Inside The Washington Beltway Update: Permitting Reforms; ESG Rules, LIHEAP, EVs

The U.S. House was out of session last week, but that hasn’t stopped House Natural Resources Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) from making news regarding permitting legislation in the 118th Congress, noting that he would use Rep. Garret Graves’ (R-LA) BUILDER Act from last Congress as a starting point.

The BUILDER Act would have updated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementation by expediting the timeframes for energy projects to undergo NEPA review.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) was hopeful that this first step could help gain some traction in the Senate for similarly positioned legislation.

ESG Rules

On the other side of Congress, Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) may be inching closer to forcing a vote on legislation that would block Biden Administration priorities, starting with a resolution to reverse a Department of Labor rule allowing ESG to be considered in retirement plans.

This is in response to a Biden Administration rule allowing retirement plan managers to consider ESG in its investments in addition to its fiduciary duties.

If this passes, the requirements for retirement plan managers would revert to mandating decisions in the interest of securing the best possible returns.

Trucks/Alaska Oil

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) also has a resolution pending that would invalidate new EPA emissions standards for trucks from taking effect.

In addition, Alaska’s Senators have taken a stern position towards the White House should it seek to regulate ConocoPhillips’ Willow Oil project to death.

Still, with the President citing “climate peril,” this fight may continue.

LIHEAP Funding

Separately, Congressional Democrats are looking to see if the remaining $1.5 billion in funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can be released expeditiously, writing to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting the remaining funds (of $6 billion) be released as “quickly as possible.”

EV Week

Also, last week – which DOT deemed EV week – the White House and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released guidance surrounding EV charging infrastructure, including releasing the Build America, Buy America (BABA) Requirements for the $5 billion National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) formula program.

Still, FHWA will issue BABA waivers for EV chargers manufactured before July 1, 2024, if the final assembly is completed in the U.S.

Merchant Payments

Finally, the Merchants Payments Coalition filed a comment letter with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding “Mastercard’s tokenization policies and violations of Federal Reserve Regulation II.”

The letter notes that limited competition in the payments space hurts competition and harms retailers and their customers, and notes that they had not been treating Card Not Present (CNP) tokenized transactions (like Apple Pay) the same as Card Present (CP) tokenized transactions.

Given the already-slim margins under which retailers operate, this is a make-or-break issue for a lot of small business owners.