September 26, 2023

Washington Wire: China Competition Bill Heads to Conference



China Competition Bill Heads to Conference
The House and Senate are finally moving forward to begin the formal conference process to assemble a final version of legislation to incentivize manufacturing in America and counter China’s technological rise. 
Senate and House leadership last month announced their selection of 107 members of the conference committee consisting of 26 senators – split evenly among Democrats and Republicans – and 81 representatives – with 50 Democrats and 31 Republicans.
The conference committee will try to reconcile the differences between the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act and the House-passed America COMPETES Act. Both include significant domestic investments in critical supply chains and emerging technologies with the goal of out-competing China. They diverge sharply in key areas, however, and One Voice is working with lawmakers in both parties on ways to strengthen the domestic supply chain and invest in American manufacturing.
One Voice is continuing to urge lawmakers to include in the final bill the JOBS Act to allow Pell Grants for short-term training, provisions to inform students about the costs of student debt, and additional resources for apprenticeships. If you have not already done so, you can contact your lawmaker here and urge them to pass the manufacturing supply chain competition bill and include support for workforce.



OSHA Launches Heat Emphasis Program
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has formally launched its National Emphasis Program (NEP) for heat danger enforcement. The enforcement program will allow for proactive heat-related interventions and inspections at both indoor and outdoor workplaces in more than 70 targeted industries deemed "high-risk" on any day that the National Weather Service announces a heat warning or advisory for the local area. Additionally, the NEP establishes "heat priority days" where the heat index is 80 degrees or above. On those days, OSHA will engage in education and compliance assistance for employers in the targeted high-risk industries.  
The agency's April 8 enforcement directive that sets terms for the emphasis program says enforcement officers should consider a range of factors in determining whether an employer has an adequate heat-safety program, including providing "unlimited cool water" to workers; scheduled rest breaks with access to shade; administrative controls to limit heat exposures; and use of a "buddy" system on hot days, among many others.
The NEP is a part of a "multi-prong" White House initiative to reduce heat-related illness and death in indoor and outdoor occupational settings announced by the Biden Administration on September 20, 2021. Another prong will be a formal standard to protect workers from heat. 
OSHA took its first step on the standard last October with the issue of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on heat illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. The ANPRM sought stakeholder input on dozens of subjects related to the dangers posed by high heat, with specific questions on metrics for identifying dangerous temperatures, lessons learned from existing state and employer heat programs, and equity issues related to the hazard. One Voice filed formal comments in January, arguing that a broad one-size-fits-all standard requiring engineering controls to meet an 80-degree heat index threshold across the entirety of large manufacturing facilities would not only lead to prohibitive costs but in some cases is infeasible and would not achieve the desired goal. 
One Voice is participating in meetings with OSHA on the administration’s Heat Illness Prevention initiative and is continuing to ensure that OSHA is aware 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. For more information on the OSHA Heat NEP, click here:



Administration Reevaluating China 301 Tariffs
Recent comments by officials in the Biden administration reveal that an examination of the U.S.’s trade strategy with China could lead to the lifting or reframing of tariffs on Chinese goods. Last month, both Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh commented on the removal of some tariffs, with Singh suggesting that the tariffs imposed under List 3 and List 4a serve no strategic purpose and the Section 301 action should be reframed to fit national security interests. 
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has been mulling what to do about the Section 301 tariffs as well as whether to launch a new investigation into Chinese trade practices. Administration officials met in March and discussed a new probe but opted to delay a final decision, though the USTR has indicated they would like to keep the tariffs as leverage over Beijing. 
The USTR must soon review and extend the 301 tariffs or allow them to expire. Under the Section 301 statute, USTR is required to terminate any tariffs put in place after four years unless “any representative of the domestic industry which benefits from such action has submitted to the Trade Representative during the last 60 days of such 4-year period a written request for the continuation of such action.” Following the receipt of such a request, the law requires USTR to conduct a full review of the tariffs, including an assessment of the effects it has had on the U.S. economy and its consumers. The first Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods took effect on July 6, 2018. 
Additionally, the USTR faces a court-ordered June 30 deadline to reconsider and provide justification for the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on more than $300 billion worth of goods under Lists 3 and List 4 in 2018 and 2019. A ruling by the U.S. Court of International Trade on April 1, found that while the imposition of the third and fourth rounds of Section 301 duties did not violate the Trade Act, the USTR failed to respond to the public comments in justifying the additional duties. 



NEPA Update Issued
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has published its final phase 1 rule to overhaul how agencies implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The phase 1 rule makes core changes to the NEPA overall implemented in 2020 during the Trump Administration. The Trump administration’s rewrite of the regulation made a variety of procedural changes to NEPA in an effort to accelerate infrastructure projects. A phase 2 rule is expected later this year to make broader changes to the 2020 rewrite. 
This phase 1 rule makes three core changes to NEPA. Under the final rule, issued on April 20, 2022, agencies again are required to assess direct, indirect, and cumulative effects. The rule also reverts to the prior definition of a project's "purpose and need" to stress it is not the applicant's prerogative; and states that the CEQ rule is the floor, not the ceiling, for how agencies implement NEPA when they review major federal actions. 



EPA Staff Recommend No Change in Ozone NAAQS
Staff at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have recommended that the EPA retain its national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone (O3), last set in 2015. The draft policy assessment finds that it is appropriate to retain the "primary" standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) and the "secondary" standard, set at the same level. 
Environmental and public health groups are pushing for tougher ozone NAAQS, as low as 60 ppb. A panel of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) will review the staff policy assessment and provide their recommendations as part of the process of drafting a proposed and final NAAQS rule by 2024. 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.