July 16, 2018

Washington Wire:Supreme Court Sides with One Voice, Halts EPA Power Plant Rule


Supreme Court Sides with One Voice, Halts EPA Power Plant Rule  

In a major victory, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with One Voice, its allies, and twenty-seven state Attorneys General in blocking a major EPA rule expected to increase the price of electricity by 6-20 percent annually. On Tuesday, February 9, in a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the divided Court held that while lower courts are reviewing the rule, the EPA should stop work on its controversial Clean Power Plan, which seeks to lower carbon emissions from existing power plants.  
In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts called on the lower court to expedite its review over whether the Administration has the authority to force states to comply with the rule. In January, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit denied a petition by One Voice coalition partners and the states to block the EPA. On June 2, the full Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the case, however, most expect the U.S. Supreme Court to ultimately hear and decide on the Clean Power Plan’s fate sometime in 2017.  
Opponents of the rule filed the lawsuit shortly after the EPA announced the regulation aiming to reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions from existing power plants by up to 32 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, starting in 2022. More than 2.65 million stakeholders filed comments on the proposal, which, by the EPA’s own admission increases 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. In 2015, One Voice members reported spending $135,000 on energy, meaning this regulation will cost metalworking manufacturers $30,000 annually, not counting the average 7 percent increase members already expect in 2016 due to market forces. Taken together, this $40,000 energy tax imposed by the EPA will make manufacturers less globally competitive.



Cool Reception in Congress for President’s Budget Proposal
On Tuesday, February 9, the Obama Administration officially released its final federal budget proposal of the President’s term. The $4.2 trillion outlay of the President’s priorities is dead on arrival, as Congressional Republicans refused to even convene a hearing on the entire proposal with the Administration’s top budget official. Rather, Congress will only receive testimony from select Cabinet members. Regardless of who resides in the White House, Washington has long had a saying about the budget, “the President proposes and Congress disposes,” and this election year is certainly no different.  
Congressional Republicans were quick to criticize a number of tax related provisions included in the proposal, such as an effort expanding the 3.9% surtax on the “wealthy” to cover active business income of pass-through businesses and reinstating the just delayed “Cadillac Tax” on health insurance plans. Another proposal dead on arrival with Republicans is a $10 per barrel tax on oil. The President’s budget however, does call for a need to address the high corporate tax rate and strengthen the R&D Tax Credit.  
One area where One Voice is hopeful Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the Administration can come to agreement is on workforce development, recruitment, and training. The President’s budget places added emphasis on apprenticeships, regional sector partnerships, and community colleges, including a tax credit to incentivize hiring of their graduates.  
The Congress will likely move forward on its own in the coming months as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hope to quickly move the twelve bills required to fund the federal government starting October 1. Washington is working on a shorter legislative schedule than usual as both parties plan for the summer’s presidential nomination conventions in July.



Dept. of Labor Delays Workforce Law Final Rule
The Department of Labor announced it is delaying its final rule implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2014 and One Voice strongly supported. The law required the Department to issue the final rule by January 22; however, due to number of responses received to their draft rule, the Administration announced it needed more time, now targeting a June release for the final rule. The Department is also delaying the March 3 deadline for states to submit their WIOA implementation plans to April.  
On June 15, 2015, NTMA and PMA jointly filed comments on the Department’s effort to implement WIOA. The law reforms expired workforce laws by eliminating 15 outdated programs, encourages the use of industry recognized skills certifications, and provides a greater role for businesses in implementing workforce programs locally. One of the main points raised by One Voice in the comments was the need for flexibility, whether in the structure and composition of the workforce investment boards (WIB) or the design of training and apprenticeship programs.