PublicationsInsights on Current Policy Issues

  • January 11, 2018

    By Frank Vlossak

    Since taking office, President Trump and his Administration have worked toward regulatory reform that includes the review, revision, and repeal of existing regulations, with a focus on rules promulgated by the Obama Administration. Congress has played a key role in this effort, through the use of the Congressional Review Act to repeal rules finalized in the waning months of the prior Administration, as well as one rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in 2017.

    President Trump signed a series of executive orders in the early months of his presidency that are propelling the deregulatory efforts of federal agencies. These executive orders: set a cap limiting regulations in Fiscal Year 2017 to zero net cost; provide agencies with a framework for limiting new regulations and identifying existing rules to repeal or revise; direct review and revision or repeal of the “Waters of the United States” rule issued by the Obama Administration; and require review and reform of energy and climate-related regulations.

     

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  • October 10, 2017

    By Frank Vlossak

    On October 10, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled “Repeal of Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Generating Units”. The NPRM would rescind the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), a rule that would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power generation sector sources, namely coal and natural gas power plants.

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  • 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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W&J Publications

Insights on Current Policy Issues

By Frank Vlossak

On November 15, 2016, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued the final rule titled “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation”. The rule is designed to reduce the venting and flaring of natural gas produced on federal lands. The BLM developed the final rule based on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which was published on February 8, 2016. The rule’s effective date is January 17, 2017, which will make it more difficult for the incoming Trump Administration to rescind the regulations. Congress could potentially seek to repeal the rule using the expedited process available under the Congressional Review Act.

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By Frank Vlossak

On October 18, the Department of Energy released the report of the Interagency Task Force on Natural Gas Storage Safety, titled “Ensuring Safe and Reliable Underground Natural Gas Storage”. The Department of Energy organized the Task Force in April, and Congress codified it and provided direction to its final report in enacting Section 31 of the “Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016” (P.L. 114-183). The Task Force and the report are part of the response to the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility methane leak, which occurred from late 2015 into 2016.

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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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PublicationsInsights on Current Policy Issues

  • January 11, 2018

    By Frank Vlossak

    Since taking office, President Trump and his Administration have worked toward regulatory reform that includes the review, revision, and repeal of existing regulations, with a focus on rules promulgated by the Obama Administration. Congress has played a key role in this effort, through the use of the Congressional Review Act to repeal rules finalized in the waning months of the prior Administration, as well as one rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in 2017.

    President Trump signed a series of executive orders in the early months of his presidency that are propelling the deregulatory efforts of federal agencies. These executive orders: set a cap limiting regulations in Fiscal Year 2017 to zero net cost; provide agencies with a framework for limiting new regulations and identifying existing rules to repeal or revise; direct review and revision or repeal of the “Waters of the United States” rule issued by the Obama Administration; and require review and reform of energy and climate-related regulations.

     

    Read...

    Read More
  • October 10, 2017

    By Frank Vlossak

    On October 10, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled “Repeal of Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Generating Units”. The NPRM would rescind the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), a rule that would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power generation sector sources, namely coal and natural gas power plants.

    Read...

    Read More
  • 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...

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