December 7, 2023

Washington Wire: Urge Congress to Support Workforce in Competition Bill



Urge Congress to Support Workforce in Competition Bill
Members of the House and Senate are still working to assemble a final version of legislation to incentivize manufacturing in America and counter China’s technological rise. 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. Please help this effort by sending a letter to your Senator or Representative calling on negotiators to include the JOBS Act to expand Pell Grants for short-term training and the College Transparency Act to inform borrowers about student debt and career opportunities. You can send a letter by clicking HERE.



Electronic Recordkeeping Comment Deadline Extended
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has extended the deadline to formally submit comments on its proposal to reinstate electronic recordkeeping and reporting requirements, first proposed by President Obama, for workplace injury and illness data. At the request of stakeholders, OSHA extended the prior May 31 deadline to June 30. 
Under current rules, which were narrowed by the Trump administration, companies with 250 or more employees as well as small employers with 20 or more employees in “designated industries”, including manufacturing, are required to annually submit OSHA Form 300A, a summary of work-related injuries and illnesses.
The new rules would require all companies in the high-hazard designated industries, including manufacturing, with 100 or more employees to electronically submit Forms 300, 301, and 300A to OSHA while removing the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees not in a designated industry to submit Form 300A.
One Voice will be submitting comments to OSHA asking the administration to reconsider this misguided rule that will not improve worker safety but will hurt manufacturers’ ability to recruit employees.



EPA GHG Decision Expected Soon as SCOTUS Begins Busy Month
The 2021-2022 term of the Supreme Court comes to an end this month, with the court due to issue 33 opinions. In addition to abortion and gun rights, the justices are also scheduled to issue an opinion on the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to tackle climate change. The dispute stems from the 2015 adoption of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan (CPP), the repeal of the CPP in 2019, and the issuance of the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule by the Trump administration. At issue in West Virginia v. EPA is whether the agency can use section 111 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to premise GHG requirements for existing power plants on actions taken "outside the fenceline" of a regulated source, or whether it must base standards on "inside the fenceline" steps.
Under the Trump administration, the EPA argued that under the CAA, the agency is limited to putting in place measures that can be implemented on the physical premises of a power plant – a limitation known as “inside the fenceline.” Inside-the-fenceline measures include activities such as installing equipment that can reduce a plant’s pollution.
Obama’s CPP, by contrast, included some measures that operated industry-wide. For example, the plan called for “generation shifting,” which is reducing emissions by shifting the source of power generation from higher-emitting power plants to lower-polluting sources of energy (such as wind or solar power), and “emissions trading,” when the government sets a cap on emissions and requires permits for emissions allowed under that cap.
The Supreme Court's decision to accept the case was unusual, given there is no live rule at issue, but a decision will instead define the limits of the agency's GHG authority for power plants and other stationary sources. A major component of the case is a battle over the “major questions” doctrine. The coalition of states and coal companies, led by West Virginia, says the outside-the-fence approach in the Obama EPA's CPP is unlawfully broad and violates the major questions doctrine by giving the EPA more expansive authority beyond that granted by Congress.



UK Moving Forward with State-Level Trade Agreements 
As the Biden administration is not moving forward with the United Kingdom on a free trade agreement, the UK has instead decided to take a “twin-track approach” towards trade, pursuing individual trade deals with about 20 states while waiting on the U.S. federal government to move forward with a comprehensive free trade agreement. On May 26, the first of those state-level agreements was finalized, with the UK and Indiana signing a “trade and economic development Memorandum of Understanding.”
The MOU sets out four main objectives: Enhancing cooperation, advancing low-emissions technology, removing trade and investment barriers, and improving research and academic ties. The UK-Indiana enhanced cooperation will extend in particular to "priority sectors," which include manufacturing, aerospace, agriculture, low-emissions technology and energy, among a few others. They will also create a working group to meet annually.
While the UK has not publicly listed all of the states that they are in negotiations with, Texas has been mentioned as a particular priority. British officials in recent months have visited a variety of U.S. states including Texas, Arkansas, California, Georgia, and Oklahoma, among others.



SCOTUS Allows Updated Social Cost of Carbon
The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing President Biden’s administration to continue using its interim social cost of carbon (SCC), rejecting calls from ten Republican-controlled states led by Louisiana to reinstate former President Donald Trump’s much lower value. In a brief order issued on May 26, 2022, the justices denied the request by the states to reinstate a U.S. District Court’s ruling that blocked the interim SCC, writing, “the application to vacate stay presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.” No justice publicly dissented from the order.
On his very first day in office, President Biden issued an Executive Order reestablishing an Interagency Working Group (IWG) on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases to release an interim updated SCC estimate to guide federal policymaking with final estimates coming in the future. The interim SCC returns the figure to the Obama-level of around $51 per ton, significantly higher than the Trump administration’s estimate of as low as $1 per ton. 
The ten Republican-led states filed a lawsuit challenging the policy in April 2021. In February 2022, a District Court Judge in the Western District of Louisiana hearing one of these challenges issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting agencies from “adopting, employing, treating as binding, or relying upon” any SCC estimates that depart from those used in the Trump Administration. On March 16th, the Fifth Circuit stayed the injunction pending appeal, allowing the policy to take effect. The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the appellate court was considered a major victory for the Biden administration, especially because it agreed that the GOP-led states lacked standing to sue over the SCC itself, rather than its use in a final agency action.
The IWG will continue to work as litigation challenging the SCC moves forward. Sources indicate the Biden Administration may issue a final level of over $100 per ton, allowing them to more easily justify restrictions placed on emissions. It is unclear, however, when the EPA might issue a final estimate.