December 7, 2023

Washington Wire: Biden Administration Issues Increased Tariffs on Russia


Biden Administration Issues Increased Tariffs on Russia 

On the first anniversary of Russia’s war with Ukraine, President Biden announced the addition of increased tariffs on certain Russian products, including a 200 percent tariff on aluminum and articles of aluminum from Russia. The 200 percent tariff on Russian-made aluminum will go into effect on March 10. On April 10, the U.S. will begin imposing a 200 percent tariff "aluminum articles where any amount of primary aluminum used in the manufacture of the aluminum articles is smelted in Russia, or the aluminum articles are cast in Russia, and derivative aluminum articles where any amount of primary aluminum used in the manufacture of the derivative aluminum articles is smelted in Russia, or the derivative aluminum articles are cast in Russia."
Additionally, the White House has established new duties of 35 percent or 70 percent on certain products while also increasing duties from 35 percent to 70 percent on metals and metal products. Duties were first imposed on these products by the Biden Administration in June 2022. Together these actions will result in increased tariffs on more than 100 Russian metals, minerals, and chemical products worth $2.8 billion.



House WOTUS Vote This Week
House Republicans will force a vote on a resolution to overturn the Biden administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule this week. On February 28, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to pass the resolution to overturn the rule, teeing up the resolution for a floor vote where it is expected to pass.
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution would repeal the WOTUS phase 1 rule, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in late December 2022 and formally released on January 18, 2023, as well as bar agencies from reissuing any regulations that are "substantially similar" to what has been repealed.
The phase 1 rule interprets WOTUS to include: traditional navigable waters; the territorial seas; interstate waters; most impoundments of WOTUS, like reservoirs; 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 other jurisdictional waters, 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.
The relatively permanent test includes “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. The significant nexus standard, states wetlands must have a “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 territorial seas, or interstate waters.”
The CRA process in Congress just needs a simple majority in both chambers to pass the resolution and isn’t subject to a filibuster in the Senate. And even in the Democratic-controlled Senate, the measure would be considered a “privileged resolution,” which compels the majority to schedule a vote.
Should the Senate secure enough votes to pass the CRA, President Biden is certain to veto the resolution and there will not be enough votes to override a veto.


EPA Ozone Rule Delayed
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is delaying the release of a proposed rule for the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone (O3), last set in 2015. EPA had hoped to issue a proposal in the spring and publish a final rule by the end of the year. However, in a revised draft policy assessment (PA) issued on March 1, EPA staff outlined a substantial delay to the rulemaking.
The revised PA, which was rewritten due to concerns raised by a panel of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) states that “EPA was initially targeting completing decision-making in this reconsideration by the end of 2023. Based on the steps that have occurred so far, the EPA has determined that it will need additional time to complete the reconsideration process. The EPA now anticipates issuing a proposed decision in this reconsideration in Spring 2024.” Further, “EPA anticipates that the reconsideration cannot be completed any more expeditiously than the end of 2024.”
In the PA, EPA staff have once again recommended that EPA retain both the "primary" health-based ozone standard and the "secondary" standard designed to protect the environment. The agency set both limits at 70 parts per billion (ppb) averaged over eight hours in a 2015 rule, and the Trump administration retained these limits in a 2020 review that the Biden EPA is now reconsidering.
Environmental and public health groups have long pushed for tougher ozone NAAQS, as low as 60 ppb. It is unclear what standards the CASAC might recommend, the Trump-era CASAC supported retaining the 70 ppb limits, but before that, the committee twice backed a primary limit in the range of 60-70 ppb.
The CASAC met with EPA staff on March 2 to discuss the revised PA and is scheduled to conduct its public peer review meeting on the document on March 29 and March 30.




OSHA Seeks to Modernize Voluntary Protection Program
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is looking to modernize the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), a program established in 1982 to grant official OSHA certifications to workplaces that maintained excellent workplace safety and health. OSHA’s goals in potentially updating the VPP are to “modernize, expand, and enhance the pathways to the VPP program.”
Specific goals include aligning VPP with recent safety practices and standards; investigating how it can help expand the use and effectiveness of safety and health management systems (SHMS); determining whether the program could incorporate "resources and tools" like third-party audits or privately developed consensus standards "without compromising effectiveness and oversight"; and considering whether particular hazards or categories require "special attention" in the certification process.
OSHA is seeking input on nine specific aspects of VPP: incentives for employers to participate; methods of assessing SHMS effectiveness; potential use of consensus standards in the program; possible roles for either private certification bodies or certified health and safety professionals in VPP reviews; a "tiered" approach to the program; potential reforms to OSHA's administration of VPP; the role of "special governmental employees" (SGE) in the process; and the program's name.
OSHA is accepting public comments through April 14, 2023.

Treasury Issues Guidance on Clean Manufacturing Tax Credit
The Treasury Department has released initial guidance on the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) tax credits for advanced clean energy projects under Section 48C, the Qualifying Advanced Energy Project Credit. 
Section 48C provides $10 billion in credits for qualifying advanced energy projects which include clean energy manufacturing and recycling projects; GHG reductions at industrial or manufacturing facilities; or "critical materials projects" related to processing, refining, or recycling those materials.
Credits are only available for projects recommended by the Department of Energy (DOE). DOE will review concept papers and provide applicants with a letter of encouragement or discouragement for submissions of a full application for credit allocation. At least two rounds of funding will be conducted, with the first opening on May 31, 2023. The released guidance instructs those seeking consideration in the first round of credit allocations to submit their concept papers to DOE by July 31, 2023.