Summary of NADCA Government Affairs Activity – July 2011
The NADCA Washington Office, Artemis Strategies, is pleased to provide NADCA with a government affairs update and summary of our government affairs activities for the month of July.
After months of legislative wrangling, both the House and Senate passed legislation raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling through the 2012 election and reducing the deficit in multiple steps. (Additional information on the package is highlighted below.)
We continued to meet with Hill staff on three significant labor-related regulatory proposals that were released in June – two by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the other by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The NLRB-proposed rule would significantly shorten the time frames for elections where employees decide whether or not they wish to be represented by a union, whereas the DOL-proposed rule would require employers to disclose information related to almost any communication with employees about unions if a consultant or attorney has assisted the employer.
Both the House and Senate have adjourned for their August recess, returning the week of September 6. We urge NADCA members to participate in town hall meetings and invite their lawmakers to tour their facilities. It is a great opportunity to showcase your facilities' environmental, health, and safety programs and how you produce castings. If you need assistance with hosting a plant tour, be sure to contact the NADCA Washington office.
We have divided our report into two sections. The first provides an overview of the key meetings and activities undertaken throughout the month for NADCA in Washington, D.C. The second portion is the Government Affairs update on the industry’s priority issues – Climate Change / EPA regulations, Regulatory Reform and Health Care – as well as updates on other important legislative and regulatory developments impacting the die casters.
Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding this report.
& Tim Powers
Artemis Strategies – 202.783.1080
I. NADCA Legislative & Regulatory Activities
In July, the NADCA Washington Office participated in the following meetings with lawmakers and hill staff, as well as sending letters to Congress and Agencies:
NADCA signed onto a coalition letter in support of the Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act (H.R. 2587) which prohibit the NLRB from dictating where a private business can and cannot locate jobs in the United States.
- Attended the National Republican Congressional Committee Meeting and met with Reps. Murphy (PA), McCarthy (CA), Sessions (TX), Thompson (PA), Gerlach (PA), Shuster (PA), Kline (MN), Lucas (OK) and Terry (NE).
- Participated in a variety of hill meetings regarding the NLRB & DOL proposals with staff from the offices of Reps. Upton (MI), Benishek (MI), Gerlach (PA), Petri (WI), Austria (OH), and Gibbs (OH).
- Participated in hill meetings regarding NADCA priority issues with Rep. Manzullo (R-IL), Energy & Commerce Committee staff, and Small Business Committee staff on EPA overregulation.
The NADCA Washington Office participated in the following conferences, briefing sessions and coalition meetings:
- SBA OSHA Roundtable Meeting - obtained updates on OSHA regulatory agenda and upcoming rules.
- Coalition for Democratic Workplace – participated in two meetings on the NLRB and DOL rules where we discussed strategy and outreach efforts.
- Small Business Coalition for Affordable Health Care Meeting – participated in coalition meeting where we discussed variety of pending bills and focus of congressional activity.
- US Chamber CO2 Working Group - participated in meeting where we discussing EPA’s upcoming NAAQS ozone rule.
- Boiler MACT Briefing – participated in industry sponsored briefing for Hill Staff at the US Capitol.
- US Chamber of Commerce Regulatory Reform Coalition – participated in conference call on regulatory reform initiatives.
II. NADCA Government Affairs Issue Update – July 2011
Agreement Reached on Deficit Reduction / Debt Ceiling Proposal
After months of debate, on July 31, a deal was announced by the White House and Congressional leaders on a strategy to increase the debt ceiling by up to $2.4 trillion through 2013 while mandating spending cuts of $2.1 trillion over the next decade. The plan does not include revenues. The package averted a projected August 3, 2011 default on the debt – the deadline imposed by the Treasury for the debt limit increase.
The plan provides for a two-step debt limit increase: (1) an immediate $900 billion debt ceiling increase coupled with a $1 trillion spending reduction achieved through 10-year discretionary spending caps; and (2) a subsequent debt limit increase up to $1.5 billion contingent on at least an additional $1.2 trillion deficit reduction.
As originally proposed by the “Gang of Six” Senators, the measure establishes a bipartisan, bicameral Congressional committee comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats from each chamber. The committee will be tasked with recommending the second installment of spending reductions totaling $1.5 trillion by the end of November 2011. The committee may consider both entitlement and tax reforms as part of its package.
If Congress fails enact at least an additional $1.2 trillion in spending cuts by the end of the calendar year, across-the-board spending cuts would be implemented through a “sequestration” budget process. While defense and entitlement programs would be impacted, specific programs that benefit low-income populations may be exempt and Medicare would face only a two percent hit, with cuts affecting only payments to providers, not beneficiaries.
For the near-term, the proposal sets discretionary (defense and non-defense) spending caps of $1.043 trillion for FY2012 and $1.047 trillion for FY2013. It also includes a “firewall” provision which will prevent domestic account reductions from being used to offset increases in security spending. The measure also provides for a vote on a Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment between October 1 and December 31, 2011.
House Committee Approves
Job Protection Bill
Legislation that would prevent the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from ordering an employer to close, relocate, or transfer its operations under any circumstances is being fast-tracked in the House of Representatives. The NADCA endorsed measure, Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act (H.R. 2587), introduced by Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), was approved by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Thursday, July 21, 2011 by a vote of 23-16 along party lines. Unions oppose the legislation.
The bill is in response to the NLRB’s recent complaint against Boeing, accusing the company of illegally retaliating against unionized workers by expanding its facilities in a largely nonunion state, South Carolina. The NLRB demanded that Boeing transfer work from South Carolina to Washington.
According to committee staff, the full of House of Representatives is expected to vote on the measure in September following the August recess. If enacted, the provisions of this bill would apply to any pending complaint before the Board. NADCA signed onto a coalition letter in support of Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act with over 200 other organizations. The letter was sent to every House lawmaker on July 27.
House to Vote on Bills to Change the Way Government Regulates
In July, two pieces of NADCA supported regulatory reform legislation - the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (H.R. 527) and the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011, known as the TRAIN Act, (HR 2401) were approved by key House Committees.
The first bill, H.R. 527, will improve the regulatory process for small businesses by requiring federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to consider the indirect impact of federal regulations, which would lead to a more accurate assessment of a regulation's true cost to business. The legislation would require a broader analysis of the cumulative impact of all regulations on small businesses, which could set the stage for repealing or modifying existing regulations. NADCA joined over 60 other trade associations in signing a letter to the House in support of the bill.
The second measure, the TRAIN Act, would create an interagency federal committee tasked with conducting cost-benefit analyses of 10 specific EPA regulations aimed at curbing pollutants such as heat-trapping gases, fine particulates, ozone, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. These studies are supposed to reveal the effects of clean air rules on consumers, small businesses, state and local governments, labor markets and agriculture. Both bills now move to the House floor, where they are expected to pass in the fall. NADCA sent letters urging support of the legislation to lawmakers in key die casting states.
EPA Delays Release of Proposed Ozone Standards
A controversial U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule to update the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone is close to being finalized; however, the agency said that they will not be finished by July 29, as previously expected. It is the latest delay for the new national ozone standards, which were proposed in January 2010. Industry groups have been actively pushing the White House to scale back the rule, which was submitted for final review in July.
EPA’s scientific advisers suggested a standard between 0.070 and 0.060 parts per million (ppm) back in 2006 after reviewing the latest studies. But in March 2008, EPA instead chose to replace the 1997 standard of 0.08 ppm with a new, more stringent standard of 0.075 ppm. In September 2009, EPA announced it would reconsider the 2008 ozone standard, and in a stark departure from the normal five-year review cycle and without considering any of the newer science, EPA proposed a range of 0.070-0.060 ppm in January 2010. EPA also proposed a separate secondary standard unrelated to the health effects of ozone and focused on the protection of trees and plants. EPA now says it will finalize the standard “shortly.”
EPA’s proposed range would likely result in a large portion of the U.S. being in nonattainment. During the May Government Affairs Conference, NADCA members urged lawmakers to not allow EPA to tighten the 2008 ozone NAAQS. We pointed out that EPA’s proposed range would greatly increase the stringency of the ozone NAAQS again when current implementation steps are just beginning, including new emission restrictions and controls affecting manufacturing at a time of recession. We believe that EPA should wait on implementing new standards until 2013, when the agency is scheduled to finish its next review of the most current science on ozone. [NADCA NAAQS position paper posted on the Government Affairs Section of the web site along with maps showing non-attainment areas.]
With scores of amendments pending, the Interior-Environment bill remains on the House floor and will not likely see further action until September. So far, Democrats have offered a number of amendments to address their opposition to the bill’s significant cuts and policy riders targeting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, most of which have failed. The remainder of the appropriations schedule in both chambers is on hold until after the August recess.
The $27.5 billion bill includes language that would block EPA’s implementation of GHG stationary and mobile source regulations. An amendment was also approved on July 27 that would cut the funding for EPA’s GHG reporting registry in half. Other proposed amendments would prevent EPA from using funds for climate change programs, including climate research; would block the mandatory reporting of GHGs; and would prevent the EPA from offering funds to foreign organizations, including the United Nations. With both chambers of Congress in recess until early September, the House will not resume work on the bill until after Labor Day.
OSHA Releases Spring 2011 Regulatory Agenda – Crystalline
Silica Remains a Top Priority
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released its 2011 spring regulatory agenda in July. The ambitious agenda contains a number of significant workplace safety and health initiatives of interest to the metalcasting industry.
The agency is in the initial process of developing eight standards to address such hazards as infectious diseases, combustible dust, bloodborne pathogens, and occupational exposure to beryllium. There are five standards at the proposed rule level including the Injury and Illness Prevention Program rule. This program would require employers to “find and fix” hazards and has been a special priority of OSHA Administrator David Michaels. The agency plans to convene a small business panel in the fall.
OSHA is also planning to restore a column to the OSHA 300 Log that employers must check if a case is a "musculoskeletal disorder" (MSD). The agency recently provided for a limited reopening of the rulemaking record and indicated that it is currently analyzing the record. Other proposed rules on the agenda include Walking Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems (Slips, Trips, and Fall Prevention), for which the agency will analyze comments in August; and a rule to modernize OSHA’s reporting system.
The agency has 14 regulations at the final stage of development. Regulations at the final rule stage include those designed to address hazard communication, and procedures to handle whistleblowing and retaliation. The agency has updated its publication target date for the final rule on the Hazard Communication Standard to occur in September 2011.
Senate Committee Releases Bipartisan Framework for Two-Year
The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-OK) released a bipartisan 3-page plan outlining the policy and spending provisions of the highway section of the surface transportation reauthorization bill. The measure not yet formally introduced, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), would provide $86 billion in contract authority for the federal highway program over the next two years. Instead of the traditional a six-year bill, lawmakers realized a two year bill would be easier to both pay for and pass in the current fiscal climate.
The challenge for moving this legislation is that it requires the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Federal highway program, to come up with $12 billion in funding to make the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund solvent. At a hearing in mid-July, Republicans Senators on the EPW Committee pledged their support for the bill. Boxer hoped to mark up the reauthorization bill in the next couple weeks.
In the House, Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, John Mica (R-Fla.), outlined a surface transportation reauthorization proposal which authorizes $230 billion of funding over six years for the highway, transit and safety programs. The T&I Committee is constrained by the rules of the House to limit authorized funding to levels that can be supported by Highway Trust Fund revenue. Furthermore, the Ways and Means Committee has responsibility for raising the needed revenue. Some industry groups were disappointed with the proposed funding levels. There is great interest by both political parties and a host of industry groups, to pass a surface transportation bill in order to fix our nation’s infrastructure.
Highlights Economic Consequences of a Deteriorating Surface
In July, the American Society of Civil Engineers released a report entitled Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation. The report examines the effect of America’s deteriorating surface transportation infrastructure on the nation’s economy now, as well as over the next few decades. If unaddressed, the report warns that worsening condition of transportation facilities and roadway surfaces, as well as increased traffic congestion will continue to impose major costs on the American economy.
According to the report, households and businesses lost an estimated $130 billion last year due to deficiencies within the transportation system. That number is expected to increase to $210 billion by 2020 and then $520 billion by 2040, resulting in cumulative costs closing in on $3 trillion by the year 2040. The avoidable transportation costs that hinder the nation’s economy are imposed primarily by pavement and bridge conditions, highway congestion, and transit and train vehicle conditions that are operating well below minimum tolerable levels for the level of traffic they carry. These deficiencies, the report states, prevent Americans from earning more personal income and keep industry from reaching its full production capabilities. To view a copy of the full report, go to: http://www.asce.org/uploadedFiles/Infrastructure/Report_Card/ASCE-FailureToActFinal.pdf
For further information, contact Stephanie Salmon, NADCA Washington Office, 202.783-1080.