Washington Waves

Washington Waves: August 27, 2018

Washington, D.C.—A U.S. district judge ruled the Trump administration failed to follow federal law by not providing meaningful opportunity for public comment before its two-year suspension of the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, reinstating the controversial rule put in place by the Obama administration.

The Environmental Protection Agency did not respond to a question on how significant that decision would be on its year-long effort to replace the rule.

“EPA and the Army will review the order as the agencies work to determine next steps,” an EPA spokesperson said.

During a recent trip to Iowa prior to the decision, acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sounded optimistic about where his agency is on the WOTUS effort.

“We have a proposal coming out over the next 60 days.” Wheeler said.

In his decision, Judge David Horton of South Carolina wrote that while different administrations may implement different regulatory priorities, such a pivot from one administration to the next requires at least some fidelity to law and the legal process.

He said the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers fell short of that fidelity when suspending WOTUS.

Horton also rejected the administration’s request that he not make his action nationwide.

Still, he made it clear he was not ruling on the merits of EPA’s effort against the WOTUS rule, leaving that to “many other courts.”

 Tariff Effefcts

Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, wants the U.S. trade representative to consider the negative impacts on American jobs and businesses of implementing additional tariffs on Chinese goods that could lead to retaliatory responses.

“Seaports are at the front lines of the current uncertainties surrounding U.S. trade policy,” Nagle stated in testimony prepared for a September 24 appearance before the U.S. trade representative.

“Seaport cargo activity accounts for over one-quarter of the U.S. economy, generates nearly $4.6 trillion in total annual economic activities and is responsible for more than $320 billion annually in federal, state and local tax revenues.”

Nagle said U.S. ports support more than 23 million jobs, adding that for every $1 billion in export goods shipped through U.S. ports, 15,000 jobs are created.

Expansion of Section 301 tariffs, he warned, would cause additional harm to U.S. businesses, both large and small, and the impact on cargo moving through ports would be significant,

Nagle also spoke of the considerable pressure to make ports more efficient, enhance environmental performance and reduce the impact of port operations on local communities.

“In response, U.S. ports and their private sector partners plan to invest significantly in improving port infrastructure by spending $155 billion between 2016 and 2020,” he said.

“As business leaders, however, they are concerned about making these sizable investments in an unstable trade environment.”

Nagle also requested exemptions for the multi-million-dollar Chinese container cranes that U.S. ports have on order, with no American-made alternatives available, and the cargo-handling yard equipment at ports that have Harmonized Tariff Schedule codes.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative scheduled a number of public hearings in August on the proposed Section 301 tariff list.

“Tariffs on $34 billion in goods from China are currently in effect, and tariffs on an additional $16 billion will take effect on August 23, 2018,” its press release stated.

More than 300 witnesses were expected to testify.

New Coal Rules Proposed

In a potential boost for the coal industry, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired electric utility generating units and power plants across the country.

ACE replaces the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which is viewed by critics as overly burdensome, outside the provisions of the Clean Air Act and a hit on coal.

As part of EPA’s response to President Trump’s executive order directing federal agencies to review burdensome regulations, ACE is designed to empower states to use established emission guidelines to develop plans on reducing greenhouse gas emissions at their plants.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said ACE would provide states and the regulated community the certainty needed to continue environmental progress while fulfilling the president’s goal of energy dominance.

During his campaign for the White House, Trump vowed to bring coal back.

Critics of the proposed rule warned of additional pollution that would impact health, especially for asthma sufferers, and the loss of progress on climate change.

Hunter Indicted

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, has been indicted on federal charges related to his campaign finances.

As a result, Hunter is expected to be forced out of his committee assignments.

“The charges against Rep. Hunter are deeply serious,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement.

“Now that he has been indicted, Rep. Hunter will be removed from his committee assignments pending the resolution of this matter.”

Hunter used his subcommittee chairmanship to defend the Jones Act and put a focus on other issues important to the maritime industry.

 PFD Standard

Completing more than a decade of work to create a single North American standard for lifejackets, the U.S. Coast Guard announced it is harmonizing personal flotation device (PFD) standards between the United States and Canada by accepting a new standard for their approval.

It is also requesting public comment on a policy letter and deregulatory savings analysis intended to promote its maritime safety and stewardship missions.

Comments must be received by October 16.

“This policy does not impact existing PFD approvals, and does not require any action on the part of boaters or mariners who have approved PFDs onboard,” the Coast Guard stated in its Federal Register notice.

“An existing approved PFD will continue to meet the same carriage requirements, as long as it remains in good and serviceable condition.”

For additional information, contact Jacqueline Yurkovich at 202–372–1389.

Offshore Committee

The National Offshore Safety Advisory Committee and its subcommittees will meet in Houston, Texas, on September 10–11 to discuss committee matters relating to the safety of operations and affecting the offshore oil and gas industry.

Open to the public, the meetings will be held at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston, 13411 Hillard St., Houston, Texas 77034.

On September 10, the Regulatory Reform Subcommittee will meet at 1 p.m. and the Lessons Learned Subcommittee will meet at 2 p.m.

The full committee will meet September 11 at 8 a.m.

For additional information, contact Lt. Cmdr. William Nabach at 202-372–1410.