Week in Review

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TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline allowed to run through Nebraska, FCC unveils order to roll back its net-neutrality rules, and more…

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  • The Nebraska Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to allow TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline to run through the state. The Commission did not approve TransCanada’s preferred route, and TransCanada said it would “review the Commission’s ruling while assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project.” Art Tanderup, a landowner in Nebraska on the proposed Keystone XL route, said he was “disappointed” that the Commission “refused to see the value of our natural resources” by approving the route through the state.
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced a pending vote on an order that would roll back the FCC’s net-neutrality rules, the Obama-era safeguards that prevent prioritization for internet content. Pai stated that under his proposal, the “federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet” and would “simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices” so both consumers and small businesses can have the information they need to make their best decisions. Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union reportedly said that “gutting net neutrality will have a devastating effect on free speech online” and that “gateway corporations…will have too much power to mess with the free flow of information.”
  • U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions prohibited the U.S. Department of Justice from releasing guidance documents that carry the force of law without going through the full rulemaking process. Sessions disapproved of the Justice Department’s previous use of these kinds of documents. Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand said that although “guidance documents can be used to explain existing law…they should not be used to change the law.”
  • The Justice Department filed an antitrust suit in an attempt to block AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner. The Justice Department alleged that the merger would slow innovation and allow AT&T to use its control over Time Warner “to hinder its rivals by forcing them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for the right to distribute on Time Warner’s networks.” AT&T called the lawsuit “a radical and inexplicable departure” from well-established antitrust law.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said that it will provide guidance on its electronic logging device (ELD) rule. The rule, which will go into effect on December 18, requires the use of ELDs to track the hours that drivers have worked in the interest of safety. The FMSCA said its forthcoming guidance will reflect the agency’s intent to put the rule into effect “without impeding commerce.”
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it will no longer provide Temporary Protected Status for Haitians. DHS had granted the status to Haitians after the earthquake in 2010, allowing Haitians to live and work in the United States, which DHS continued to extend over the next seven years. DHS said that Haitians do not need protected status any more, noting that the number of displaced people in Haiti has gone down by 97 percent since the earthquake.
  • The American Conservative Union, an organization that has not registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) as a political committee, settled claims that it illegally passed money from one entity to another. This transfer of money allegedly violated a Federal Election Campaign Act prohibition against making contributions in the name of another person.
  • The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a determination concerning the “country of origin of roasted coffee” following an inquiry from Keurig Green Mountain. CBP concluded that for government procurement purposes, “the country of origin of the roasted coffee, in ground or bean form, is the country where the raw green coffee beans are roasted, i.e., Canada or the United States” because the roasting “substantially transforms” the coffee beans.
  • Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a bipartisan bill that guarantees copay-free access to contraception in the state regardless of federal level policy changes. Baker reportedly stated that “this legislation will ensure no woman in Massachusetts, irrespective of what goes on in Washington, will worry about whether her health care services and rights will be affected here in the commonwealth.”