - 10:47am
As debate roils over EPA regulations proposed this month limiting the release of the potent greenhouse gas methane during fracking operations, a new University of Vermont study funded by the National Science Foundation shows that abandoned oil and gas wells near fracking sites can be conduits for methane escape not currently being measured.The study, to be published in Water Resources Research on October 20, demonstrates that fractures in surrounding rock produced by the hydraulic fracturing process are able to connect to preexisting, abandoned oil and gas wells, common in fracking areas, which can provide a pathway to the surface for methane.A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science showed that methane release measured at abandoned wells near fracking sites can be significant but did not investigate how the process occurs.

Volkswagen begins recalling diesels in Europe

October 19, 2015 - 7:54am
The good news for Volkswagen is that it delivered almost 7.5 million vehicles to customers during the first three quarters of 2015. The bad news is that 8.5 million of VW’s cars will most likely be subject to a mandatory recall — and that’s just in Europe.The fallout from the Volkswagen emissions scandal continues to reverberate, four weeks after revelations about the installation of “defeat device” software in diesel-powered cars slammed the newswires. Now, the world’s largest automaker is facing a global public relations crisis. This includes its home base: 2.8 million of the recalled vehicles were sold in Germany.