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Advocacy Update | Monday, Dec. 14 (PM)

December 14, 2020

Election and Transition News

  • Visit Elevate’s Transition 2020 Hub to see the most up-to-date list of rumored and announced Cabinet members and staff.
  • The Electoral College officially confirmed Joe Biden’s victory in the Presidential election, solidifying the electoral result as 306-232. The electoral votes in the contested states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin all went to President-elect Biden.
  • Published reports indicate that the Biden transition team has begun considering a larger group of candidates to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As a reminder, this position was rumored to be going to outgoing California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Mary Nichols, but recent reporting suggests that she is no longer the frontrunner. Among the names being considered are:
    • North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan. Regan previously served in the EPA under the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations and worked for the Environmental Defense Fund.
    • New York University Professor of Environmental Law Ricky Revesz.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council President Gina McCarthy is seen as the frontrunner to lead the Biden Administration’s domestic climate change agenda. McCarthy was previously the EPA Administrator under President Obama. This position would mirror John Kerry’s international climate change role.
  • Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) is still considered a top contender to be selected Secretary of the Interior, though the slim Democratic majority in the House may favor retiring Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). Currently, these are the two names most frequently being mentioned.
  • Former Governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm continues to be viewed as the frontrunner for Secretary of Energy.
  • Brenda Mallory will likely be nominated to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Mallory is the Director of Regulatory Policy for the Southern Environmental Law Center and previously worked as a general counsel for the Council on Environmental Quality and EPA during the Obama Administration.
  • The bipartisan group of Senators released two pieces of COVID-19 relief legislation today, including a $748B relief bill and a $160B state and local aid/short-term liability shield bill.
    • The second bill remains contentious, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has called for both issues to be removed from the package.
    • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) encouraged Democratic leaders to oppose the $748B bill, as it is “inadequate.” Specifically, Sen. Sanders believes that the package should provide funding closer to the previously proposed $3.4T and give additional direct payments to Americans.
    • As a reminder, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has also been pushing for additional direct payments to Americans as part of COVID-19 relief.
  • According to the text of the $748B stimulus package the following is included:
    • Transit relief
     $15B in relief of which:
    o $13.3B is administered by formula as if they were under Section 5307 (urbanized area formula), apportioned under Section 5336 (apportionments for formula grants) and Section 5337 (state of good repair)
     Same ratio as the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Appropriations bill
     $100M for Section 5310 (Enhanced Mobility of Seniors & Individuals with Disabilities)
     $1B for rural area formula grants
     $628M for Section 5324 (Emergency Relief) focused on operations
    • Airport and concessionaire relief
     $4B for airports of which:
    o $3.4B is for primary airports
    o $50M is for general aviation and non-primary airports
    o $500M is for airport concessionaires
    o $20M is for the Small Community Air Service Development (SCASD) Program
    o $23M is for the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program
    • Airline relief/Payroll Support Program (PSP) extension
     $17B to extend the PSP
     The allocated funds are to remain available until expended
    • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) second draw loans and 501(c)(6) expansion
     PPP is expanded to 501(c)6 organizations that have no more than 150 employees, do not receive more than 10 percent of receipts from lobbying, and the lobbying activities of the organization do not comprise more than 10 percent of the total activities of the organization
    o The same metrics are applied to Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs)
     Funding to allow to allow the hardest-hit small businesses to receive a second forgivable PPP loan (eligibility is limited to small businesses with 300 or fewer employees that have faced a 30 percent revenue loss in any quarter of 2020)
    • Provisions related to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
     While there is no bucket of funding specifically for PPE, PPE is an eligible use under multiple grant programs and funding streams outlined in the legislation
    • Funding for hospitals/healthcare facilities/schools
     $82B in funding that includes, among other things, improvement of ventilation systems as an allowable use
    o $52B to K-12
    o $20B to Higher Education
    o $7.5B to the Governor’s fund
     $35B for healthcare providers through the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) “Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund,” of which $7B is for rural healthcare providers
    • Broadband funding for, among other things, bridging the “homework gap”
     $10B for broadband
     $6B for state broadband connectivity and deployment
     $3B for educational connectivity and deployment
    • Vaccine distribution
     $6B for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for vaccine distribution
    • Travel and tourism relief
     Expansion of PPP to DMOs
     Inclusion of the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services (CERTS) Act with an $8B topline, instead of the $10B topline included in the bill as introduced for FY 2020
     Funding for independent live venue operators
  • According to the text of the second bill covering $160B in state and local relief and liability protections, the following is included:
    • State and local assistance
     $152B in aid to states and local governments via the Coronavirus Relief Fund
    o 1/3 of the $152B to be distributed based on each state’s population proportional to the U.S. total population
    o 2/3 of the $152B to be distributed based on the proportion of each state’s revenue losses relative to the total revenue losses of all states nationwide
    o Each state will be entitled to $500M at a minimum
    o Funding to be distributed in three tranches: the first, within 30 days of enactment, totaling $50.6B from population-based funding, in addition to revenue losses incurred from April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020; the second, no later than June 1, 2021, expected to comprise of $52B covering revenue losses incurred from October 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021; the third, at a point after, comprises an at least $10B set-aside covering revenue losses from April 1 to June 30, 2021
     $8B to tribal entities, allocated by 60% population and 40% based on the number of employees of each Tribal entity
     Governors must distribute 40% of the state’s funding to local governments, and may choose to do so based on proportional population, proportional revenue loss, or a combination of both
     There are no population thresholds for assistance, so every locality is eligible regardless of size
     The deadline for CARES Act Relief Fund aid spending is extended through December 31, 2021
     States are prohibited from using relief to cover pension obligations, or expanding them while receiving funds
    • Liability protections
     Liability for COVID-19 exposures for any reason other than gross negligence may not be addressable in any Federal, State, or Tribal court
     Workers’ compensation laws are not preempted or superseded by any liability protections
  • A package has been drafted to extend multiple tax incentives that expire at the end of the year, which could potentially be attached to a COVID-19 relief bill. Given the remaining work to be done to finalize both COVID-19 relief and an omnibus spending package, it is unclear how much attention Congressional leaders will give to tax extenders.
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) indicated that the omnibus spending package will include compromise language to decrease the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), increasing the likelihood of passing a bipartisan energy bill.
  • Bipartisan, bicameral lawmakers have reportedly come to an agreement on a large energy package that combines elements of S.2657, the American Energy Innovation Act, and H.R.4447, the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act. However, it has not yet been cleared in the Senate.
    • The bill is said to touch on most facets of the energy sector, and provides strong incentives for research and development.
    • The legislation also includes measures relating to climate change, though it does not include any emissions reduction mandates.
  • The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, December 16 entitled “U.S.-China: Winning the Economic Competition, Part II.” Witnesses will include:
    • The Honorable Will Hurd, Member (TX-23), United States House of Representatives
    • Derek Scissors, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
    • Melanie M. Hart, Ph.D., Director for China Policy, Center for American Progress
    • Roy Houseman, Legislative Director, United Steelworkers
  • President Trump announced that Attorney General William Barr will step down from his position on December 23. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen will become acting attorney general. Barr has served as Attorney General since February 2019.
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a ruling requiring government contractors to receive consent from consumers before placing robocalls, which typically aim to collect government-backed debt. This requirement will not apply to federal or state governments.
  • Nathan Simington was officially sworn in as a Commissioner of the FCC today, replacing Commissioner Mike O’Rielly for a five-year term. The FCC currently has a 3-2 Republican majority, though Chairman Ajit Pai has said that he will leave his position in January.
  • The Department of Commerce released an interim final rule to revise the exclusion process for Section 232 tariffs and quantitative limitations on aluminum and steel. Specifically, the rule increases efficiency of the exclusion approval process, addresses the issue of businesses requesting more volume than they need, and addresses the concern that domestic suppliers were facing higher standards than foreign suppliers.
    • Comments on the rule can be submitted until February 12.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revised its hours-of-service regulations to facilitate the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines and related emergency supplies by commercial motor vehicle drivers. Drivers must be given 10 hours off duty after conducting emergency relief operations for 14 hours.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) authorized a study to determine how social media platforms and video streaming services collect user data to determine targeted ads and content. To facilitate the study, the FTC will subpoena information from Facebook, WhatsApp, Amazon, YouTube, Discord, Reddit, Snap, Twitter, and ByteDance. The information could be used to open enforcement investigations in the future.

Other News

  • The Council of the European Union adopted a non-binding resolution to allow law enforcement to access messages on platforms that use end-to-end encryption, citing that data access is “extremely challenging or practically impossible despite the fact that the access to [certain] data would be lawful.” The resolution urged the creation of a regulatory framework and the sharing of cybersecurity capabilities across the European Union.
  • China’s State Administration for Market Regulation imposed the maximum fine on three large Chinese technology companies in response to violations of anti-monopoly laws, specifically failing to disclose acquisitions. The fines were imposed on companies affiliated with Alibaba Group Holding, Tencent Holdings, and SF Holding.
  • ExxonMobil announced that it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by its oil and gas operations by up to 20% by 2025, with the goal of meeting Paris Climate Agreement targets. Additionally, Exxon will decrease methane emissions intensity by up to 50%, eliminate routine flaring by 2030, and begin to provide data on Scope 3 emissions.
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