Industrials Regulatory News and Trends - April 21, 2023
President Biden vetoes congressional WOTUS measure; override vote may be coming. On April 6, President Joe Biden vetoed a measure that would undo his Administration’s new regulation revising the boundaries of federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. The President’s action sets up veto-override votes in each chamber of Congress when lawmakers return after the spring recess. Republicans, and some Democrats, used the Congressional Review Act to enact a measure blocking the Administration’s new clean water rule. They said the rule is an overreach that harms businesses, farmers, and developers. In his veto message, the President said the measure would leave the nation without a clear definition of “Waters of the United States” or WOTUS. A dispute over this term, and thus over the breadth of the Clean Water Act, has continued in the last three presidential administrations.
EPA chief announces new rules against pollution from chemical and plastics plants. On April 6, the administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new rules aimed at reducing emissions from chemical and plastics plants across the country. “For generations, our most vulnerable communities have unjustly borne the burden of breathing unsafe, polluted air,” Michael Regan, the nation’s top environmental regulator, said. The rules announced by Regan will require additional pollution control measures beyond those currently in place.
New EPA proposed auto emissions standards are most stringent ever. On April 12, 2023, the US EPA proposed a new suite of tailpipe emissions standards for greenhouse gases (GHGs) and criteria pollutants for model year 2027-2032 passenger cars, SUVs and light trucks. EPA simultaneously announced new GHG emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles, including delivery trucks, transit and school busses, and tractor-trailers. These companion proposals are part of a multipronged federal plan intended to drive forward the Biden Administration’s priority of electrifying the US vehicle fleet. EPA’s light-duty vehicle standards, in particular, are estimated to require fully electric vehicles (not counting plug-in hybrid vehicles) to account for 60 percent of total light-duty vehicle sales by 2030 and 67 percent of total sales by 2032. To illustrate the aggressiveness of the proposal – and the transformative challenges facing the automotive sector – such vehicles only accounted for approximately 5 percent of new vehicle sales in 2021. Existing EPA vehicle emissions standards for model year 2023-2026 regulations are subject to pending challenges in federal court. The outcome of that litigation, as well as likely challenges to EPA’s newest proposal (once finalized), create an uncertain regulatory environment for the automotive sector and related industries. Find out more in our alert.
Europe takes key step to zero-emission goal for cars and vans by 2035. On March 28, the European Council approved a new law for its member nations requiring that all new cars and vans sold in Europe must be zero-emission by 2035. Under the regulation, new cars sold in the EU must achieve 55 percent emission reductions from 2030-34 compared to 2021, while vans must achieve a 50 percent reduction. After 2035, all cars and vans sold in the EU must generate zero tailpipe GHGs. The regulation was adopted by the Council with only Poland voting against it, while Bulgaria, Italy and Romania abstained. The Council also adopted a late amendment proposed by Germany that will allow sale of internal combustion engine vehicles that run on e-fuels or net zero fuels after 2035.
Industry partnership with US government necessary to establish safe, sustainable, and secure cislunar infrastructure: op-ed. In an April 12 op-ed article for Space News, James Myers, senior vice president of civil systems at The Aerospace Corporation (a federally funded R&D center for the US space enterprise), proposed a blueprint that he said is needed for the US to win the new space race to forge a prosperous and enduring presence in the cislunar– a region of space 500,000 kilometers out from Earth to the moon which he notes as encompassing stable orbits for greater positioning, navigation, observation, and communication capabilities. Observing that at least 10 federal organizations and more than 70 commercial companies are already investing in cislunar capabilities, Myers wrote that an “open-source, public, dynamic, and transparent planning process” executed by a coalition of US government and private sector partners is necessary to achieve these goals. As part of this, Myers said that the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and The Aerospace Corporation have formed a Cislunar Ecosystem Task Force for industry, government, and academic stakeholders, and invites commercial players in the US space industry to join the Task Force, which, he said, must as an initial step focus on quickly building the communications, navigation, and power infrastructure necessary to support all other utilities for a sustainable cislunar ecosystem.
Minnesota is taking steps to reduce the use of PFAS. On April 13, the American Chemistry Council noted that the Minnesota state Senate and House are both considering legislation to limit the availability of PFAS and fluorinated chemicals. The trade group, objecting to such laws, said that PFAS “are a diverse universe of chemistries with different physical, chemical, and toxicological properties that can come in solid, liquid, or gaseous forms. With these vastly different physical properties, it should be easy to see why there is a scientific consensus emerging that it’s inaccurate, or even impossible, to group all PFAS and fluorinated chemistries together the way this legislation aims to do so.” Under the proposed legislation, the manufacturer of any product that contains intentionally added PFAS and is sold in Minnesota would be required to submit to the commissioner of the state Pollution Control Agency, no later than January 1, 2026, detailed information on the product and its purposes.
Rhode Island legislator proposes a bill to create “environmental justice focus areas.” On April 5, Recycling Today reported that Rhode Island legislators have proposed a bill that would create “environmental justice focus areas” where state agencies would have more discretion in declining to permit a variety of industrial land uses that tend to pollute, including several that are part of the recycling process. The Environmental Justice Act would create a process to ensure that community members in environmental justice areas are heard and to give regulating agencies more discretion in issuing permits, Rhode Island state Rep. Karen Alzate said during a March 30 committee meeting. “The bill will help to create a process for … regulating agencies to make decisions on certain communities or indoor permits so that these areas don’t continue to be toxic dumping grounds,” said Alzate, who proposed the bill. “This bill will allow for regulating agencies to have tools to deny permits that cause harm to these particular areas and or communities.
NAM chief says trade deals are the key to US manufacturing growth. In an interview with Yahoo! Finance on March 29, Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, said that to ensure future competitiveness in the manufacturing sector, the Biden Administration must provide a “robust agenda” on trade. “We haven’t seen a trade deal negotiated in our country or with our country for four presidencies,” Timmons said. “We’re growing manufacturing in the United States thanks to the 2017 tax reforms, thanks to the infrastructure investment legislation, thanks to the CHIPS and Science Act. But 95% of the world’s customers live outside of the United States. And we can strengthen our supply chains and we can also sell our products if we have the right trade agreements in place.” He also said that reinvigorating historic alliances is crucial to overcoming “any obstacle” in the manufacturing field.
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