The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has proposed new legislation to revise regulation of spent nuclear fuel. The bill will require nuclear power companies to reprocess all spent fuel and it bans all other methods of nuclear waste disposal. The bill will establish special corporations who will charge the utilities for spent fuel reprocessing, which is very expensive and has been resisted by the utilities. Almost $18 billion has been invested in the construction of a reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Japan, but it has been plagued by technical problems since beginning “test operation” in 2004. This information comes from Professor Hiroshi Yoshida from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.
On Thursday February 4 the Solicitor General filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing a stay of EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) pending the D.C. Circuit’s consideration of legal challenges to it. The D.C. Circuit denied a stay on January 21, but several states, utilities and coal industry groups are taking the unusual step of asking the Supreme Court to intervene and issue a stay. The Solicitor General argued that there is no precedent for the Court to grant the stay request and that deadlines established by the CPP will not take effect until long after the litigation is finished. The government noted that the D.C. Circuit is giving the case expedited treatment and is likely to resolve the legal challenges by late summer or early fall. While initial state compliance plans are due in September, states easily can obtain a two-year delay of this requirement and do not have to begin compliance until 2022 with full compliance not required until 2030. The government dismissed claims that the CPP unconstitutionally “comandeers” state power in violation of the Tenth Amendment, noting that any state simply can refuse to file a compliance plan and EPA will then adopt its own federal plan for the state.
Of February 1 a federal district court in Norfolk, Virginia imposed a $13 million fine on Lumber Liquidators for illegal importation of hardwood flooring in violation of the Lacey Act. The fine is the largest ever under the Lacey Act, which prohibits the importation of lumber illegally harvested in another country. The hardwood imported by Lumber Liquidators was illegally logged in eastern Russia in the protected habitat of the Siberian tiger. It was then mislabeled and shipped through China to the United States. The company pled guilty to the charges last October. It will be placed on five years of organizational probation and must implement a government-approved environmental compliance plan that will include independent audits.
On Tuesday February 2 both the State of California and Los Angeles County filed charges against Southern California Gas Co., a division of Sempra Energy, for the massive methane leak that has been occurring since October at the company’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility. The county’s charges include four misdemeanor counts of failing to report releases of hazardous materials while the state’s charges accuse the company of violating state health and safety laws by failing to control the release. More than 20 private lawsuits also have been filed against the company.
On Tuesday February 9 I will be speaking at a luncheon program at the Cato Institute’s Hayek Auditorium to discuss a new edition of the book Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America by Timothy and Christina Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation and the Goldwater Institute.