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Pipeline Safety in the Great Lakes: Incident Prevention and Response Efforts at the Straits of Mackinac

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) will convene a field hearing titled, “Pipeline Safety in the Great Lakes: Incident Prevention and Response Efforts at the Straits of Mackinac,” on Monday, August 20th, at 10:00 a.m. in Traverse City, Michigan. The hearing will focus on  federal oil spill prevention efforts, preparedness and response capability in the event of an oil pipeline break in the Straits of Mackinac. Line 5, the 65-year-old pipeline crossing the Straits of Mackinac, has been the subject of multiple safety concerns, including damage from anchor strikes.

Peters is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and serves as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security. The Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the federal agency tasked with overseeing pipeline safety throughout our nation’s extensive pipeline system, including the Great Lakes. It also has jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard, which plays a leading role in overseeing the federal and state response to oil spills, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which provides scientific support for oil spill prevention, response and restoration.

 
Witnesses:

Panel I:

  • The Honorable Howard “Skip” Elliott, Administrator, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
  • Rear Admiral Joanna Nunan, Ninth District Commander, United States Coast Guard
  • Mr. Scott Lundgren, Emergency Response Division Chief, Office of Response and Restoration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Panel II:

  • Mr. David Bryson, Senior VP Operations, Liquid Pipelines, Enbridge Inc.
  • Mr. Michael Shriberg, Executive Director, National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center
  • Mr. David Murk, Manager of Pipelines, Midstream and Industry Operations, American Petroleum Institute
  • Mr. Chris Hennessy, Business Development Representative, Michigan Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET)
  • Mr. Larry Bell, Founder and Owner, Bells Brewery

* Witness list and panels are subject to change.

Hearing Details:

Monday, August 20, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Full committee

The Dennos Museum Center
Milliken Auditorium
1701 E. Front Street (For GPS Directions, enter: 1410 College Drive)
Traverse City, MI 49686  

Witness testimony and opening statements will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov. Media interested in attending the event should contact Allison Green or Zade Alsawah atmedia@peters.senate.gov.  

Wake Up, California Millennials: Rent Control is a Generational Con Game

WLF Legal Pulse - Mon, 08/20/2018 - 9:10am
In 2012 the IGM Forum polled some economists about rent control. Each economist was asked to agree or disagree that rent control promotes affordable housing, and to state the degree of confidence, on a scale of 1 to 10, he invested in his response. Weighted for confidence, 95 percent of the economists disagreed, four percent …

Continue reading Wake Up, California Millennials: Rent Control is a Generational Con Game

Categories: Latest News

Three Federal Agency Proposals Exemplify Revived Commitment to Quantifying Costs and Benefits

WLF Legal Pulse - Fri, 08/17/2018 - 10:29am
As part of the White House’s strategy to reform the administrative state, several federal agencies have proposed measures to improve the efficiency and transparency of the regulatory process. In recent months, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have requested comments on cost-benefit analysis standards, while the Treasury Department and …

Continue reading Three Federal Agency Proposals Exemplify Revived Commitment to Quantifying Costs and Benefits

Categories: Latest News

Chairman Chabot Responds to IRS’s Confirmation of ACA Employer Mandate Enforcement and the Effect on Small Businesses

House Small Business Committee News - Fri, 08/17/2018 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – This week, House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) released a statement about the Committee’s ongoing inquiry with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding the agency’s enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) employer mandate and its effect on America’s small businesses.

“After receiving additional data and information from the IRS, it’s clear that small businesses are still suffering from Obamacare. While the IRS, like other federal agencies, is obligated to enforce the laws under its jurisdiction, small businesses who already compete with large companies now have the IRS knocking on their doors to collect on a flawed law the previous Administration put in place but failed to enforce for years. As I suspected, this troubling response from the IRS indicates that, as of March 30, 2018, IRS has identified nearly 10,000 small businesses who may be subject to hefty fines from fiscal year 2015 alone, and IRS indicates the enforcement actions will continue. While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act effectively ended the burdensome individual mandate and the Administration has expanded health insurance choices and flexibility for employers and employees through rulemaking, small businesses are still subject to IRS’s enforcement actions and have no relief in sight. Small business owners should be focusing their time, energy, and resources on operating and expanding their businesses, instead of dealing with surprises from the IRS. Congress must work towards repealing and replacing Obamacare to relieve employers and the millions of Americans they employ from this unwieldy burden.”

Background: On December 14, 2017, Chairman Chabot sent a letter to the IRS requesting information and data about IRS enforcement of the ACA’s employer mandate. Because the ACA’s definition of large employers is out of line with the rest of the federal government and the Obama Administration failed to enforce this rule for years, these sudden actions are catching many employers by surprise.

On January 3, 2018, the Committee received an interim response from the IRS confirming their initiation of enforcement actions targeting employers with 51 or more employees who work 30 or more hours a week that did not provide health insurance for FY2015. While this letter did not address the questions the Committee requested, the letter specified that additional information would be forthcoming.

On July 9, 2018, Acting Commissioner David Kautter sent additional information to the Committee responding to the specific questions asked in the December letter. These answers can be viewed here.

Committee Announces Hearing for Presidential Nominees

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing at 10: 15 a.m. on Thursday, August 23, 2018, to consider three presidential nominees.

Completed nomination questionnaires are available at www.commerce.senate.gov/nominations  


Witnesses:

  • Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, of Oklahoma, to be the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Mr. James “Jim” Morhard, of Virginia, to be Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Mr. Joel Szabat, of Maryland, to be Assistant Secretary for Aviation and Internal International Affairs at the Department of Transportation

*Witness list subject to change.

Hearing Details:

Thursday, August 23, 2018
10: 15 a.m.
Full Committee 

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC),” at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 16, 2018. As part of the committee’s oversight responsibilities, this hearing will examine policy issues before the Commission and review the FCC’s ongoing duties and activities. 

“From efforts to better utilize spectrum powering our wireless economy to expanding rural broadband access, combatting robocalls, and reviewing the media landscape, the FCC and its operations are critically important,”said Thune. “This hearing will offer Senators the opportunity to ask commissioners questions about topics of critical importance to their states and constituents.”

Witnesses:

  • The Honorable Ajit Pai, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
  • The Honorable Michael O’Rielly, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
  • The Honorable Brendan Carr, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
  • The Honorable Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission 

*Witness list subject to change.

Hearing Details:

Thursday, August 16, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Full Committee 

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

<p>Welcome to today&rsquo;s hearing on

Welcome to today’s hearing on oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

At prior oversight hearings, I have stressed the importance of reauthorizing the FCC – something that hadn’t been done in nearly 30 years.

Reversing more than a quarter century of legislative inaction took time and effort, but I’m glad to say that, with bipartisan, bicameral support, we’ve now accomplished this goal.

Signed into law in March as part of the spending bill, the RAY BAUM’s Act not only reauthorized the FCC, it also included important spectrum, infrastructure, and broadband deployment provisions, including the MOBILE NOW Act, that will help pave the way for American leadership in the race to 5G.

Under Chairman Pai’s leadership, the FCC has also taken action in a number of areas to help free up more spectrum for wireless use, streamline broadband deployment, and bridge the digital divide – particularly in rural states like my home state of South Dakota.

I commend the Commission for these reforms and look forward to discussing your vision for building on these important steps.

Yet, as we all recognize, work remains to bring service to those areas that lack access to a viable broadband option.

Among other challenges, rural areas of the country face continuing uncertainty and reductions in universal service funding.

I appreciate that, under Chairman Pai, the Commission has finally undertaken the long-overdue task of trying to ensure adequate support for the deployment of broadband in such areas. Nevertheless, providers need certainty as they plan for the deployments that will bring service to rural America now and in the decades to come.

Put simply, the Commission needs to act this year to address funding for legacy and model-based high cost support.

Looking ahead, providers also need access to additional spectrum in the global race to deploy next generation wireless technology.

As this Committee heard just a few weeks ago, the United States is engaged in a high-stakes race with China, South Korea, and others for leadership in 5G. It’s critical that the United States win this race, and the jobs and investment that come with victory.

The Commission has made real progress with high-band spectrum, and we look forward to related auctions beginning this year. At the same time, the Commission must act quickly to make more mid-band spectrum available for 5G before we fall further behind.

And, as important as additional spectrum allocations will be for next generation broadband networks such as 5G, streamlining deployment processes is also critical.

I applaud the Commission and in particular Commissioner Carr’s efforts to remove barriers to broadband deployment. A number of states have adopted legislation to streamline the deployment of small wireless facilities, but the inherently borderless nature of broadband internet access warrants discussion of a national framework.

The bipartisan STREAMLINE Act that I introduced in June with Senator Schatz is meant to stimulate this discussion. Striking the right balance between accelerating broadband deployment and preserving local authority will be an ongoing focus of this Committee.

I look forward to hearing about the Commission’s complementary efforts to accelerate deployment, and how uniform national processes can help bring the benefits of 5G to all areas and not just those where the cost equation makes deployment easier.

In the end, American consumers will be the beneficiaries of these efforts. They are—and must remain—at the forefront of the FCC’s decision making across its many responsibilities.

For instance, it is important that the FCC put consumers first as the media landscape continues to dramatically change and grow.

The FCC must also continue its efforts to protect consumers from fraudulent and unwanted robocalls, which remain among the top consumer complaints.

Now that the D.C. Circuit has found many Wheeler-era Telephone Consumer Protection Act rules unreasonably expansive, arbitrary, and capricious, the real work of protecting consumers and restoring reason to TCPA rules has begun.

Consumers must have meaningful rights to control who can call them using automated

calling technology. We must also ensure that those trying in good faith to comply with the law in reaching their patients and customers have a reasonable means of doing so without facing potentially devastating litigation.

And we must make sure the Commission and law enforcement have the tools and incentives they need to go after the scammers and thieves bombarding us with illegal and unwanted calls.

Finally, before I close, I want to acknowledge the unprecedented measures the Commission has taken under Chairman Pai’s leadership to improve the openness and transparency of Commission processes.

Publicly releasing drafts of items the FCC plans to vote on weeks prior to doing so has made both the process and products at the FCC better and more available to the American people.

The same applies when the Commission makes mistakes. Along those lines, a recent FCC Inspector General Report about an alleged attack on the Commission’s comment filing system found that “the FCC, relying on [then-Chief Information Officer David] Bray’s explanation of the events, misrepresented facts and provided misleading responses to Congressional inquiries related to this incident.”

As you know, it is absolutely critical that the information provided to Congress and to the American people be correct. I look forward to hearing how the Commission will prevent this in the future.

I thank the distinguished witnesses for being here today and for working with the Committee on many of these important issue. I look forward to a robust discussion.

I’ll now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for any remarks.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling today’s hearing.  The FCC majority certainly has been busy over the last eighteen months.

The FCC has been busy:

  • Abdicating the agency’s statutory authority to protect consumers on the internet.
  • Paving the way for unprecedented broadcast consolidation.
  • Proposing to eliminate rules that make quality educational content for kids readily-available on free, over-the-air television.
  • Gutting a program designed to help low-income Americans afford phone and internet services.

The bottom line here is this FCC has been busy removing consumer protections in almost every industry segment you regulate.

What we haven’t seen is progress in actually closing the digital divide.

Access to broadband is often the number one issue in rural counties in Florida.  From Gilchrist, Dixie and Levy counties to urban Jacksonville, many Floridians still do not have access to affordable, quality high-speed internet service. 

In these areas, students lack the ability to complete their homework, small businesses cannot compete and social and political engagement is hampered.  These Floridians deserve the same opportunities as everyone else.

On behalf of those Floridians – who are part of the 24 million Americans on the wrong side of the digital divide – we need real solutions for getting quality, affordable broadband in those areas.

It’s going to take more than cynical lipservice to solve this problem.  And it definitely will not be solved – as some seem to believe -- by repealing essential protections to preserve the free and open internet.  And I remind you, those rules were popular with millions of Americans and were upheld in their entirety by the courts. Now a bipartisan majority of the United States Senate has decisively repudiated that action through a Congressional resolution of disapproval.

That formal censure should give the FCC pause.  It should spur regulatory humility in all actions taken by the agency.

We – and the American people – expect more from our independent regulators.

The FCC’s actions directly impact the lives of so many.  The FCC can make a difference - when you focus on the greater public interest, not on fulfilling the wish lists of a few large companies.

I am an optimist by nature.  The FCC can and should do better – particularly with robust oversight from this committee.  

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Fourth Circuit Expands Federal Court Split on Standing in Data Breach Lawsuits

WLF Legal Pulse - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 9:00am
Featured Expert Contributor—Civil Justice/Class Actions Talia M. Zucker, a Partner with Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. in its Miami, FL office, with Rachel Forman, an Associate with the firm. Ed. Note: Ms. Zucker is pinch hitting in this Featured Expert Contributor column for our regular blogger, her partner Frank Cruz-Alvarez. The U.S. Court of Appeals …

Continue reading Fourth Circuit Expands Federal Court Split on Standing in Data Breach Lawsuits

Categories: Latest News

Chairman Chabot Requests Study on Small Business Intellectual Property Resources

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 08/14/2018 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – This week, Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) sent a letter to the Honorable Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States at the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), requesting that GAO study ways in which small businesses and entrepreneurs understand the resources available to help them obtain intellectual property protections.

“Intellectual property plays an important role in protecting the new and innovative ideas that drive our nation’s economy. This is no less true for our nation’s small businesses and entrepreneurs that are responsible for creating almost two-thirds of the new jobs over the last two decades. While there are federal resources available to help entrepreneurs and small businesses obtain intellectual property protections, such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Pro Se Assistance program, it is unclear to what extent small businesses are aware of and take advantage of these resources,” said Chairman Chabot.

In May 2018, the Committee held a hearing to examine how small business owners can capitalize and safeguard their work through intellectual property protections. Additionally, in July 2018, the Committee held a hearing to analyze how small business owners in the digital technology industry use intellectual property to help their business, and the issues they face when navigating the intellectual property process.

To read the entire letter, click here.

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Peters to Hold Commerce Committee Field Hearing on Pipeline Safety in the Great Lakes

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) will convene a field hearing titled, “Pipeline Safety in the Great Lakes: Incident Prevention and Response Efforts at the Straits of Mackinac,” on Monday, August 20th, at 10:00 a.m. in Traverse City, Michigan. The hearing will focus on federal oil spill prevention efforts, preparedness and response capability in the event of an oil pipeline break in the Straits of Mackinac. Line 5, the 65-year-old pipeline crossing the Straits of Mackinac, has been the subject of multiple safety concerns, including damage from anchor strikes.

Peters is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and serves as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security. The Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the federal agency tasked with overseeing pipeline safety throughout our nation’s extensive pipeline system, including the Great Lakes. It also has jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard, which plays a leading role in overseeing the federal and state response to oil spills, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which provides scientific support for oil spill prevention, response and restoration.
 
Witnesses:

Panel I:
  • The Honorable Howard “Skip” Elliott, Administrator, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
  • Rear Admiral Joanna Nunan, Ninth District Commander, United States Coast Guard
  • Mr. Scott Lundgren, Emergency Response Division Chief, Office of Response and Restoration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Panel II:
  • Mr. David Bryson, Senior VP Operations, Liquid Pipelines, Enbridge Inc.
  • Mr. Michael Shriberg, Executive Director, National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center
  • Mr. David Murk, Manager of Pipelines, Midstream and Industry Operations, American Petroleum Institute
  • Mr. Chris Hennessy, Business Development Representative, Michigan Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust (LECET)
  • Mr. Larry Bell, Founder and Owner, Bells Brewery

* Witness list and panels are subject to change.

Hearing Details:

Monday, August 20, 2018
10:00 a.m. 
Full committee

The Dennos Museum Center
Milliken Auditorium
1701 E. Front Street (For GPS Directions, enter: 1410 College Drive)
Traverse City, MI 49686

Witness testimony and opening statements will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov. Media interested in attending the event should contact Allison Green or Zade Alsawah atmedia@peters.senate.gov.  

ICYMI: Small Business Administrator McMahon Pens Op-Ed on Monumental Impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

House Small Business Committee News - Mon, 08/13/2018 - 12:00am
WASHINGTON - Last week, U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon wrote an op-ed in the Cincinnati Enquirer to highlight the monumental impact the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is having on local small businesses after hosting a small business roundtable on July 27 with the House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"When I visited Cincinnati in September of last year, small business owners who joined a roundtable I hosted were clear on one thing – taxes were a burden taking too much time and money they’d rather be investing in their businesses...

"This truly is a golden age for small business. The unemployment rate is a healthy 4 percent, with more Americans entering the job market (600,000 in June alone!) to access the good jobs employers are now creating. The number of job openings is at a record high, and for the first time on record, there are more job openings than unemployed people looking for work. The unemployment rate for women was recently at the lowest level since 1953. The same can be said for African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates. A Gallup poll found two-thirds of Americans believe now is a good time to find a quality job," said U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon.

To read Administrator McMahon's full op-ed, click HERE

Court Calls Second Strike on Municipalities’ Climate-Change Legal Crusade with Ruling Against New York City

WLF Legal Pulse - Fri, 08/10/2018 - 11:51am
By Holton Westbrook, a 2018 Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation who will be entering his third year at Texas Tech University School of Law in the fall. New York City recently suffered the latest loss in municipalities’ legal fight against climate change when the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of …

Continue reading Court Calls Second Strike on Municipalities’ Climate-Change Legal Crusade with Ruling Against New York City

Categories: Latest News

New “WLF Month in Review” Chronicles Our Litigation and Regulatory Filings and Results

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 08/09/2018 - 9:33am
Washington Legal Foundation has released the inaugural edition of a newsletter, “WLF Month in Review,” that will keep our supporters, friends, and other interested parties informed about the litigation briefs we have filed and the regulatory proceedings in which we are participating. The August 2018 edition includes developments from June and July, and can be …

Continue reading New “WLF Month in Review” Chronicles Our Litigation and Regulatory Filings and Results

Categories: Latest News

Chairman Steve Chabot Statement on Proposed Pass-Through Regulations

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 08/09/2018 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – This week, House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) released the following statement after the highly anticipated U.S. Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service guidance on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s new 20 percent small business deduction was released:

“This is great news for small businesses and the millions of Americans they employ. Main Street businesses now have the clarity needed to work towards the 20 percent deduction, which will allow businesses to continue to invest in their companies, hire workers, and grow the economy. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been instrumental for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups, and I look forward to seeing the new law create even more gains. This guidance is a pivotal next step.”

Background: Last month, the House Committee on Small Business held a hearing to gain further insight on the effects the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has had on small businesses. From reinvestments in their companies to providing raises, the small business witnesses that testified made it clear that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was providing positive results. 

As a resource, the Committee tracks all regulatory proposals through its Regulatory Watch page that have been published in the Federal Register and those that are open for public comment. Small businesses and interested parties are invited to visit Reg Watch to comment on the new 20 percent small business deduction guidance.

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