As regular readers know, the MTB provides critical import duty relief on hundreds of essential manufacturing inputs that are not available in the U.S., including viscose rayon staple fibers. Unfortunately, Congress allowed the duty relief benefits to lapse at the end of 2012, forcing U.S. companies to absorb the additional costs throughout the year and affecting their ability to compete. H.R. 2708, the stalled bill that reinstates MTB relief, includes several provisions covering rayon staple fibers but does not provide for a retroactive refund of tariffs.
Unfortunately, there are few days to make the case for passage of the MTB, and even fewer days when Congress will be in sessions between now and the recess for the mid-term elections and during the lame duck session. Further complicating the likelihood of passage is that the MTB is only one of several important trade-related bills that are stalled in Congress. Others include measures that would reinstate Trade Promotion Authority and the expired Generalized System of Preferences and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank whose charter runs out on September 30. This Congress does not have a good track record of moving legislation but there is hope that Congress will take up several of these trade measures as a package during the lame duck session.
As we have said repeatedly, the best way to ensure the MTB’s passage is to emphasize to your representatives in Congress its importance to your company’s competitiveness. If you would like to send a message to your Congressional lawmakers encouraging them to support passage of the MTB, contact INDA’s Director of Government Affairs Jessica Franken directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a template letter and instructions for sending it. INDA will continue to keep its members posted about developments as they unfold.
Environmental Protection Agency Releases Significant New Use Rules for 36 Chemicals
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month released significant new use rules (SNUR) for 36 chemicals used for many different applications including adhesives, flame retardants, electrical and thermal conductivity additives and intermediates for other chemicals, including 14 engineered nanoscale compounds. The 36 chemicals are already in production subject to protective measures under premanufacture notices and consent orders under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
The SNURs establish a notice requirement for manufacturers that want to produce the chemicals in ways that differ from terms set forth in the consent orders and notices and also adopt those conditions so they apply to other manufacturers that want to make the same substances. Any manufacture or use of a chemical that does not take into account the protective measures, for example the use of personal protective equipment, would be considered a new use and require notification to EPA. That notice must be filed with the EPA 90 days prior to the proposed new manufacturing or use of the chemical. The required notification provides EPA with the opportunity to evaluate the intended use and, if necessary, to prohibit or limit that activity before it occurs.
The final rules clarify strategies to protect workers exposed to nanoscale chemicals in response to concerns raised by occupational health specialists that the chemicals could cause respiratory problems. The rules require a company wanting to make any of the listed carbon nanoscale chemicals to submit a proposed exposure level and demonstrate that workers’ exposures will be held at or below that level. The EPA would then evaluate the safety of that proposed limit. The EPA has indicated that respiratory protection would be required only after other strategies to reduce workplace exposure had failed to limit likely exposure to workers.
The rules apply to companies that manufacture, process or use any of the 36 chemicals and is effective early next month. To read the final rule, including a full list of chemicals, go to: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-09-02/html/2014-20783.htm.
Plastic Bag Ban Passes California Assembly
California could soon be the first state to ban single-use plastic bags. The California Assembly in August passed SB270, which would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies in 2015 and at convenience stores in 2016. The bill has been described as one of the most contentious during the last legislative session—supported by environmental groups in an effort to reduce litter on the streets and beaches and opposed by plastic bag-makers and some Republican lawmakers.
The California Assembly was following the lead of localities across the country, including 100 jurisdictions in California alone, that have adopted similar bans in recent years. Local ordinances regulating the use of plastic shopping bags have grown exponentially over the last few years and have shifted from taxing the use of plastic shopping bags to banning the use of plastic shopping bags entirely. The California measure allows grocers to charge 10 cents each for paper and reusable bags. It also includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to the new model.
Makers of reusable shopping bags should not ramp up production just yet. At press time, this bill was among over 750 others awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature. Nonetheless, chances are good that the bill will become law, given the Governor’s strong environmental record and his response during a gubernatorial debate that he “probably” would sign the bill. For a comprehensive database of laws regulating plastic shopping bag use, visit: http://plasticbaglaws.org/legislation/state-laws/.
Electronic Submission of Lacey Act Declarations
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced September 3 the availability of a new website that will allow importers who are required to file declarations under the Lacey Act to do so electronically. APHIS designed The Lacey Act Web Governance System (LAWGS) to make filing a declaration more efficient and less subject to error.
The Lacey Act, originally passed in 1900, prohibits trade in fish, wildlife, and plants taken or possessed in violation of state, federal or foreign laws. In an effort to combat illegal logging, Congress expanded the Act in May 2008 to a broader range of plants and plant products. As amended, the Lacey Act makes it unlawful to import illegally harvested wood and other plant products, and requires those bringing affected products into the U.S. to file import declarations identifying the scientific name of the plant, value, quantity, and country from which it was harvested. The declaration requirement is being phased in by product type based on classification in Harmonized Tariff Schedule, with a number of wood products (although no nonwovens) already being targeted. (To learn which HTS Chapters require declarations, visit: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/lacey_act/downloads/ImplementationSchedule.pdf)
For more information about LAWGS, including assistance in using the system, you can reach the LAWGS Helpdesk at 866-HLP-PCIT (457-7248) or email@example.com, or you can visit the LAWGS Support page at https://lawgs.aphis.usda.gov/lawgs/faces/support/index.html.