Week in Review

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The Department of Transportation releases guidelines for autonomous vehicles, the Department of Labor’s overtime rule faces multiple legal challenges, and more…

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  • On the heels of the launch of Uber’s self-driving car program in Pittsburgh, the Department of Transportation (DOT) published a set of guidelines for autonomous vehicles. The guidelines come in response to increased focus on the development and implementation of autonomous vehicles, as well as concerns about the mess that could result from states regulating autonomous vehicles in the absence of federal guidelines. In addition to clarifying the respective roles of states and the federal government, the guidelines create a 15-point safety assessment that provides flexibility to manufacturers of autonomous vehicles, which Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx reportedly said was in recognition of the “different types of innovation” there will likely be in autonomous vehicles.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Whole Foods will pay more than $3.5 million in fines after an EPA investigation found that the grocery chain had violated hazardous waste regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) at “facilities throughout Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma.” Whole Foods will also fund a “supplemental environmental project” (SEP) that will “educate Texas retailers—particularly smaller businesses—about hazardous waste laws and the importance of maintaining compliance.”
  • President Barack Obama signed a presidential memorandum that dictates that the impacts of climate change must be considered in “the development of national security-related doctrine, policies, and plans.” The memorandum also creates a Climate and National Security Working Group with members representing 20 federal agencies and offices—including organizations whose responsibilities include climate science, intelligence, and national security—and directs individual agencies to develop implementation plans that address climate-related risks to national security.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a final rule aimed at promoting equal access for “transgender and gender nonconforming individuals” in homeless shelters, which often have shared sleeping and bathing areas. The rule, which expands on HUD’s February 2012 Equal Access Rule, is primarily intended to protect transgender women, whose birth-assigned sex was male. The rule requires that “providers that operate single-sex projects using funds” from HUD provide “transgender individuals and other individuals who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth, with access.”
  • In an effort to clarify when air quality regions are exempt from the tighter ozone standards that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized last October, the agency released  final revisions to a 2007 rule detailing when “exceptional events,” such as wildfires and volcanic eruptions, excuse a region from the normal penalties incurred when air quality standards for ozone and other pollutants are temporarily exceeded. The revision has been criticized by the American Petroleum Institute, one of several groups challenging the ozone standards in court, for giving insufficient attention to identifying background ozone in the atmosphere. In contrast, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental group, is reportedly “disappointed” that the rule includes some industrial air pollution in its definition of “exceptional events.”
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a proposed rule that would categorize the rusty patched bumble bee as “endangered or threatened.” The rule, if finalized following a 60-day comment period, would list the species on the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, which was created under the Endangered Species Act. The FWS proposal noted that though the rusty patched bumble bee was at one time “widely distributed across areas of 31 States/Provinces,” more recently the species has been challenged by “pesticides, habitat loss and degradation…[as well as] climate change,” and, as a result, has “declined significantly.”


  • In a recent op-ed that appeared in The New York Times, former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. argued that private investment will be essential to combatting climate change. Paulson noted that, though a new United Nations report found that $90 trillion in capital will be needed “over the next 15 years,” last year’s global GDP was only $73 trillion. Therefore, to raise sufficient capital for green investments, Paulson asserted that “countries will need to adopt policies that reduce the price of low-carbon investments to make them more attractive for private investors,” and that those policies should “include environmental regulations to stimulate clean, sustainable development; incentives and subsidies for clean energy investments; and the pricing of carbon emissions.”
  • The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) published a study that outlines what the NAM referred to as “the destructive legacy” that the Obama Administration’s labor regulations will leave for manufacturers. The study, authored by Sam Batkins of the American Action Forum, and Ike Brannon of the Cato Institute, found that the Obama Administration finalized nearly twice as many labor regulations per year as any of the previous four administrations, and estimated that those regulations will result in $81.6 billion in compliance costs, more than 150,000 lost jobs, and hundreds of millions of hours of paperwork over the next decade.
  • In a report, Michael Farren, Christopher Koopman, and Matthew Mitchell of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University make the case for a “fundamental reform” of taxi regulations. The authors argue that “taxi regulation is outdated in light of the transformative technology changes and business innovations of the last few years,” and urge policymakers to, starting with a “blank slate” and taking into account the new technological landscape, rewrite regulations in a way that accounts for costs and benefits to consumers.