December 7, 2023

Washington Wire: Administration Releases 2023 Spring Unified Agenda



Administration Releases 2023 Spring Unified Agenda
On June 13, 2023, the Biden administration released the semi-annual update of its regulatory priorities and timeline for releasing rulemaking activities for the rest of the year. Issued by every administration and formally known as the Unified Agenda, the release offers a blueprint on how the Administration will move forward to implement their priorities within each agency.
Several top One Voice interests appear in the Unified Agenda, including plans to initiate a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) advisory panel in August for the Occupational Safety and Health Agency’s (OSHA) upcoming heat standard; issue the final rule for multi-pollutant emissions standards for light and medium duty vehicles model years 2027 and later in March 2024 and the final rule for “phase 3” of greenhouse gas emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles in December; issue a proposed rule restoring portions of the Obama-era Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule later this month; the Lock-Out/Tag-Out update has been delayed from the release of a proposed rule in July 2023 to August 2024; issue a final fine particulate matter (PM2.5) national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) in October and a proposed rule for ozone NAAQS in April 2024; issue a proposed rule on occupational exposure to crystalline silica in January 2024; issue a proposed rulemaking for National Apprenticeship System enhancements to more clearly establish pipelines for registered and pre-apprenticeships in August; issue a final independent contractor classification rule in August; and release of a request for information by the Department of Energy in June related to the advanced technology vehicle manufacturing loan program.  Additionally, following the Supreme Court decision, the EPA is also dropping plans to move forward with a second rulemaking that would further refine its definition of WOTUS which was previously set to be issued in November. 



EPA Proposes Ban on Perchloroethylene
The EPA has released a proposal to ban all consumer and most commercial and industrial uses of perchloroethylene (PCE), with most of those restrictions subject to a two-year deadline and others facing a 10-year phaseout. The proposal would still allow some “critical” applications to continue indefinitely, but only with enhanced workplace protections in place. 
The proposed rule would ban "most industrial and commercial uses and the manufacture (including import), processing, and distribution in commerce, of PCE for those uses," as well as "all consumer use" of the solvent. Allowed continued use is proposed for the "industrial and commercial use of PCE in petrochemical manufacturing, the manufacture of coatings for aircraft skins, and vapor degreasing with PCE to make aerospace parts and engines." The proposal also exempts the use of PCE as a feedstock in substitutes for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), refrigerants with high global warming potential that EPA is seeking to phase out under statutory and treaty requirements.
Similar to EPA's proposed rule on methylene chloride, EPA is proposing strict worker-safety controls including a Workplace Chemical Protection Program (WCPP) with limits on inhaled and dermal exposures, for limited industrial uses.  




USTR Requests Investigation on Emissions from Steel & Aluminum Production
The U.S. Trade Representative's Office (USTR) has made a formal request to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) to investigate the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) generated by U.S. steel and aluminum producers. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, in a letter dated June 5, 2023, has urged the USITC to investigate under section 332 of the 1930 Tariff Act. The purpose of this investigation is to evaluate the GHG emissions intensity of domestically produced steel and aluminum in the United States. The findings from this investigation will contribute to a public report that aims to inform the Global Arrangement on Sustainable Steel and Aluminum.
The Global Arrangement, a collaborative effort initiated by the U.S. and the EU in October 2021 and expected to be finalized by October 2023, is focused on addressing concerns related to carbon intensity and global overcapacity. It also aims to discourage the trade of steel and aluminum products with high emissions. As part of the ongoing negotiations, the U.S. submitted a concept paper to the EU in December 2022, proposing the establishment of a green steel club with defined "emissions intensity" standards for steel and aluminum production. The proposal also included the possibility of implementing carbon-based tariffs for products that exceed these standards.
In the request for investigation, the USTR has asked the USITC to survey U.S. steel and aluminum producers. The purpose of the survey is to gather data on their production activities and identify any GHG emissions associated with production that have not already been reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The USITC has been tasked with estimating three different scopes of GHG emissions intensity. "Scope 1" covers direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by the producers, such as emissions from fuel combustion and electricity generation. "Scope 2" includes indirect emissions from purchased energy sources like electricity, steam, heat, or cooling. "Scope 3" encompasses other indirect emissions within the value chain of the reporting company, not covered by Scope 2.
Furthermore, the USITC has been requested to use the collected survey data, along with additional information from supplementary sources, to compile estimates of the highest and average GHG emissions intensity associated with U.S. steel and aluminum production. These estimates may potentially serve as benchmarks for the implementation of carbon-based tariffs within the framework of the Global Arrangement.
The survey will encompass various types of steel and aluminum products, such as stainless steels, carbon and alloy steel products (including flat, long, semi-finished, pipe, and tube products), as well as unwrought and wrought aluminum products (including castings, forgings, bars, wire, foil, and related items).
Ambassador Tai has requested that the USITC completes its investigation and publishes a public report by January 28, 2025.
Additionally, a Senate bill has been introduced to examine the emissions intensity of manufacturing specific goods. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) have proposed the "Providing Reliable, Objective, Verifiable Emissions Intensity and Transparency Act." This bill directs the Biden administration to study the emissions intensity of both U.S. and foreign manufacturing of certain goods to inform future trade policy efforts in addressing the climate crisis. The Energy Department, in collaboration with the USTR, Commerce Department, and other relevant agencies, would conduct a comprehensive study comparing the emissions intensity of specified goods produced in the United States to those produced in other countries. The study would cover various sectors, including steel, aluminum, cement, lithium-ion batteries, solar cells and panels, and critical minerals, among others mentioned in the bill.



EPA Panel Issues Ozone Recommendations
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) has sent its final report to EPA Administrator Michael Regan on recommendations for a proposed rule for the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone (O3), last set in 2015. The report calls for a tightening of the standards, contradicting EPA staff recommendations to 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.
In the report, the majority of the CASAC members advocate for a significantly tighter primary limit, ranging between 55 parts per billion (ppb) and 60 ppb and all but one of the committee members support a more stringent secondary limit that employs an ecologically based methodology known as a W126 index. This method sets the limit in a range of 7 to 9 parts per million-hours (ppm-hours), measuring ozone over an annual period across multiple growing seasons. This diverges from the EPA's stance, which asserts that the current 70 ppb limit is equivalent to a W126 limit of approximately 17 ppm-hours and considers it adequately strict.
EPA will now finalize its Policy Assessment document, taking into account CASAC's comments, and move to issue a proposal and intends to complete the final rule-making process by December 2024.



Critical Mineral Trade Talks Continue
The European Commission has approved a set of negotiating objectives aimed at advancing discussions with the United States. Within these objectives, the European Union (EU) states its intention to develop an agreement that will enhance critical mineral supply chains, foster bilateral trade with the U.S., and promote wider adoption of electric vehicles, all while ensuring robust labor and environmental standards. The Commission has endorsed these objectives, which will come into effect upon approval by the Council of the EU, comprised of representatives from member states.
Specifically, the objectives emphasize that the Agreement should bolster the international trade and diversification of critical mineral supply chains, encourage the acceptance of electric vehicle battery technologies by formalizing the shared commitment between the European Union and the United States of America to facilitate trade, promote fair competition, and establish market-oriented conditions for critical mineral trade. The objectives also emphasize the need to uphold strong labor and environmental standards within critical mineral supply chains and promote cooperation in ensuring secure, sustainable, and equitable supply chains for critical minerals.
Additionally, the United States and the United Kingdom have jointly announced the "Atlantic Declaration," an economic initiative focused on addressing global challenges. This initiative includes the initiation of negotiations on a critical minerals agreement. The talks on critical minerals form part of the "Building the Clean Energy Economy of the Future" pillar within the initiative. Additionally, under this pillar, both sides plan to develop a "Joint Clean Energy Supply Chain Action Plan," which will outline near-term actions aimed at expediting the development of sufficient capacity in both countries and other nations to meet future clean energy demands.
The initiative comprises four additional pillars: "Ensuring U.S.-UK Leadership in Critical and Emerging Technologies," "Advancing Ever Closer Cooperation on Technology Protection, Economic Security Toolkits and Supply Chains," "Partnering on an Inclusive and Responsible Digital Transformation," and "Strengthening our Alliance Across Defense, Health Security, and Space." Under the pillar focused on economic security and supply chains, the two nations commit to close coordination on outbound investment and export controls. They also pledge to collaborate in establishing more resilient supply chains for semiconductors and other critical technologies.