December 7, 2023

Washington Wire: Department of Labor Issued Final Rule Rescinding IRAPs



Department of Labor Issued Final Rule Rescinding IRAPs
On September 26, 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor published a final rule to rescind the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP). The final rule rescinds the regulatory framework used to establish and govern IRAPs.
IRAPs, which One Voice supported, allowed third-party industry groups such as the National Institute for Metalworking Skills to develop programs and certify industry-recognized apprentices. With the cancelation of the program, the administration will focus instead only on the registered apprenticeship model.
Following an Executive Order (EO) in 2021 from President Biden, the Labor Department “slowed support” for IRAPs by ceasing consideration of new or pending applications to serve as a third-party certification entity under the IRAP model, known as “standards recognition entities” (SREs). While the Administration slowed support, the 27 SREs that were approved during the Trump Administration continued to approve IRAPs. In addition, all IRAPs that were previously approved continued to operate. As part of this final rule, the Department will work with those previously recognized SREs and IRAPs to transition to the Registered Apprenticeship system.
This final rule is effective November 25, 2022.



Cut-To-Length Steel Plate USITC 
The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has announced that it will hold an in-person hearing for interested parties on November 15, 2022, as part of the full five-year sunset review of the countervailing duty (CVD) orders on carbon and alloy steel cut-to-length (CTL) plate from China and Korea and the antidumping duty (AD) orders on CTL plate from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Taiwan, and Turkey.
The statutorily required review will determine whether the revocation of the CVD and AD orders, put in place in 2017, would be likely to lead to the continuation or recurrence of material injury. The products covered by these orders are certain carbon and alloy steel hot-rolled or forged flat plate products not in coils, whether or not painted, varnished, or coated with plastics or other non-metallic substances (cut-to-length plate).
In a separate expedited review, the Department of Commerce issued an affirmative determination. Should the USITC also issue an affirmative determination, the orders will remain in place. If the USITC's determination is negative, the orders will be revoked.
Current duty rates under the AD orders range from 6.95% for Taiwan to 148.02% for France and range for the CVD orders from 4.35% for Korea to 251% for China.



Supreme Court Begins New Term with WOTUS Challenge
The Supreme Court started its new term on October 3, 2022, and the first case on the court’s fall docket examines the constitutionality of the federal government’s jurisdiction over tributaries to large streams and rivers under the Clean Water Act (CWA). 
The Supreme Court is reviewing Sacket v. EPA, a long a long-running dispute regarding whether certain wetlands are “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) subject to protection under the CWA. The CWA prohibits discharging certain pollutants into navigable waters, defined as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas” without a permit. The statute does not define WOTUS. In Sacket v. EPA, the Court will be reviewing what standard is to be used when deciding if a body of water qualifies as a WOTUS. Specifically, the Court is examining whether EPA’s reach extends to wetlands that are connected below the surface to federal waters.
A Supreme Court fractured 4-1-4 decision in 2006 resulted in two different standards, the “relatively permanent” test put forth by Justice Scalia under which WOTUS includes only “relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water,” such as streams, rivers, or lakes; and wetlands that have a “continuous surface connection” to other waters subject to the CWA; and Justice Kennedy’s “significant nexus” standard, under which wetlands must have s “significant nexus” to traditionally navigable waters which “exists when the wetland, either alone or in connection with similarly situated properties, significantly impacts the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of a traditionally navigable water.”
The case comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) are in the process of updating the definition of WOTUS. An interim definition, the first in a two-step process to update the regulation defining WOTUS, is currently under final review. The rule would interpret WOTUS to include: traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, the territorial seas, and their adjacent wetlands; most impoundments of WOTUS; tributaries to traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, the territorial seas, and impoundments that meet either the relatively permanent standard or the significant nexus standard; wetlands adjacent to impoundments and tributaries, that meet either the relatively permanent standard or the significant nexus standard; and "other waters" that meet either the relatively permanent standard or the significant nexus standard.



EPA to Consider Tougher Truck GHG Standards
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering adopting more stringent greenhouse gas (GHG) standards for heavy-duty trucks to account for the incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act which the agency argues could speed the shift to electric heavy-duty vehicles.  
In March 2022, the EPA issued proposed heavy-duty truck nitrogen oxides (NOx) and GHG standards. That proposal floated only modest changes to current "Phase 2" truck GHG standards out to 2029, with the rule largely focused on significantly tougher standards for NOx. The supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) will focus on GHG standards for model years 2027 through 2029. 
The finalization of the NOx standards as well as the supplemental NPRM for GHG is expected in December.



TAA Extension Blocked
Republicans in Congress blocked an effort to temporarily extend the lapsed Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. Senate Democrats were attempting to craft an agreement allowing the TAA program to continue temporarily as a part of the continuing resolution that was approved by Congress to fund the government through December 16. The temporary extension would have allowed the program to continue providing support while legislators worked toward reauthorization.
One Voice has advocated for the passage of the TAA Modernization Act which would reauthorize and modernize the TAA program and the vitally important Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms (TAAF) program, the only federal program specifically designed to help small manufacturers that have been negatively impacted by imports, which ended on June 30, 2022. The program provides highly targeted, cost-shared technical assistance to import-injured manufacturers to help them strengthen their internal capabilities and improve their global competitiveness.
Provisions to reauthorize and expand TAA and TAAF were included in a competition bill approved by the House earlier this year but were dropped, along with other trade provisions, during a conference with the Senate.