Federal Advocacy Update: Week of October 30, 2018

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In this issue:


President Signs SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, But More Is Needed


Stephanie Martinez-Ruckman, 202.626.3098

On October 24, President Trump signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6), a bipartisan bill that is the culmination of months of work by the House and Senate. The bill provides for the reauthorization of funding from the Cures Act, as well as provides new guidance and programs in the areas of treatment, prevention, law enforcement and pain care. However, the legislation does not go far enough to address our nation’s overall substance abuse and addiction problem. 

While it is important that Congress and the Administration are taking positive steps forward on this epidemic, the legislation does not go nearly far enough in terms of recognizing the scope of the problem nor providing significant additional funds to support the work being done. There is especially strong concern that the funds that are being provided are not making it down to the local level and are, rather, being held up at the state level. NLC applauded the bill signing, but we are calling on Congress and the Administration to do more.

City leaders have been hard at work sharing this message with Congress and we will continue to push for language in the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations process that will fully recognize the needs and challenges of cities.

 

NLC Comments on EPA Effort to Revise Vehicle Emissions and Fuel Economy

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On October 26, NLC submitted comments on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) proposed rule to amend existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks and establish new standards, covering model years 2021 through 2026.

In 2012, the agencies worked together to develop CAFE and carbon dioxide standards for Model Years 2017 and beyond. Under that rulemaking, EPA set carbon dioxide standards for Model Years 2017-2025, while NHTSA set final CAFE standards for Model Years 2017-2021 and put forth “augural” CAFE standards for Model Years 2022-2025. 

This proposed rule would revise the 2012 rule. Specifically, the proposed rule would:

  • Retain the Model Year 2020 CAFE and carbon dioxide emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks through 2026.
  • Withdraw the California Waiver that allows the state to set its own standards for greenhouse gas emissions and zero emissions vehicles. Twelve other states plus the District of Columbia have adopted the California standards. 

NLC’s comments underscore the actions that cities are taking to mitigate the effects of climate change, including through a variety of initiatives aimed at reducing emissions from the transportation sector, including reducing vehicle miles traveled and increasing use of electric vehicles. These efforts alone, however, are often not enough to meet local emission reduction targets, and cities rely on vehicle emission standards to help meet their goals. Additionally, robust vehicle emission standards are key to ensuring cities are able to meet ozone requirements. Finally, NLC opposes withdrawal of the Clean Air Act California waiver, which would preempt local authority to tailor laws to the specific needs of their communities.

The 2012 rule required EPA to issue a Final Determination by April 1, 2018 on whether the greenhouse gas emission standards for Model Years 2022-2025 light-duty vehicles remain appropriate. EPA’s Final Determination issued earlier this year found that the current greenhouse gas emissions standards for Model Years 2022-2025 are based on outdated information, that the current standards may be too stringent and that they should be revised as appropriate.

In September, NLC, together with 16 cities and counties, filed a motion for leave to participate as amici in California v. EPA, a case brought by 17 states plus the District of Columbia challenging EPA’s Final Determination on greenhouse gas emissions. The local government motion for leave discusses the threat that climate change poses to cities, including impacts to health, the environment, infrastructure, natural resources and local economies. Because of these impacts, cities are taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The weakening of vehicle greenhouse gas emissions would hinder local governments’ ability to reduce greenhouse gas emission in their communities and render adaptation efforts less effective. 


First Set of Rules on Opportunity Zone Funds Released 

Brian Egan, 202.626.3107

On October 19, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury Department released the first set of proposed rules relating to Qualified Opportunity Funds. The Opportunity Zone program passed as part of last year’s larger tax reform package. Qualified Opportunity Zone census tracts were selected earlier this year, but many investors have so far refrained from setting up qualified funds pending rules and guidance. 

While regulators will likely continue to issue clarifying rules and guidance, the investment community has so far welcomed this month’s set of proposed rules as a first step. NLC will continue to analyze and provide resources on this program. For more information on Opportunity Zones, visit NLC’s blog, CitiesSpeak.


NLC Comments on EPA ACE Rule to Replace Clean Power Plan

Carolyn Berndt, 202.626.3101

On October 30, NLC submitted comments on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired electric utility generating units and power plants. The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule replaces the 2015 Clean Power Plan, which was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 and has not gone into effect.

The ACE proposed rule takes a narrower approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than the Clean Power Plan. It focuses on making individual plants more efficient—a move that would achieve far shallower reductions compared to the Clean Power Plan, which sought to cut emissions across the power sector. The proposed rule would also give states more leeway in how they meet the more modest climate goals. 

Specifically, the proposed rule would:

  • Provide states with a list of “candidate technologies” that can be used to establish standards of performance and be incorporated into their state plans. States will have three years from date of finalization to prepare and submit a plan that establishes a standard of performance. The proposed rule does not set a standard of performance, but rather give states the flexibility to design a plan to achieve emissions reductions at the source.
  • Revise the New Source Review to allow for an hourly measurement of emissions as opposed to an annualized accounting. The New Source Review program aims to protect air quality when factories, industrial boilers and power plants are newly built or modified. Under the program, a state permit is required for any new facility or to renovate an existing facility if it will lead to an increase in annual emissions. The proposed change would apply only to power plants. It is significant because with the hourly accounting power plants can more easily show efficiency gains and therefore fewer sources will trigger the New Source Review requirements. 

NLC’s comments, as well as pending litigation, support the Clean Power Plan as a means of nationally reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the growing negative impacts of climate change on cities. NLC urges EPA to take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the power sector, including through investments in and incentives for renewable energy and increased energy efficiency. NLC continues to urge the Administration to support and partner with cities to mitigate the effects of climate change. EPA plans to issue a final rule in early 2019. 


Conference Delegates to Vote on Changes to NLC National Municipal Policy

Avery Peters, 202.626.3020

At NLC’s 2018 City Summit, we have a robust line-up of speakers and sessions with innovative learning opportunities, mobile workshops, inspiring keynotes, skill-building NLC University seminars, and several chances to network with peers from across the country. In addition to those sessions, important governance activities will also take place at the conference. 

During the conference's Annual Business Meeting on November 10 the entire NLC membership, including the State Municipal Leagues, will consider changes to NLC's National Municipal Policy (NMP). The NMP is NLC's comprehensive policy platform on federal issues directly affecting or of concern to cities and towns. It serves as the foundation for NLC's federal advocacy efforts on behalf of the nation's cities and is subject to an annual review by NLC’s membership during the City Summit. As the foundation for our advocacy efforts, a relevant and robust NMP is essential to our effectiveness on behalf of cities on Capitol Hill.

Over the course of this year, city leaders who serve on NLC’s Federal Advocacy Committees have been hard at work reviewing the NMP and developing recommendations for changes. To allow you ample time to review the proposed changes that will be considered in Los Angeles, you can view them here.
 

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