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2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule Repealed

The action alleviates the regulatory confusion that has arisen with the implementation and legal challenges of the WOTUS rule.

On September 12, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the final rule that repealed the 2015 waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule and restored the regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 rule. This action narrows the definition of WOTUS consistent with the Clean Water Act (CWA) and U.S. Supreme Court decisions and alleviates the regulatory confusion that has arisen with the implementation and legal challenges of the WOTUS rule.

This will replace a 2015 rule put in place by the Obama Administration which vastly expanded the scope and jurisdiction of federal control and permitting/enforcement authority over water bodies, including streams, ditches and other areas that are not wet year-round. The new rule will be effective 60 days after the publication in the Federal Register. A copy of the pre-publication version of the final rule is available at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-09/documents/wotus_rin-2040-af74_final_frn_prepub2.pdf

As part of the second step, EPA and the Corps announced a proposal in December 2018 that would provide a clear definition of the difference between federally regulated waterways and those waters that rightfully remain solely under state authority. The final rule for this regulation is expected to be issued by the end of 2019.

For over five years, AFS has weighed-in on this rulemaking with key agency officials, joined coalition comments, and actively participated in the Waters Advocacy Coalition. 

AFS Applauds House Passage of Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Reauthorization
Bipartisan legislation, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (H.R. 1768), that would reauthorize a grant program that helps finance the replacement of older diesel engines was advanced by the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 9. Lawmakers voted 295-114 to continue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program through fiscal 2024.

According to the EPA, nearly 10 million older diesel engines are operating throughout our transportation infrastructure with no modern emissions controls. The DERA program provides rebates and grant funding,  to leverage state and other non-federal funding to finance the voluntary replacement or installation of retrofits on existing heavy-duty diesel vehicles and engines with equipment that meets or exceeds current emissions standards. Under the DERA program, the goal is to update engines used along waterways, rails, and commercial corridors to meet modern emissions standards. The EPA stated about $40 million in grants are expected to be awarded.

Earlier this year, a Senate panel voted overwhelmingly to advance its version, S.747, of the program’s reauthorization. Floor managers in the upper chamber have yet to schedule a vote on the bill.  

EEOC Will Not Collect Component 2 Compensation Data Next Year
On September 12, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published in the Federal Register a notice of information collection seeking approval from the Office of Management and Budget for a renewed EEO-1 Component 1 form.  Importantly, the EEOC will not seek renewal of the Component 2 form that collects information from employers with more than 100 employees (or employers with 50 or more workers with government contracts of $50K or more) on detailed employee salary and hours worked. However, the announcement did not impact the current obligation employers had to submit 2017 and 2018 pay data by September 30, 2019.

The EEOC, in its announcement, indicated that for calendar years 2019, 2020, and 2021, it would seek approval from OMB to collect only workforce demographic information what is currently known as Component 1 of the expanded EEO-1. The agency has collected that information in some form or fashion since 1966.  AFS held a members-only webinar in August providing tips on how to comply with the new Component 2 form, as well as reviewing definitions of “hours worked” and some best practices for data gathering.     

Talks on USMCA Ongoing
While Congress continues to debate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer submitted a counterproposal in September designed to address many of the issues raised by House Democrats. The proposal addresses Democratic concerns in four key areas: enforcement, labor, environment and pharmaceuticals. For instance, the administration has indicated it’s open to adopting a system of binational inspections that could be used to determine if factories in Mexico are meeting the labor standards of the agreement.

The nine House Democrats tasked with securing changes to the new North American trade pact were due to formally respond to the USTR counterproposal the week of September 23 in the latest sign that Democrats are pressing ahead in negotiations. 

Click here to see this story as it appears in the October 2019 issue of Modern Casting.