July 16, 2018

Washington Wire: EPA Ozone Rule Finalized


EPA Ozone Rule Finalized  

Ahead of a court ordered October 1 deadline, the Environmental Protection Agency released their final regulation of ground level ozone, the main component of smog. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Ozone (O3) rule lowers the ozone standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. 
In 2008, the EPA revised the 1997 standards down from 80ppb to their current 75ppb levels. A recent study showed the revised standard would lower the U.S. GDP by $140 billion annually by restricting manufacturing and other economic activity in regions of the country, which exceed the new ozone limits. Roughly seventy counties in Ohio violate the proposed rule, more than sixty in Illinois, and over fifty in Michigan. 
The rule, which begins taking effect in 2017, requires states to submit plans to EPA about how they will reduce ozone emissions in those counties to comply with the new standards. This will include restricting economic activity, rejecting power plant permits, and blocking highway infrastructure projects. One Voice strongly opposed this new initiative and will continue to support efforts to fight its implementation both in the courts and on Capitol Hill.



House Committees Hold Hearings on EPA Issues
House Committees held several hearings on the EPA this week, including the recently finalized ozone standard. The House Science, Space and Technology Environment and Oversight Subcommittees held a joint hearing on October 7 to examine the EPA’s 2015 ozone standard and concerns over the implementation and the science behind the bill.  
Also on October 7, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing entitled “EPA’s CO2 Regulations for New and Existing Power Plants.” Despite strong public opposition and pending legal challenges from One Voice and others, on August 3, the U.S. EPA released an updated version of its proposal to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants, increasing its emissions reduction target by 9 percent to 32 percent by 2030 over 2005 levels. More than 2.65 million stakeholders filed comments on the proposal, which the Agency had long contended would have little impact on small businesses, despite their own admission it would increase the cost of electricity by 6-12 percent annually. While industry studies show the power plant rule could raise prices by 20 percent, even taking the EPA’s 12 percent figure is a major increase for metalworking manufacturers who are large energy consumers. Simultaneously, the EPA is finalizing a proposal to reduce carbon emissions by up to 60 percent from new power plants.



OSHA Moves Towards Finalizing Electronic Recordkeeping Proposal
The Administration, on October 5, sent the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposal “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses,” to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for final review. This puts the administration on track to issue a final rule before the end of the year and to have the rule in effect in January 2016.  
OSHA first published a notice of proposed rulemaking in November 2013, which would require businesses with 20 or more employees to file incident/accident reports electronically on an annual basis (those with more than 250 employees file quarterly) which they will make public. In August 2014, OSHA issued a supplemental notice to amend the original rule to require that employers inform their employees of their right to report injuries and adding whistleblower protections for employees. One Voice filed comments opposing the rule, arguing that it does not improve workplace safety and will only create a misperception of manufacturing as a dangerous occupation.  



Change to ACA Small Employers Definition Signed into Law
On October 7, Obama signed into law bipartisan legislation to reverse a provision in the ACA regarding the definition of small businesses. Currently under the ACA, employers with 51-100 employees are treated as large employers. The provision, set to begin in 2016, would have revised the definition of a small employer as one with 100 or fewer employees. The new law keeps the small business definition at 50 workers but allows states to choose to expand the small-group market to include businesses with up to 100 employees.