Some updates from The Hill:
The House passed the "National Strategic and Critical Minerals Product Act" which increases the speed of issuing mining permits and gives mining companies free access to public lands, putting their rights above those of all other users, including recreational users. Despite its name, the bill is not limited to strategic and critical minerals, but includes materials like sand and gravel and coal.
The House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill. Among its many provisions, the five-year bill also lays out conservation and renewable energy provisions for rural areas. During the mark-up, an amendment by Rep. King (R-IA) was added which overrides federal authority on interstate product regulations - a provision that will curtail the ability of states to set environmental standards on products sold within its borders.
The House Natural Resources Committee is marking up a bill today that mandates much wider offshore oil-and-gas leasing in coming years than what the White House envisions.
The GOP plan, unlike the Obama administration's program, would require Interior Department lease sales for waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It also features a more aggressive schedule for lease sales in Arctic waters off Alaska's coast than the Interior Department's 2012-2017 plan envisions, among other differences.
House Republicans are marking up legislation today that blocks a planned Department of Labor regulation that aims to protect coal miners from the dust that causes black lung disease.
Their Labor, Health and Human Services spending bill explicitly prohibits funding to develop or implement the Mine Safety and Health Administration regulation.
"It is the chairman's position and the position of the subcommittee that the regulation is harmful and costly to the industry and to the economy in general," says Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY).
"Republicans are sending a message that profits for their wealthy campaign contributors are more important than the lungs and lives of America's coal miners," says Rep. George Miller (D-CA). "It's clear that voices wealthier than coal miner families drowned out that message."
Court upholds EPA air pollution rule
Yesterday, a federal appeals court upheld EPA's 2010 air pollution standards that limit nitrogen dioxide emissions near major roadways.
The 100 parts-per-billion limit will reduce smog from such sources as car exhaust pipes and factories; it's the first time the regulation has been updated since 1971.
Nitrogen oxides are linked to respiratory problems, especially in children and people with asthma.
"We cannot conclude the agency was arbitrary and capricious," Judge Douglas Ginsburg writes. "The record adequately supports the EPA's conclusion that material negative health effects result from ambient air concentrations as low as the 100 parts-per-billion level."
The lawsuit was filed by the American Petroleum Institute, which represents over 500 oil and gas companies.
Impacts of US Solar Tariff
Since the US instituted a tariff on imports of solar panels from China, imports have been declining.
In May, they dropped about 45% from the previous year, to $124.1 million, according to the Department of Commerce's "U.S. Imports of Merchandise" database.
The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), which petitioned for the tariff, attributes the significant decline to the "market's rising recognition of the costs, risks and uncertainties associated with importing Chinese solar cells and panels."
Still, imports for 2012 are still greater than last year's. The value of Chinese cell and panel imports reached $1.21 billion, up from $993.2 million, a rise of 21.8%, according to Commerce data.
On the other hand, May imports from other countries rose from Malaysia (up 950%), Taiwan (up 615%) and the Philippines (up 47.3%).