Week in Review

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FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for ages 12-15, President Biden announces cybersecurity enhancements, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for adolescents ages 12 to 15 years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) subsequently issued its recommendation for the vaccine, which provided the final approval needed to begin vaccinating approximately 17 million newly eligible adolescents. States and local governments are investigating methods to reach the newly eligible cohort, such as offering vaccines at “pediatricians’ offices, day camps, parks and even beaches.” In addition, the CDC updated its guidance on mask-wearing, saying that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in any setting unless required by another law, rule, or regulation.
  • President Joseph R. Biden issued an executive order focused on enhancing cybersecurity in the United States following recent cybersecurity incidents such as SolarWinds, Microsoft Exchange, and the Colonial Pipeline incident. The order requires all federal information systems to meet stronger standards, and it encourages the private sector to follow suit. The order will also establish a cybersecurity safety review board and a pilot program to establish a system that will enable all parties to quickly identify if software was developed in a secure way. U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, praised the order as a “good first step,” while calling on Congress to “step up and do more to address our cyber vulnerabilities.”
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will create a new internal group dedicated to combating domestic terrorism after facing scrutiny over the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. DHS also announced a new Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships to “provide communities with the tools they need to combat terrorism and targeted violence.” Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Los Angeles, expressed concern that his community would become “the guinea pig for one surveillance program after the other.” Abed Ayoub, the legal and policy director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee stated that he was “cautiously optimistic,” noting that the Biden Administration has “done a much better job than the prior administration at listening to community concerns.”
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a rule that requires long-term care and intellectual disability care facilities to educate their residents and clients on the COVID-19 vaccines and offer all residents, clients, and staff COVID-19 vaccines. Long term care facilities must also disclose the vaccination status of their residents and staff members to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CMS is seeking public comment about how the rule could apply to other types of communal living centers.
  • U.S. Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) introduced the Children and Teen’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which would make it unlawful for digital companies to collect data from children ages 13 to 15 without parental consent. The bill would amend the existing Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by requiring consent whenever companies have reason to know, rather than actual knowledge, that children are visiting their websites. The bill also would require companies to offer users the option to delete collected data of children when technologically feasible.
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior granted final approval of Vineyard Wind, a large-scale, offshore wind farm that will be built 12 miles off the Massachusetts coast. The Interior Department’s approval of Vineyard Wind marks the first time the U.S. federal government has ever approved a large-scale, offshore wind farm. The Interior Department projected that the wind farm will create 3,600 jobs and generate 800-megawatts of energy—enough to power roughly 400,000 buildings. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland called the approval “an important step toward advancing the Administration’s goals to create good-paying union jobs while combating climate change and powering our nation.” Vineyard Wind projects that the off-shore turbines will begin delivering energy to Massachusetts in 2023.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan issued a waiver on certain gas standards that require gas to burn more cleanly and release less hydrocarbons. The waiver was issued to selected eastern states, southern states, and Washington, D.C. after the Colonial Pipeline voluntarily shut down some of its systems and scaled back gas delivery in response to a cyberattack, leading to fuel shortages. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg commented that the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack “reminds us that infrastructure is a national security issue,” and infrastructure investment helps improve cybersecurity.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a repeal of the Trump-era SAFE I rule, which prohibited states from regulating tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions beyond the federal standards. NHTSA initially finalized the SAFE I rule to prevent “uncertainty and disharmony” from dual state and federal fuel economy standards. But NHTSA reviewed the rule after President Biden directed agencies to review actions that may be inconsistent with the Biden Administration’s environmental policy goals. After review, NHTSA questioned whether it had the authority to prevent states from regulating tailpipes emissions.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • In a working paper, Jialan Wang, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Kathleen Burke of the Congressional Budget Office, analyzed the impact of regulations on the payday loan market in Texas. Wang and Burke described how state legislators passed a law requiring payday loan providers to disclose fee schedules and other information such as the “escalating costs from long-term borrowing with payday loans” to payday loan borrowers. Wang and Burke found that the Texas disclosure regulation resulted in a 13 percent decline in payday loan volume, supporting the previously doubted conclusion that these disclosures can affect consumer borrowing.
  • In a recent International Renewable Energy Agency report, Alessandra Salgado, Arina Anisie, and Francisco Boshell discussed pathways for local communities to jointly invest in and own solar, wind, and biomass power plants. Salgado, Anisie, and Boshell explained that households, individuals, and businesses can benefit by sharing ownership of renewable energy plants because the plants can provide low-cost energy and increase the reliability of the electric grid. Salgado, Anisie, and Boshell suggested that policymakers who want to support community ownership of power should implement financial incentives, such as tax credits and grant funding, and that regulators should simplify the permit approval process.
  • In an article in the Yale Law Journal, Kathleen Claussen, professor at University of Miami Law, argued that foreign trade agreements can impact subsequent regulatory actions, which have the force of law even if the agency does not formally engage the rulemaking process. Claussen used the foreign distilled-spirits market to illustrate how U.S. international trade agreements change domestic law without new legislation or regulations. Through international agreements, the United States can protect the branding of unique distilled-spirits such as Irish whisky, and federal agencies may also determine that a product is protected without seeking public comment. Claussen cautioned that rulemakers should decide whether international trade should be governed by regulation, international agreements, or both.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY

  • In an essay in The Regulatory Review, Richard L. Revesz, professor at the New York University School of Law, and Burçin Ünel, Energy Policy Director at the Institute for Policy Integrity, argued that clean energy systems and ambitious climate goals require both adequate technology to store generated energy and policies to support greener uses of that technology. Revesz and Ünel explained that previous policies allowed battery operators to make a profit by charging batteries with cheaper fossil-fuels rather than energy from renewable generators. Revesz and Ünel suggested that storage policies should promote reductions in carbon emissions by encouraging battery owners to charge with cleaner energy and penalizing owners who prioritize cheaper, dirtier energy sources.