PublicationsInsights on Current Policy Issues

  • May 16, 2017

    By Frank Vlossak

    On May 8, 2017, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum titled “Guidance for Section 2 of Executive Order 13783, titled ‘Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth’”. E.O. 13783 directs federal agencies to review, and potentially suspend, revise or repeal, existing regulations that “burden domestic energy production.”

     

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  • April 19, 2017

    By Frank Vlossak

    On April 13, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register soliciting public comments “on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification.” The notice is part of the EPA’s efforts to implement the Executive Order titled “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda” (E.O. 13777), which was signed by President Trump on February 24, 2017. The deadline for submitting public comments is May 15, 2017. EPA offices will also be conducting public forums on regulatory reform over the next four weeks. The Executive Order establishes mechanisms intended to reduce regulations, including by implementing the President’s January 30, 2017 Executive Order (E.O. 13771) which calls for agencies to eliminate two regulations for each new regulation they promulgate.

     

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  • April 12, 2017

    By Frank Vlossak

    Congress enacted the “Congressional Review Act” (CRA) as part of the “Contract with America Advancement Act” (P.L. 104-121) in 1996 and it is codified at 5 U.S.C. 801-808. The CRA established an expedited process for Congress to repeal recently promulgated regulations through passage of joint resolutions signed into law by the President. As of April 7, the President has signed eleven CRA resolutions into law. The House and Senate have passed two more, which the President is expected to sign. Activity on CRA resolutions will begin to wind down as the statutory cut-off for action on resolutions to repeal final rules issued during the 114th Congress is expected to occur no later than early May.

     

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W&J Publications

Insights on Current Policy Issues

By Frank Vlossak

As the Obama Administration enters its final months, federal agencies are working to advance a series of energy and environmental rulemakings, even as they are also seeking to resolve court challenges and stays to other regulations. This paper describes some of the significant regulations that remain in development, or that are tied up in court challenges.

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By Nicole Ruzinski and Frank Vlossak

Presidential transitions in which one party takes over from the other can trigger regulatory activity in both the outgoing and incoming administrations, designed to further each President’s policy priorities. An outgoing President may attempt to finalize a number of regulations before leaving office. The incoming President can be left with the responsibility of implementing policies that are not aligned with the new administration’s agenda. An incoming President faces significant challenges in rescinding regulations that were adopted and finalized before the end of the prior administration.

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By By David E. Franasiak, Robyn Gaudon, Kate Johnson, Nicole Ruzinski

The concept of immediate expensing as a potential tax reform to stimulate economic growth has been around for decades. Most recently, the House Republicans have issued a tax reform "blueprint" that calls for immediate expensing. The Republican proposal argues that "allowing investments to be immediately written off provides a greater incentive to invest than is provided through interest deductions under current law..." With immediate expensing as potential fodder for tax reform legislation in 2016, this note examines the history and debates around the concept since it was raised in tax reform discussions in the 1980s.

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On July 11, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released a guidance document whose purpose it is to help Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) covered entities combat ransomware and meet their compliance obligations under HIPAA regulations. Late last month, the HHS also issued a guidance of a much more general nature to help health care providers avoid, prevent, and mitigate ransomware attacks. A few days after HHS issued the June guidance, two Congressmen sent a letter to OCR asking for guidance on ransomware to be issued and posing questions to the agency regarding whether all ransomware attacks should be considered HIPAA breaches.

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On June 24, 2016, the House Republicans released a Tax Reform Blueprint that is intended to act as a policy guide for future comprehensive tax reform. The “Blueprint” is 35 pages and includes some specifics but leaves much of the detail to be determined or “filled-in” later in drafting.

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By Tracy Taylor

On June 21, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized its long-awaited Small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) rule for routine commercial use of UAS (Part 107) and integration of UAS into the national airspace. The FAA expects the rule to be published in the Federal Register in five to seven days. The rule will be effective 60 days from the date of publication which will be the end of August.

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By Frank Vlossak

The House and Senate have completed action on the “Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016” (S. 2276), with the House approving it by voice vote on June 8, and the Senate passing it by unanimous consent on June 13. The White House received the legislation on Thursday, June 16, and it is awaiting the President’s signature. S. 2276 reauthorizes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) pipeline safety functions through September 30, 2019.

Among the more significant provisions in the legislation are: a requirement for PHMSA to promulgate regulations governing the safety of underground natural gas storage facilities (Section 12); and a grant of new pipeline safety emergency order authority to PHMSA (Section 16). PHMSA is already working on underground natural gas storage regulations. As described in the most recent “Unified Agenda for Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions”, “PHMSA is planning to issue an interim final rule to require operators of underground storage facilities for natural gas to comply with minimum safety standards, including compliance with” existing American Petroleum Institute recommended practices.

In addition to the underground natural gas storage provision, new regulatory mandates directed by the legislation include:
  • Requirements for hazardous liquid pipeline operators to provide safety data sheets (SDS) within six hours of an incident (Section 14);
  • Requirements for operators, in developing response plans, to “consider the impact of a discharge into or on navigable waters or adjoining shorelines, including those that may be covered in whole or in part by ice, and include procedures and resources for responding to such discharges in” their plans (Section 18);
  • Clarification of the requirements for abandoned pipelines (Section 23);
  • An annual inline inspection requirement for inland pipelines located below 150 feet of water (Section 25); and
  • A requirement for PHMSA to update the regulations governing “permanent, small scale liquefied natural gas pipeline facilities” (Section 27).


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On May 18, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced its final rule updating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exemptions for “white collar” employees. The final rule raises the minimum salary threshold for white collar employees to be exempt from the FLSA overtime requirements and changes the minimum salary for highly compensated employees (HCE). The final rule will go into effect on December 1, 2016.

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By Frank Vlossak

On May 12, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final rule titled “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources”. The final rule is based on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that the EPA published on September 18, 2015. The final rule imposes significant new requirements for the oil and gas industry, including producers and natural gas pipeline operators, to identify and limit methane emissions.

Also on May 12, the EPA issued:
  • A notice announcing the “Proposed Information Collection Request; Comment Request; Information Collection Effort for Oil and Gas Facilities”. The Information Collection Request (ICR) is the first step towards establishing emissions regulations for existing oil and gas sector sources. The Obama Administration committed to issuing the ICR in March in the U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy and Arctic Leadership”. The draft ICR is subject to public comment for 60 days following its publication in the Federal Register. Once finalized, the ICR will be submitted to the industry, which must then provide the requested data to the EPA. 
  • The final rule on “Source Determination for Certain Emission Units in the Oil and Natural Gas Sector”.
  • The final rule establishing a “Federal Implementation Plan for True Minor Sources in Indian Country in the Oil and Natural Gas Production and Natural Gas Processing Segments of the Oil and Natural Gas Sector”.

As described by an EPA fact sheet, the final rule on new source emissions reductions sets “emissions limits for methane, which is the principal greenhouse gas emitted by equipment and processes in the oil and gas sector.” The final rule includes required emissions reductions for: oil and gas wells; natural gas processing plants; natural gas storage; and natural gas pipelines. Owners and operators of hydraulically fractured wells will be required to implement reduced emissions completions, also known as “green completions”. Prior to implementing green completions, covered wells must “reduce emissions using combustion controls.” The compliance date for the final rule will be sixty days following publication in the Federal Register.

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By Frank Vlossak

On April 14, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released the text of the draft “Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016” (“PIPES Act”). Full Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR), along with Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Ranking Member Mike Capuano (D-MA) are sponsors of the legislation, which the Committee is scheduled to vote on during a markup on Wednesday, April 20.

Release of the bill follows Senate passage of the “Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act” (S. 2276) on March 3, 2016, and the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee’s approval of the “Pipeline Safety Act of 2016” (discussion draft) on March 16.

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PublicationsInsights on Current Policy Issues

  • May 16, 2017

    By Frank Vlossak

    On May 8, 2017, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum titled “Guidance for Section 2 of Executive Order 13783, titled ‘Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth’”. E.O. 13783 directs federal agencies to review, and potentially suspend, revise or repeal, existing regulations that “burden domestic energy production.”

     

    Read...

    Read More
  • April 19, 2017

    By Frank Vlossak

    On April 13, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice in the Federal Register soliciting public comments “on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification.” The notice is part of the EPA’s efforts to implement the Executive Order titled “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda” (E.O. 13777), which was signed by President Trump on February 24, 2017. The deadline for submitting public comments is May 15, 2017. EPA offices will also be conducting public forums on regulatory reform over the next four weeks. The Executive Order establishes mechanisms intended to reduce regulations, including by implementing the President’s January 30, 2017 Executive Order (E.O. 13771) which calls for agencies to eliminate two regulations for each new regulation they promulgate.

     

    Read...

    Read More
  • April 12, 2017

    By Frank Vlossak

    Congress enacted the “Congressional Review Act” (CRA) as part of the “Contract with America Advancement Act” (P.L. 104-121) in 1996 and it is codified at 5 U.S.C. 801-808. The CRA established an expedited process for Congress to repeal recently promulgated regulations through passage of joint resolutions signed into law by the President. As of April 7, the President has signed eleven CRA resolutions into law. The House and Senate have passed two more, which the President is expected to sign. Activity on CRA resolutions will begin to wind down as the statutory cut-off for action on resolutions to repeal final rules issued during the 114th Congress is expected to occur no later than early May.

     

    Read...

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