White House looks to future in major rewrite of National Environmental Policy Act

In a move garnering wide praise from construction and business interests, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced its final rule to comprehensively update and modernize National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations for the first time in over 40 years. Among leaders praising last month’s action, Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao noted, “These much-needed common sense reforms will help cut red tape and speed delivery of infrastructure projects all across America.”

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Agencies spotlight vertical merger analytical techniques, enforcement policies

The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice have issued new Vertical Merger Guidelines that outline how the federal antitrust authorities evaluate the likely competitive impact of vertical mergers and whether such actions comply with U.S. law. The document represents the first time the agencies have issued joint guidelines on vertical mergers, and is the first major revision to vertical merger guidance since the 1984 Non-Horizontal Merger Guidelines, which were withdrawn earlier this year.

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EPA spurs $6 billion in water supply, wastewater infrastructure funding

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a 2020 notice of funding availability under its Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, including grants for the new State infrastructure financing authority WIFIA (SWIFIA). The programs accelerate investment in critical water infrastructure through innovative and flexible financing that can support diverse projects in communities large and small. This year’s funding will provide up to $6 billion to support $12 billion in water infrastructure projects, while creating more than 35,000 jobs and improving environmental protection in communities across the country.

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Commission staff assess cloud services security for businesses

From the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Elisa Jillson and Andy Hasty … As cloud computing has become business as usual, frequent news reports of data breaches and other missteps should make companies think carefully about how they secure their data. The Federal Trade Commission has tips for business about making use of cloud services safer—both for owners and customers who rely on them to safeguard their information.

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3D-printed concrete specialist to keynote agency’s two-day, online conference

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Building Sciences has replaced its Washington, D.C. conference this year with Building Innovation 2020: Virtual Edition, billing the August 18-19 program as “a powerfully compact event, focusing on technology, workforce, resilience and Covid-19.”

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Court rejects Big Labor petition to force OSHA’s hand on Covid-19 standard

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed an American Federation of Labor–Council of Industrial Organizations petition seeking an order compelling the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) for infectious disease and Covid-19 workplace exposure. AFL-CIO had filed a writ of mandamus petition in May after initially petitioning OSHA in March to issue an ETS addressing the virus outbreak.

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EPA measures air pollutant levels’ 50-year descent

The federal government’s latest annual report on air quality trends, “Our Nation’s Air – EPA Celebrates 50 Years!,” documents pollution reduction progress from 1970-2019, emphasizing gains during the last few years. The combined emissions of Environmental Protection Agency-designated criteria pollutants and their precursors dropped 7 percent from 2017 to 2019. That metric reflects three-year declines in the emissions levels of nitrogen oxides, -10 percent; particulate matter 2.5, -1 percent; sulfur dioxide, -16 percent; carbon monoxide, -6 percent; and, volatile organic compounds, -3 percent.

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