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Ross Eisenberg

EPA’s Science Advisory Board Is Looking into the Glider Rule Repeal. Here’s Why That Is a Good Idea.

By | General | No Comments

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) recently announced it will take a hard look at the EPA’s planned repeal of emission requirements for glider vehicles, glider engines and glider kits. We’re pleased the SAB is looking into the emission impacts of gliders, which are older, used engines dropped into a new truck body. We have been concerned with the glider rule repeal, which we fear could create a loophole allowing the ability for glider vehicles to be sold as functional equivalents to new motor vehicles without complying with current safety or environmental standards. That creates emissions issues, given that some of the older, pre-2000 glider engines lack the controls for air pollutants that are mandatory in new vehicles.

The SAB, we hope, will evaluate how much gliders emit relative to new trucks. When the EPA proposed emissions rules on gliders in 2016, its modeling concluded that gliders emit 20 to 40 times as much nitrogen oxide (NOx) and soot as new trucks. The EPA’s proposed repeal in 2017 cited a study from Tennessee Tech University that found that glider emissions were on par with new trucks; however, Tennessee Tech then pulled the study and disavowed it, citing “knowledgeable experts within the University” who have “questioned the methodology and accuracy of the report.”

We really need some answers here before the EPA makes a decision whether to repeal the glider rule. If the EPA’s original emissions estimate is correct, then the glider rule repeal means trucks without modern pollution controls will be entering the fleet and emitting 20 to 40 times as much NOx and soot as their new counterparts. That puts a squeeze on manufacturers, who face limitations on their NOx and PM emissions due to strict EPA regulations on ozone and particulate matter and will be forced to compensate for higher-than-usual emissions from the transportation sector. We also encourage the EPA to take a hard look at the economy-wide jobs and economic impact of the glider repeal, to determine whether the costs outweigh the benefits as required by Executive Orders 12866, 13563 and 13771.

EPA Clears the Way for Cleaner Equipment at Manufacturing Facilities

By | General, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

This morning, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a guidance memorandum fixing ambiguities in the air permitting process that have thwarted manufacturers from installing cleaner equipment. Today’s action clarifies how to properly account for project emissions under step 1 of New Source Review (NSR), a federal air permitting program under the Clean Air Act that applies to new facilities or major modifications to facilities. Until today, the EPA would allow only consideration of emissions increases when determining whether NSR applies, even for projects that had a net emissions decrease because old equipment was being upgraded to new equipment.

As the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) told the Senate in testimony last fall:

An NAM member company manufactures gas turbine upgrade technology that could improve the vast majority of in-service gas turbines by 2.6 percent and reduce their total CO2 emissions per MWh by 6.5 percent; however, many manufacturers are choosing not to install this equipment simply because it triggers NSR. The same can be said for steam turbine upgrades, which would ensure higher grid efficiency, lower emissions and reduced wear and tear that is occurring from a rapidly changing electric grid.

There is no good reason for the permitting process to create unnecessary obstacles for a manufacturer that wants to make efficiency upgrades or install modern pollution control equipment. In fact, manufacturers have been leaders in this space, working to successfully reduce emissions while adding to the overall economy. The NAM has made NSR a priority in its regulatory reform filings with the EPA and the White House. It’s clear that Administrator Pruitt agrees and is committed to fixing the permitting process for manufacturers.

EPA Issues Directive Protecting Against “Sue and Settle”

By | Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

This morning, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive designed to end the practice known as “sue and settle.” The agency-wide directive requires the EPA to:

  • Publish any notices of intent to sue the agency within 15 days of receiving the notice;
  • Publish any complaints or petitions for review in regard to an environmental law, regulation or rule in which the agency is a defendant or respondent in federal court within 15 days of receipt;
  • Reach out to and including any states and/or regulated entities affected by potential settlements or consent decrees;
  • Publish a list of consent decrees and settlement agreements that govern agency actions within 30 days, along with any attorney fees paid, and update it within 15 days of any new consent decree or settlement agreement;
  • Expressly forbid the practice of entering into any consent decrees that exceed the authority of the courts;
  • Exclude attorney fees and litigation costs when settling with those suing the agency;
  • Provide sufficient time to issue or modify proposed and final rules and take and consider public comment; and
  • Publish any proposed or modified consent decrees and settlements for 30-day public comment and provide a public hearing on a proposed consent decree or settlement when requested.

Manufacturers have long sought greater transparency and public participation in the settlement process. In fact, we requested a great deal of this relief four and a half years ago in an April 2013 letter to then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. As the entities primarily regulated by these settlement agreements and consent decrees, it is simply not fair that manufacturers are regularly left in the dark as the EPA and other non-regulated entities work out the terms of our regulation behind closed doors. Allowing an open, transparent settlement process that abides by the law is the right policy, and we’re grateful to Administrator Pruitt for today’s action.

Yes, Manufacturers Met with Scott Pruitt; Here’s Why That’s a Good Thing

By | Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Yesterday’s New York Times shined a light on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott‎ Pruitt’s 2017 calendar and the meetings he has been taking with the business community and nonprofit groups. On the list: a visit in March to the National Association of Manufacturers’ (NAM) spring board of directors meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Administrator Pruitt met with our board members on ‎March 6. Because manufacturers are heavily regulated entities, particularly on the environmental side, we regularly invite the head of the EPA to address our board. We invited Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator during President Barack Obama’s second term, to address our board members three times: September 2014, December 2014 and September 2015. She declined every time. Had she joined us, she would have been able to receive direct input from the CEOs and senior executives of the manufacturers her agency’s rules directly impact. It certainly would have been helpful as the EPA put the finishing touches on the ozone standard (final rule, October 2015), the “Waters of the U.S.” regulation (final rule, June 2015) and the Clean Power Plan (final rule, August 2015), the latter two of which were held up by federal courts and are receiving thorough reexaminations.

This year, we extended a speaking invitation to Administrator Pruitt, and we are glad he said yes. And by the way, Administrator Pruitt didn’t just hear about the regulations we want to see fixed under his leadership. He heard about the areas where the EPA is doing great work that we support. We asked him to put resources into the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, so it can properly implement the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act, the overwhelmingly bipartisan chemical safety law put into place in 2016. The room included the men and women running the operations of hundreds of manufacturers the EPA regulates. They represent all points of view on the political spectrum, and, most importantly, can actually tell the administrator what it’s like to implement the regulations the EPA puts out.

That’s what we should want: good government based on the best data. A steady flow of information between manufacturers and the agencies that regulate them. The EPA would have been well served to talk to our board, for instance, when it issued the “Boiler MACT” regulation in 2012, a rule governing the type of boilers manufacturers operate and how they use them. It didn’t, and manufacturers are still feeling the after-effects.

We’ll continue to invite EPA leadership to address our board, no matter who is in charge. Manufacturers strongly support the EPA’s mission to protect health and the environment.

ARPA-E and the Continuing Need for Transformation‎al Energy Technologies

By | General, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

This Friday is Manufacturing Day, when more than 2,500 manufacturers (and counting) will open their doors and show the world what modern manufacturing looks like. When it comes to energy and the environment, modern manufacturing and the solutions we provide are the key to solving the many challenges that confront us.

The good news is that we’ve come a long way already. Disruptive technologies have already changed the way we produce and use energy and will continue to do so in the future. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling unlocked vast natural gas resources and changed the face of manufacturing in America. Advanced technologies like battery storage, demand-side management, electric vehicles, small modular nuclear reactors and many others will almost surely do the same.

It’s great to talk about those transformational technologies, and while a competitive market is generally the best way to encourage their development, the reality is that both the public and the private sector have roles to play. For instance, government can play a positive role ‎in support of the research and development (R&D) of alternative energy sources or technologies at a pre-commercial stage. There is also an important federal role to be played in basic R&D of new high-risk energy efficiency and waste minimization technologies in energy-intensive industries, particularly where private-sector incentives may be inadequate.

That brings us to the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), a 10-year-old program that has found itself in the middle of a debate over the role of federal spending ‎on energy R&D programs. Manufacturers have long supported ARPA-E, which we believe is a valuable program to fund high-risk, transformational energy technologies that the private sector may not yet be ready to invest in. The Department of Energy reports that, since 2009, ARPA-E has provided more than $1.5 billion in financing to more than 580 projects. Fifty-six of those projects have formed new companies; 68 projects have partnered with other government agencies to further development; and 74 projects have attracted more than $1.8 billion in follow-on funding.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently ‎completed an assessment of the program and concluded that ARPA-E has been successful and deserves a longer timeline to pursue its statutory mission. The NAS found that ARPA-E “has the ability to make significant contributions to energy R&D that likely would not take place absent the agency’s activities.”

Several case studies bring this point home. ARPA-E funding helped enable a company called Smart Wires to develop a device that clamps onto existing transmission lines and controls the flow of power within the lines. This is an area of major need for manufacturers, who demand always-on electricity despite a rapidly changing power grid. ARPA-E’s funding allowed Smart Wires to build prototype devices and deploy them for testing. Since this successful test round, Smart Wires has undertaken several rounds of successful fundraising, including $30.8 million in 2015 to bring its PowerLine Guardian product to commercial production.

ARPA-E provided partial funding for a company called 1366 Technologies to develop a novel silicon wafer manufacturing process that could dramatically reduce the cost (and increase the durability) of solar panels. Not only did this company succeed, but the product developed ultimately replaced the leading technology options that had received venture capital funding. ARPA-E’s funding allowed 1366 Technologies the freedom to pursue the basic science that helped lead to commercialization of this technology.

Finally, ARPA-E provided funding for Harvard University to develop slippery surface technologies that yielded extreme energy savings in many industrial settings. After two years, the research had progressed well enough to enable the launch of a startup company, SLIPS Technologies, Inc. (STI), to broadly commercialize the technology. STI was launched in October 2014 with venture capital financing led by the venture capital arm of chemical manufacturer BASF Corporation.

The National Association of Manufacturers supports legislation to keep ARPA-E funded and operating at a high level. In the Senate, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) included a provision reauthorizing ARPA-E in their comprehensive energy bill, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 (S. 1460). In the House, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has introduced the ARPA-E Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 3681), which contains similar language to the Senate provision.

D.C. Circuit Ruling a Positive Sign on LNG

By | Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a challenge by the Sierra Club to the Freeport LNG facility, a natural gas export project in Texas. The Sierra Club’s strategy was fairly typical in the playbook of challenges to infrastructure projects: argue that the permitting agencies didn’t consider X, Y or Z and hope the court either forces the agency to start over or take more time to review. Every extra day of waiting increases the chances the project will be shelved. Read More