December 7, 2023

Washington Wire: OSHA To Hold Meeting on Heat Standard Recommendations



OSHA To Hold Meeting on Heat Standard Recommendations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) will hold a meeting next week to hear from the Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group on recommendations for a proposed heat standard. The recommendations put forth by the Heat Work Group will not include a specific heat threshold or trigger but instead will focus on best practices and components of a potential standard such as a heat illness prevention plan, training for supervisors and employees, environmental monitoring, and workplace control measures. During discussions at an April 27 meeting of the Heat Work Group, members voiced their opinion that in any standard developed, OSHA should take into account variability in working conditions and geographic areas and any triggers included in a regulation should take into account multiple factors specific to different working environments, not just the absolute temperature.
One Voice continues to similarly argue that any overly broad standard would fail to recognize the diversity of indoor work environments and the unique situations across industries and would impose burdensome requirements for manufacturers.
The NACOSH meeting is set to occur on May 31, 2022, from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm EDT. Members of the public can register to attend the meeting virtually by clicking here.



EPA Releases Methylene Chloride Proposal
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a proposed rule regulating methylene chloride under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The proposed rule would prohibit the manufacture or import, processing, and distribution in commerce of methylene chloride for consumer use; and prohibit most industrial and commercial uses of methylene chloride, which is used as a degreaser in metal manufacturing operations.
The proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on May 3, 2023, would set a 15-month deadline to eliminate most uses of methylene chloride while a small set of “critical” uses would be subject to a 10-year deadline. These uses include the manufacture of the chemical, its roles as a feedstock for climate-safe refrigerants and as a degreaser for civilian aircraft, and various applications at the Department of Defense (DOD), NASA, and Federal Aviation Administration.
For the limited continued use, the proposed rule would require a workplace chemical protection program (WCPP) including inhalation exposure monitoring and limits, recordkeeping, and downstream notification requirements. Certain exemptions to the rule would be available for uses of methylene chloride that would “otherwise significantly disrupt national security and critical infrastructure.”



Congress Continues China Focus
Both the House and the Senate are continuing to focus efforts on China in the 118th Congress. The Senate is moving forward with an effort to pass comprehensive legislation addressing competition with China, including many provisions which passed as a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) in 2021 but were not included in what would become the final package signed into law, the Chips and Science Act.  
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has directed committee chairs to begin working with Republican ranking members with the hopes of drafting bipartisan legislation to move in the next several months. Democrats see the package focusing on areas such as limiting U.S. technology and capital from going to Chinese companies; investments in domestic industry; aligning U.S. allies and economic partners against China; deterring conflict between China and Taiwan; and potentially elements of USICA's trade title.
The trade title included provisions such as the renewal of the Generalized System of Preference and a new Miscellaneous Tariffs Bill.
Congressional committees also continue to focus on China with hearings having been held in both the House and the Senate in the last few weeks. The House Ways & Means Committee held a field hearing entitled, “Trade in America: Securing Supply Chains and Protecting the American Worker,” on May 9, 2023. The hearing, which took place in Staten Island, NY, is the latest in a series of hearings across the country on the state of the American economy. The hearing also follows one held on April 18, which focused on ways to counter China’s trade and investment agenda. The field hearing joined additional congressional hearings on China including a Senate Appropriations Committee on “the President’s Fiscal Year 24 Budget, U.S. Competitiveness, and the U.S.-China Relationship,” and a House Rules Committee hearing on “Examining China’s Coercive Economic Tactics.” The House Natural Resources Indian and insular affairs subcommittee held a hearing on “Preserving U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific: Examining how U.S. engagement counters Chinese influence in the region,” while the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Standing united against the PRC's economic aggression and predatory practices.”
The House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party also held a hearing last week titled “Leveling the playing field: How to counter the Chinese Communist Party's economic aggression,” during which former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and others testified on issues such as outbound capital flows, technology theft, export controls, research security, supply chains, civilian-military fusion, and trade. This week, the Select Committee will hold a business meeting to consider the adoption of two reports, one on recommendations for deterrence in the Taiwan Strait and another on recommendations related to the Uyghur genocide. The Committee last month held a war game envisioning a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. The Select Committee's second hearing, held in March, focused on China's “ongoing Uyghur genocide.”



EPA Releases Power Plant GHG Rule
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released greenhouse gas standards for new and existing power plants, significantly strengthening Obama-era GHG limits for new plants.
EPA split the rules into three parts: one section covering existing steam generating units, with the biggest portion of that fleet being coal; a second category that strengthens CO2 standards for new gas-fired combustion turbines; and a third, emissions guides for existing gas plants that are larger than 300 megawatts (MW) and operate at a more than 50 percent capacity factor.
Standards in the proposed rule vary significantly based on multiple factors. Emissions-reduction targets are based on the size of the plant, whether it operates continuously or intermittently, and whether it has set a retirement date.
The standards require what the EPA claims are “cost-effective and available control technologies,” such as carbon capture and storage and co-firing natural gas plants with clean burning hydrogen as the basis for reaching GHG reduction targets.
The EPA will accept public comments on the proposed rule through mid-July as well as holding a public hearing on June 13 and 14. Republicans on Capitol Hill are already planning to advance a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution in an attempt to block the proposal.



USTR Extends COVID Tariff Exclusions
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has once again extended the exclusions from the Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods for 77 COVID-related products through September 30, 2023.
USTR originally provided exclusions for 99 products needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic which are covered by the Section 301 investigation into China's acts, policies, and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation. These included such goods as disposable face masks, surgical gloves, hand sanitizer, and X-ray equipment. These exclusions for medical care products to address COVID–19 were published on December 29, 2020, and subsequently extended.
In November 2021, after receiving comments from stakeholders, USTR extended the exclusions for 81 of the 99 COVID-related products for six months and allowed the remainder to expire on November 30, 2021. The 81 exclusions were further extended several times and were set to expire on May 15, 2023. Instead, all will be extended until the end of the month, providing a “transition period” for the four that will now expire on May 31, 2023.
USTR is reviewing all of the tariffs imposed on China under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 during the Trump administration. The tariffs will remain in place as USTR continues its statutorily required review. It is expected that the Administration will make an announcement on the next step for the China 301 tariffs before all of the exclusions are set to expire at the end of September, with a report issued by USTR on its review and a public hearing held sometime this summer.