BCA's Washington Briefing

follow us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on youtube June 19, 2015



The Business Council of Alabama was one of 383 businesses, organizations, associations, and chambers of commerce to sign a U.S. Chamber of Commerce letter to the U.S. Senate in support of legislation that would nullify an expanded federal definition of U.S. waters. 

S. 1140, the "Federal Water Quality Protection Act," sends a strong message to the U.S. Senate that the Waters of the U.S. rule by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have a profoundly negative impact on a large portion of the U.S. economy. 

The rule will slow or completely halt numerous development projects across the nation through extended litigation by public interest groups and lengthy federal environmental reviews prompted by friendship with anti-development and anti-business groups. 

The EPA and the Corps of Engineers have vastly expanded the amount of waters and adjacent land areas that are under federal control despite opposition by a majority of the country. This rule makes routine operations at facilities subject to federal permitting and lengthy environmental reviews for the first time. 

The U.S. Chamber, the BCA and others filed public comments in November. 

The proposed "waters of the United States" rule will hit existing facilities and operations, and future facilities and operations, by expanding EPA's authority to place restrictions on land use and make many more activities subject to a CWA permit. 

"These permitting requirements can open your business to citizen group lawsuits, and lengthy environmental reviews," the Chamber said. "The proposal will likely affect current stormwater management requirements, which may affect retailers, companies with large parking lots, 'big box' stores, etc. 

"The proposal does little or nothing to actually improve water quality," the Chamber said. "Instead, it gives EPA and the Corps virtually limitless authority to control which project and commercial activities can go forward." 

The rule expands federal jurisdiction over waters from the current 3.5 million river and stream miles to well over 8 million river and stream miles by making industrial ditches into "tributaries" and requiring costly dredge and fill permits. Work in stormwater retention ponds, fire ponds, and on-site impoundments will also trigger dredge and fill-and-point source discharge permits. 

Under the rule, even if a project can get a permit, businesses will often have to agree to mitigate environmental "damage" with costly restoration and or mitigation projects. Linear projects such as highways, power lines, pipelines, etc., will have to obtain additional permits and much greater scrutiny in order to be approved.


The House re-voted Thursday to reconsider Trade Promotion Authority following its apparent defeat last week. The House voted 244-181 on a procedural measure and then voted 218-208 to pass TPA, President Barack Obama's trade agenda.


Alabama's House delegation split its votes 3-3. Voting for TPA were U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, Mike Rogers, R-Saks, and Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham. Voting no were U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, and Gary Palmer, R-Hoover.


U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Daphne, was not able to vote because he was returning from the Paris Air Show. Byrne voted in favor of the legislation last week.


The bill now goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says it will pass. If so, Obama will get fast-track authority to finish the Trans-Pacific Partnership involving 12 Pacific nations.


Last week, an affiliated Trade Adjustment Assistance package lost in the House but Obama went to Capitol Hill to lobby Democrats on TAA and TPA.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recanted after she declared she would vote against TAA. In addition to her, more than 300 members followed and cast votes against it. That left House GOP Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to try to salvage the deal.


The Senate, which passed a different version last month, wants both the TAA and the TPA. It could vote next week but it's not clear if the Senate will pass anything.


Boehner and McConnell said they "are committed to ensuring both TPA and TAA get votes in the House and Senate and are sent to the President for signature." They also said they intend to "have a conference on the customs bill and complete that in a timely manner so that the President can sign it into law."


The BCA supports the TPA. BCA president and CEO William J. Canary promoted the TPA's importance in an op-ed published today on AL.com.


The National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Council of Alabama's national partner, supports TPA as critical to manufacturing so the United States does not lose global opportunities to overseas competitors, to help trade agreements under TPA grow record U.S. exports and manufacturing, and spur new trade agreements.



The Business Council of Alabama and The Partnership for a Better Energy Future urges Congress to support H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015, a bipartisan bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.


The Partnership is a coalition of business organizations representing more than 80 percent of the U.S. economy. Established in January 2014, the Partnership's fundamental mission is to promote an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy that ensures the continued availability of reliable and affordable energy for American families and businesses.


The Partnership has 177 members, which include national organizations as well as state and local associations in 36 different states. All are united by widespread concerns that proposed carbon regulations on power plants-as well as the Environmental Protection Agency's broader Green House Gas regulatory agenda-present a significant threat to American jobs and the economy.


These threats are well-documented. For example, a recent study by NERA Economic Consulting found that EPA's proposed "Clean Power Plan" would impose between $366 billion and $479 billion in compliance costs, which would be passed along to businesses and consumers in the form of double digit percentage electricity rate increases in more than 40 states.


The EPA's own analysis shows that the proposal would force the closure of up to 49 gigawatts of coal-fired power plant capacity-equivalent to 15 percent of all nationwide coal capacity.


States, which would be responsible for implementing EPA's proposal, have detailed widespread shortcomings with the pending rule. Officials from more than two dozen states have asked the EPA to withdraw its proposal, citing concerns such as higher energy costs, threats to reliability and lost jobs.


Officials from more than two dozen states have stated that EPA's proposed rule goes well beyond the agency's legal authority under the Clean Air Act, and more than a dozen states have already joined in a lawsuit against the rule.


The Ratepayer Protection Act addresses these concerns in a balanced and reasonable manner, restoring certainty for businesses while giving states a greater say in the regulatory process. The legislation allows the judicial review process to conclude before requiring states to develop implementation plans, and prevents states from being forced into implementing the rule if doing so would have significant adverse impacts on ratepayers.


These are commonsense solutions that would serve to uphold the spirit and intent of the Clean Air Act and prevent disruption to the affordable and reliable electricity that provides the backbone of the American economy. We urge all members to vote in support of H.R. 2042.


GE's Immelt Says He Will Move Jobs if Ex-Im Dies

Bloomberg Politics (Miller 6/17) "General Electric Co. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt threatened to move U.S. jobs overseas if Congress doesn't reauthorize the Export-Import Bank's charter, which expires at the end of June. 'We're not going to lose this business', Immelt said Wednesday to the Economic Club of Washington. 'We'll build these products in places where export credit financing is available'.


"GE's product lineup includes diesel locomotives, medical-imaging equipment and gas turbines. It's also the biggest maker of jet engines, a business that risks being crimped without the Ex-Im financing for Boeing Co. jets. 'GE union workers are going to suffer if these trade deals don't pass'.


"Congress faces a June 30 deadline to reauthorize the 81-year-old bank, which provides loans, loan guarantees and insurance to aid overseas sales by U.S. companies. After the speech, Immelt told reporters, 'It's very unlikely anything happens by June 30, so we're going to have a lapse'. He said he expects the bank will eventually be reauthorized by Congress. 'We'll keep pushing', he said."


(Editor's Note: The BCA supports reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank's charter. Thanks go out to all who have been involved in letting their federal legislators know of support for Ex-Im may still reiterate that support. Click here for information on how to stay involved.)


US Chamber of Commerce   National Association of Manufacturers
Sixth District
 U. S. Rep. Gary Palmer