Week in Review

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EPA proposes new clean energy rule, Senate postpones markup of the Secure Elections Act, and more…

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  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule which would establish guidelines for states to use when planning reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from coal power plants. This rule would replace the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, and allow “states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans,” according to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. U.S. Representative Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committeecalled the rule a “scam” and claimed that it would “stifle innovation in clean energy, harm human health, and push the planet toward further dangerous warming.”
  • The U.S. Senate postponed the markup for the Secure Elections Act on the grounds that the bill lacked Republican support. The bill would set standards for post-election audits and mandate that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security establish a template for states to use when planning responses to election cyber threats. U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), one of the bill’s sponsors, spoke of the need to establish “cyber doctrine” over elections, but critics such as Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos reportedly found the mandatory post-election audits “problematic” and described the bill as an “unfunded mandate.”
  • The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied the Trump Administration’s attempt to dismiss a suit challenging the legality of the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census questionnaire. Filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and multiple California cities, the suit will now proceed to discovery, where the plaintiffs may receive access to documentation of how and why the citizenship question was added to the census. The District Court’s decision followed that of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which similarly refused to dismiss New York’s challenge to the census question.
  • The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sought comment on proposed revisions to regulations for interstate truck drivers. The updated regulations could increase the amount of time truck drivers are allowed to drive during short trips and under adverse conditions, and may revise the current requirements concerning mandatory break times. The FMCSA will accept comments for a 30-day period.
  • New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood (D), leading 22 other state attorneys general, filed a brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) order which ended the Obama-era net neutrality rules. In the brief, the attorneys general argued that the FCC’s net neutrality rollback jeopardizes consumer welfare and public safety while illegally interfering with state and local regulation of broadband service. Calling the rollback of net neutrality “devastating” to New Yorkers and Americans, Underwood pledged to “fight to protect consumers’ right to a free and open internet.”
  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned two Russian shipping companies for transferring oil to North Korea-flagged ships in violation of United Nations and U.S. sanctions. “Consequences for violating these sanctions will remain in place until we have achieved the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
  • Walmart announced that it will stop selling paint removal products containing the chemicals methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone. This announcement followed similar commitments from major retailers such as Lowes and Home Depot. EPA previously announced its intention to finalize a proposed ban on these chemicals, but has not done so yet.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published draft guidance for products that treat osteoarthritis. The guidance addressed drugs, devices, or biological products intended to cure or prevent the underlying disease of osteoarthritis, rather than to alleviate the symptoms—pain, difficult movement, and bone fractures—associated with it. FDA encouraged the development of treatments with the ability to “avoid or significantly delay” the need for joint replacements, as well as treatments that preserve motor function and minimize pain.
  • Several major cryptocurrency exchanges formed the Virtual Commodity Association in an effort to jumpstart self-regulation in the industry. The inaugural meeting, planned for September, will address a number of cryptocurrency regulatory issues including guidelines that promote transparency, risk management, and liquidity, as well as standards for client disclosures and record-keeping.


  • The Trump Administration’s policies on immigration have prompted an unprecedented amount of pro-immigration legislation at state and local levels, wrote Huyen Pham of Texas A&M University School of Law and Van H. Pham of Baylor University in a forthcoming article for the New York University Law Review. Much of this legislation comes from cities and counties, and Pham and Pham noted that these entities enacted more immigration regulations in 2017 than in the previous 12 years combined. They also observed that Trump’s policies have led to more positive feelings towards immigrants nationwide, and that the most active sanctuary governments tended to be smaller cities and suburbs with populations between 50,000 and 100,000.
  • After the introduction of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), news websites in several European countries substantially reduced their use of third-party “cookies”—files added to a user’s browser to track browsing activity—without the consent of users, found Timothy Libert, Lucas Graves, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in a recent paper. Specifically, advertising, marketing, and social media cookie use has fallen, “indicating that news sites may have recognized the potential compliance risks posed by some of this content.”
  • In a recent article for Palgrave Communications, Claas Kirchhelle, Research Associate at the Oxford Martin School of the University of Oxford, addressed the “international patchwork” of regulations governing agricultural antibiotic use and its resulting problems, including drug residues and antimicrobial resistance. Kirchelle argued that despite the efforts of certain individual countries to curb widespread antibiotic use in agriculture, an effective long-term solution will need global support and consistent funding, as well as a fundamental shift in the present demand for inexpensive meat produced by large scale suppliers.