OVERNIGHT REGULATION: Dissecting the climate rule

Welcome to the inaugural installment of OVERNIGHT REGULATION, your daily run-down of today’s biggest regulatory and enforcement news and tomorrow’s most important stories from the halls of Congress, the White House and federal agencies.

THE BIG STORY:

--On message: A high-stakes battle is now underway to shape public opinion on the Environmental Protection Agency’s landmark proposal to impose new limits on power plant emissions. 

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Now that the draft regulations have seen the light of day, groups on all sides of the issue are scrambling to paint the proposal in their preferred light. The fight is certain to grind on for months, especially considering the political implications this election year.

But with billions of dollars, entire industries and a key part of President Obama’s policy agenda hanging in the balance, supporters and opponents of the plan are wasting no time launching their opening salvos.

--Dueling ads: As The Hill’s Timothy Cama reports, critics of the rule with ties to major conservative donors are, in newspaper ads, comparing the EPA to anarchists, militias, terrorists or others who would, “shut down 25% of our electric grid.” The American Lung Association is committing to a six-figure ad buy to make the public health case in favor of the rule. http://j.mp/Ucfoex

-- The cost of inaction could be far worse for manufacturers than the increase in electricity bills companies stand to see under the proposed regulations, according to a new report from Business Forward. The group (which has ties to the Obama administration) looked at the auto industry, concluding that car makers would pay roughly $1,860 more per shift to keep their lights on – but they could lose millions a day under disruptions from increasingly severe weather events linked to global warming. http://j.mp/1iXAoe7

-- Senate squabble: The climate debate bled onto the Senate floor Wednesday, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saw his bill to block the EPA rule blocked in turn by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). http://j.mp/1pFV6Xo

Said McConnell: "The president’s regulations will increase electricity prices and create job loss. Opponents of this bill would be supporting job loss in Kentucky, our economy being hurt, and seniors’ energy bills spiking — for almost zero meaningful global carbon reduction."

Responded Reid: “I know the importance of this issue, and I’ll be as cooperative as I feel is appropriate with the Republican leader. But at this time, I object.”

-- Sign o’ the times: Deep in the heart of coal country (and McConnell’s home state), a coal-fired power plant’s transition to natural gas generators is emblematic of the country’s evolving energy policies, The Associated Press’s Dylan Lovan reports. http://j.mp/1pFW3yK

 

ON TAP FOR THURSDAY:

The Senate is in, the House is out and the president is in Brussels. But fear not: the Federal Register continues to churn, and there’s plenty of regulatory news on the horizon.

- Thursday marks the opening of the 60th annual plenary session for the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS), the federal agency charged with monitoring the government’s rule-making process. On the agenda: new guidelines for agencies on best practices for rule writing.

-The climate battle wages on with the release of new polling data from the League of Conservation Voters. The survey will focus on the shifting conventional wisdom on these issues across the battleground states of Virginia and Pennsylvania.

-The American Petroleum Institute will unveil a new study looking at how school districts and state and local governments are saving on their energy bills thanks to fracking.

-Clark Construction Group, one of the nation's largest construction companies, will stop work on Thursday to focus on workplace safety issues such as how to prevent falls. The Bethesda-based company is participating in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) annual safety stand-down for construction workers, which will include a speech from OSHA director David Michaels. http://j.mp/1kMnCyJ

 

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY:

The Obama administration plans to issue 140 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Thursday's edition of the Federal Register.

-The EPA will delay new radiation standards at nuclear power plants that it proposed back in February. The rules are being pushed back by another 60 days to give industry more time to comment on how the standards will impact their facilities. http://j.mp/1l6mHOb

But that won't stop the EPA from regulating oil and gas production on sovereign Indian reservations. The agency is looking for feedback on potentially controversial new emissions standards in Indian country.

The EPA says standards may be needed because of the growth in energy production on Indian reservations, but admitted there is a need to "balance tribes' inherent sovereignty" with public health concerns.

"EPA believes that managing emissions from existing oil and natural gas sources in Indian country would result in greater consistency with surrounding state requirements," the agency wrote. http://j.mp/1kyl7oh

-The FDA is looking for ways to combat deadly pathogens that it believes pose a threat to public health. The agency will release a list of 21 pathogens, and fast-track any antibacterial drugs that can treat these life-threatening infections. http://j.mp/1hbgvoA

 -The USDA will introduce new Salmonella testing requirements for raw beef products that go into effect later this month. Salmonella is a type of bacterial food poisoning that is most often found in beef and poultry.

The new requirements include plans to dramatically increase the ground beef testing sample to 325 grams from the current 25 grams. http://j.mp/S9oAyc

-The State Department will introduce a rule intended to make it easier for battered foreign women who have suffered from domestic violence by a U.S. citizen to get visas here. http://j.mp/1jRsaUd

 

BANK EXAMINATION: Regulators are preparing to take a hard look at the regulations facing banks, with an eye toward identifying those rules that could be outdated or overly burdensome, according to The Wall Street Journal. The financial sector has complained relentlessly about the onslaught of new restrictions imposed under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and the review is likely to be seen as a chance to trim away some of that red tape. http://j.mp/1jRDShT

NUKE REBUKE: A visibly irate Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) lashed out Wednesday at members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, saying the agency has failed to do enough to stave off a disaster the likes of Fukushima or Chernobyl: http://j.mp/SuEKCL

OBAMA’S PEN is running out of ink. Or so says Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who touted the actions his agency is taking to further the president’s “year of action” push for income equality: http://j.mp/1hzFsdR

BREW-HAHA: Regulations dating back to Prohibition are unfairly burdening small craft beer makers according to a new study from the Mercatus Center. Craft brewers are hopping mad: http://j.mp/1kMpojs

COURT WATCH: As The Hill's Peter Schroeder reports, a federal appeals court is renewing the debate over whether Washington has pushed Wall Street hard enough in the wake of the financial crisis.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said Wednesday that a $285 million settlement between the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Citigroup would have been sufficient, chastising a lower court for throwing out the settlement in 2011. http://j.mp/1hbwLWA

 

BY THE NUMBERS:

1.25 million: The amount, in dollars, that an automaker stands to lose from a one-hour disruption caused by extreme weather near a plant, according to the Business Forward report.

6.2: The percentage by which EPA estimates manufacturers’ energy costs will rise by the year 2020 under the proposed power plant rule, according to the same report.

41: The number of GOP senators who signed a letter asking Obama to withdraw the EPA’s proposed carbon regs.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“We are using our pen and we are using our phone, as the president says.  And I have good news: the phone’s ringing off the hook at DOL, and the pen’s running out of ink” – Labor Secretary Tom Perez on the use of administrative actions in the face of congressional gridlock.


We’ll endeavor to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill’s Regulation page early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, via bgoad@thehill.com or tdevaney@thehill.com. And follow us at @ben_goad and @timdevaney.