WOTUS rule finalized

President Joe Biden’s administration has finalized the waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.  The rule defines which bodies of water are federally protected under the Clean Water Act.  In 2015, the Obama administration enacted a WOTUS rule that gave the federal government jurisdiction over every body of water in the country, including bodies of water as small as streams and ditches.

From 2017 to 2020, the Trump administration took steps to return the rule to a more reasonable definition.  As IER pointed out at the time, the Obama/Biden definition of the rule was never about protecting water.  Instead, it was designed to expand the federal government’s reach into management decisions on state and private lands.

The Biden administration’s new decision doubles down on federal overreach.  Instead of making federal regulations clear, the new rule returns to the pre-2015 definition which expands the EPA’s power to almost any type of body of water within the United States.  This gives the government expansive power over private lands and sets a stage for prolonged litigation for any new development near the newly defined federally-protected navigable waters.  The proposal, once approved, would come into effect 60 days following its publication in the Federal Register.

Since the definition for WOTUS has shifted with each new presidential administration, many are watching a current Supreme Court case (Sackett v. EPA) where justices are considering arguments challenging the scope of the Clean Water Act.  The case should help clarify the definition of navigable waters.  It’s worth noting that because the Supreme Court is about to weigh in on this, this whole rulemaking was premature and unnecessary.  The Biden administration has rushed out this rule only to have to restart everything as soon as the SCOTUS makes its ruling in Sackett v. EPA.

Inflation Reduction Act EV Tax Credit Changes 2023

Starting January 1, changes made to the federal EV tax credit as part of the Inflation Reduction Act will be in effect.  The changes include:

  • Extension of the $7,500 tax credit for select electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen powered vehicles that meet qualifications. Here is a list of qualifying vehicles.
  • The new incentives restrict qualifying vehicles to low-emissions trucks, SUVs, and vans with manufacturer’s suggested retail prices of up to $80,000 and cars up to $50,000.
  • No limits to manufacturers.  As of Jan 1. 2023, manufacturers are no longer limited in their ability to receive tax breaks on the first 200,000 vehicles sold, which was the case under the old tax rules.
  • Anyone considering a used electric vehicle under $25,0000 can obtain a new $4,000 tax credit.
  • The tax credits are limited to individuals reporting adjusted gross incomes of $150,000 or less on taxes, $225,000 for those filing as head of household, and $300,000 for joint filers.
  • One of the major changes the Inflation Reduction Act was supposed to make to the EV tax credit was  to require that the materials for the batteries in EVs must be sourced domestically or from countries with a free trade agreement. However, the Treasury Department has not issued the guidelines for that compliance yet, they say they will have it done by 2023.

The average price of an electric vehicle is about $65,000, which is nearly 9 percent higher than a year ago.  The industrywide average that includes gas-powered vehicles and electric cars reached about $48,900 in the same timeframe.

As IER has pointed out elsewhere, Congress should eliminate the electric vehicle tax credit since it will only cost Americans more, benefit mainly wealthy Americans, and have a negligible impact on global carbon dioxide emissions.

Richard Glick leaves FERC

On February 17th, 2022, FERC issued two new policy statements that would have had significant detrimental effects on the construction of natural gas. The statements would have created new opportunities for litigation to slow or stop pipeline construction.

Last year, IER’s FERC transparency project revealed coordination between FERC and the White House.  In November, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin D-W.Va., said he would not hold a confirmation hearing for Glick.  At the time, IER president Tom Pyle told E&E News that he was “not surprised” to hear that Senator Manchin would not hold a hearing for Glick.  He also added that with a four-person commission, FERC could potentially return to consensus-building.

Last month, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Richard Glick announced he will leave the agency.  His exit will leave FERC with two Democratic commissioners ( Allison Clements and Willie Phillips) and two Republicans (James Danly and Mark Christie).  President Biden is expected to name either Allison Clements or Willie Phillips as FERC chairman.

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