September 27, 2021

Washington Wire: New Developments in Auto Emissions Fight Between California and Washington


New Developments in Auto Emissions Fight Between California and Washington  

On October 25, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously dismissed California’s legal challenge to the EPA’s announcement it was reconsidering its 2012 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for automotive model years (MY) 2022 to 2025. In 2018, the EPA announced it would reconsider the 2012 rule and later proposed its Safer and Affordable Fuel Economy (SAFE) rule, requiring a fleetwide average of 37 miles per gallon (mpg) by MY 2026. Because the administration has not finalized the SAFE rule, the three-judge panel ruled that California lacked standing to bring its lawsuit. In its ruling, however, the appellate court stated that the EPA could not “ignore prior factual findings” and must provide a “reasoned explanation” if its rulemaking results in changing the 2012 standard. Even with the dismissal of this lawsuit, numerous lawsuits between California and the Trump administration are still ongoing, including the lawsuit California filed last month challenging the EPA’s final determination removing the state’s ability to set its own air pollution standards.
While this lawsuit is ongoing, on October 29, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing examining the effects of the EPA’s proposal on rolling back GHG emissions standards and how it affects car companies and California. The hearing occurred the day after General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota announced they were siding with the Trump administration and not California over automobile fuel economy standards. The decision by the three major automotive companies goes against their competitors Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW, which reached an agreement with California over the summer to manufacture cars with stronger fuel economy and lower GHG emissions standards than the SAFE rule.



Congress Considers One Voice Supported Bill Clarifying National Security Issues
Sources expect the Senate Finance Committee to conduct a markup in November of a bill addressing whether a president can claim national security reasons when imposing unilateral tariffs for climate change, prescription drug imports, and most importantly, steel and aluminum. Because government data shows that American tool and die manufacturers and metal stampers now face higher prices for raw materials than their foreign competitors, American manufacturers ask Washington to not artificially raise the costs of manufacturing in America.
The NTMA and PMA are working with President Trump to support his efforts addressing long overdue violations by China while helping manufacturers educate this administration about the damage tariffs on steel and aluminum have caused American manufacturers. As One Voice repeatedly states, “we don’t have a global raw material problem, we have a China problem” and have worked with industry and government partners to speak with One Voice against China while preserving customer relationships and continuing to export American products to the world.
The Senate Finance Committee is drafting this bipartisan bill to make sure all parties, industry, government, and the public, have a more transparent understanding of how imports impact America’s national security and provide a way for One Voice members to fight back.
The NTMA and PMA work with business groups, industry interests, and those who specially support manufacturing in America to promote the interest of U.S. manufacturers and make sure Congress and the White House focusses on the voices who speak solely for manufacturers.
The bill under consideration states that the International Trade Commission must supply a report to Congress assessing any economic harms within 270 days of the tariff’s introduction. Furthermore, the administration must provide periodic evaluation of a Section 232 tariff every six months to Congress to justify its continuation. Finally, Congress will have the power to remove a Section 232 tariff by a vote of disapproval.
While the timing of the legislation remains unclear, those who promote manufacturing in America have supported efforts to level the playing field and provide transparency in our trade laws, including this potential legislation at a time when NTMA and PMA members face higher input costs as related to their foreign competitors.



 Trump Administration Finalizes Repeal of WOTUS
On October 22, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers finalized the repeal of the 2015 definition of Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS). By repealing WOTUS, the agencies must now use the 1986 reading of WOTUS in the interim until they finalize a replacement rule. While the move allows the Trump administration to ignore the Obama-era WOTUS rule as they craft a narrower replacement rule, the 1986 reading of WOTUS was also considered overly expansive. An inevitable lawsuit against a finalized replacement rule could result in the courts upholding the 1986 reading which environmental groups used to win previous court cases.



Labor Department Proposes Expanding Electronic ERISA Disclosures
Last week, the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) published a proposal in the federal register allowing administrators of retirement plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) “who satisfy specified conditions to provide participants and beneficiaries with a notice that certain disclosures will be made available on a website.” This new electronic safe harbor rule proposed by EBSA does not replace but adds to the original electronic delivery safe harbor rule issued in 2002. Under the proposal, plan administrators can choose either or both safe harbors as a way to distribute electronic disclosures under ERISA. While individuals will still be allowed to choose paper copies and opt out of electronic delivery, EBSA expects the proposal to “reduce the costs and burden associated with furnishing many of the recurring and most costly ERISA disclosures.