The BRICK Act Moves Forward and Manufacturers Gain Regulatory Certainty

By | General, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Sustainability | No Comments

Today, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee held a markup and approved the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns Act of 2018 (S. 2461), a bipartisan bill that would permit a full legal review of national emissions standards for brick, clay products, and clay ceramics manufacturing before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires regulatory compliance. On March 7, the House passed similar legislation (H.R. 1917) that was strongly supported by the NAM.

The NAM fully supports the ongoing national effort to protect our environment and improve public health through appropriate laws and regulations. However, manufacturers need policies that provide regulatory certainty, and ensure a sustainable environment and economy. In September 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final National Emissions Standards for Brick, Structural Clay Products and Clay Ceramics Manufacturing, often referred to as Brick MACT. It is estimated that this rule will collectively cost the brick industry, which is made up of predominantly small- and medium-sized manufacturers, more than $100 million dollars per year.

When regulations stretch beyond what the law allows, manufacturers and other stakeholders must turn to the courts for relief – a lengthy process that can take months, if not years. Under the Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns Act of 2018, if a final rule under this Act is challenged in court, the compliance date extension would be limited to December 26, 2020. However, if the court refutes EPA’s rule, the legislation requires the Agency to issue new regulations within one year. This bill is a commonsense approach, as it ensures that manufacturers will have the certainty that the investments they make are based on laws that the courts have determined are appropriate and legal.

Manufacturers support reasonable environmental policies but need regulatory certainty to make necessary, long-term investments – and they believe both goals can be achieved through S. 2461. With the Committee’s approval of the bill today, the measure will now proceed to the Senate for consideration.

NAM Submits Comment to Pension Reform Committee

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The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) represents the more than 12 million men and women who make things in America. Many of these workers are participants in what are known as multiemployer pension plans, and they are counting on these pension benefits for the safe and secure retirement they’ve earned. Yet, there is a looming crisis that carries potentially dire implications for millions of retirees as well as devastating consequences for thousands of businesses across the country. This is a problem that demands the right solutions, and quickly, and that is exactly why the NAM today submitted recommendations to the special committee in Congress charged with doing so.

Congress established the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans to find a solution to the multiemployer pension crisis. The crisis arose as the Great Recession cratered the holdings of longstanding pension plans and baby boomers began retiring en masse, so multiemployer pensions began having to pay more in benefits out of a decimated investment pool. The backstop that Congress created in 1974 to support retirees and workers in this type of pension crisis, called the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), is instead now teetering on the edge of insolvency itself.  The combined impact of failing multiemployer plans and an insolvent PBGC Multiemployer Program is serious and, in the absence of congressional action to solve the problem today, could soon prove devastating for millions of Americans. That’s especially true for the 10 million participants and their families who rely on more than 1,400 plans in the multiemployer pension system.

This is why the NAM acted today to urge the Joint Select Committee to address the urgent, and worsening, multiemployer pension crisis. As we laid out in our letter, we believe that policymakers have a unique and historic opportunity to put the multiemployer pension system on a path to stability. And, by adhering to a few core principles, such as working expeditiously to address the urgent problems facing the system, crafting a comprehensive multiparty solution and protecting the healthy single-employer system throughout the process, we believe they can.

This is a huge challenge, but the Joint Select Committee and Congress can solve it. A comprehensive, bipartisan solution is within reach. So we urge policymakers to meet the moment with the swift, comprehensive and appropriate action that this crisis demands.

Manufacturers Support Global Movement of Goods by Air

By | Infrastructure, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Before Open Skies agreements, international commerce was stifled by post–World War II aviation rules that required governments to mandate flight routes between nations. These antiquated rules could not adapt to the aviation needs of a global economy and emerging technologies. In 1992, the United States signed an Open Skies agreement with the Netherlands to provide for unlimited flight between the two nations. Of course, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was, and still is, responsible for ensuring that all airlines—foreign and domestic, passenger and cargo—are safe and airworthy. The bipartisan pursuit of Open Skies agreements created a framework to enable U.S. passenger and cargo airlines to access foreign aviation markets that had previously shut out U.S. air carriers. They also provide manufacturers the ability to access new customers in overseas markets while increasing competition and facilitating global trade.

Manufacturers have been stalwart advocates of these agreements because we export U.S.-made parts and goods across the world and thus depend on air cargo services with the kind of uninterrupted and continuous global reach that only Open Skies agreements can provide. In fact, the Brookings Institution estimates that Open Skies agreements add approximately $4 billion in annual economic gains to consumers. Learn more here.

And so, with the FAA reauthorization process underway and a September 30 authorization deadline looming, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) continues to urge both House and Senate leaders to support current Open Skies agreements because they open markets, promote competition and offer more options for manufacturers to access overseas customers. At the same time, manufacturers urge the Senate to reject proposals that would undermine Open Skies agreements and result in disruptions to the current agreements, jeopardizing manufacturers’ access to international aviation networks. That is why manufacturers stand with the Trump administration’s opposition to the so-called “Flag of Convenience” provision (Section 530) of the House-passed FAA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4). This provision would create new barriers for foreign carriers to enter U.S. airspace beyond the negotiated standards of our current Open Skies agreements. These new barriers would violate our current agreements and invite retaliatory action against U.S. cargo and passenger air carriers operating across the globe and providing manufacturers access to overseas customers. Learn more here.

Manufacturers need products and parts made in the United States to continue to have the guaranteed delivery to overseas customers that is protected by our current Open Skies agreements, and so we have been active on this issue for some time. In 2015, the NAM underscored to the departments of Commerce, State and Transportation that manufacturers in the United States depend on sales overseas to sustain and grow American operations and U.S.-based employment. And in 2017, the NAM reminded the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that Open Skies bilateral aviation agreements are one of several important tools that help ensure manufacturers’ access to global markets and critical services that support manufacturers in the United States. Now, with the Senate considering Open Skies agreements as part of the FAA reauthorization legislation, the NAM is again speaking out by urging Congress to reject false, so-called “Flags of Convenience” amendments and protect manufacturers’ access to international aviation networks and overseas customers that only these agreements can provide.

NAM Weighs in on the EPA’s Proposed Cost-Benefit Analysis Reform

By | Environment, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

In June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would solicit public input on whether and how to change the way it considers costs and benefits in making regulatory decisions. As was first reported in Politico on Tuesday, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) filed comments outlining manufacturers’ priorities for reform and listed numerous examples of flawed and costly rulemaking.

The NAM’s comments included the following recommendations:

  • If costs and benefits will accrue over a 30-year time horizon, the agency should provide cost and benefit estimates for the whole time horizon, not simply a snapshot of what costs and benefits would look like in a given year within the range.
  • When compliance with a rule is based on unknown controls, the EPA must base its calculation of those unknown controls on realistic assumptions.
  • When costs and benefits will accrue to the whole economy, the EPA should model the impact on the whole economy, not just a part of it.
  • The agency should avoid relying on outdated data, studies and methodologies, and it should similarly avoid being overly speculative.
  • The agency can achieve the consistency and specificity it seeks through statute-specific rulemakings that allow for more tailored approaches reflecting the unique statutory requirements.

As I wrote in our filing:

Manufacturers strongly support the EPA’s mission. Moreover, the benefits of appropriate regulations are clear and supported by the public. The issue is how to enable the regulatory system to address legitimate concerns without unreasonably impeding innovation, research, development and product deployment. Too often in the regulatory process, the vital national public policy objectives of international competitiveness and technological innovation are given short shrift due to other competing mandates. To protect public health and the environment, the NAM supports a regulatory process designed to adhere to sound principles of science, risk assessment and robust benefit-cost analysis.…In our view, there are three pillars of effective regulatory cost considerations: transparency, scientific integrity and accountability. In other words, the rule-making process should be conducted out in the open and backed up by objective, unimpeachable science, while being overseen by officials who are held accountable.

The NAM’s full comments can be viewed here.

Engineers say “GO!”

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It’s that time of year when many of us embark on the American tradition of piling the family into the car with an assortment of snacks and suitcases. For some families, the destination is the cool mountains; for others, a sunny beach. But far too often we quickly find ourselves parked on the highway wondering why our roads seem more like parking lots.

That frustration increases when state or local governments try to eliminate bottlenecks and expand popular routes—only to be blocked by the traffic jam of federal government permitting. Most people understand that funding is hard to come by, but most people don’t realize that the Clean Water Act (CWA) can cause permitting delays and even block projects. While the law was intended to protect our critical water resources, years of lawsuits and bureaucratic overreach have twisted the law into a giant federal stop sign.

We have been working to fix this. Manufacturers’ ability to compete and grow depends on a superior infrastructure system that is second to none. When building an infrastructure project, time is the most valuable commodity, so streamlining CWA permitting is a top priority.

Manufacturers asked the courts to throw out federal overreach under the CWA. They agreed. We called on the president to restore the law and protect our waters. He agreed. We asked the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency to provide clarity. And they got to work.

Now the Corps of Engineers is taking an important step toward the clarity we have been asking for with a new order that empowers states to play a stronger role in permitting projects. In a simple three-page memo, the Corps provides long-awaited clarity. It empowers the people of every state to take the lead.

For far too long, our nation has relied on the infrastructure we inherited from previous generations. But targeted, substantial investments in modernizing our nation’s infrastructure will create jobs, boost economic growth, save lives and help secure America’s mantle of economic leadership in the world. Manufacturers are excited about this important step in the right direction and a chance to hit the open road again.

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