CalRecycle disapproves industry plan to recycle carpet

California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), Sacramento, California, has disapproved the proposed Carpet Stewardship Plan submitted by the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), Dalton, Georgia, after a public hearing held May 15 because the proposal did not meet core requirements of California’s Carpet Recycling Act.

In addition, the CalRecycle staff found insufficiencies with performance goals, adherence to the state waste hierarchy and program transparency with California fee money for effective oversight.

Thomas Helme, an environmental justice advocate for the Valley Improvement Project in Stanislaus County, California, supported CalRecycle’s decision, pointing out that, as a rural jurisdiction with zero carpet recycling locations, Stanislaus County residents are paying into and not benefiting from the program.

“We believe that CARE has demonstrated it is not a good steward of California fee money,” Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the National Stewardship Action Council (NSAC), Sacramento, California, says. “We had a failure of carpet collectors in Sacramento who left two acres [of carpet] stacked two stories tall and left Sacramento County with a million-dollar bill to clean it up.”

In 2010, California became the only state to require carpet manufacturers to implement and manage a stewardship program for carpet recycling. Since passage of the first bill, the carpet industry has failed to achieve the goals set forth by the legislation, and CalRecycle has upheld fines for incompliance. A new carpet recycling law, sponsored by the NSAC, went into effect Jan. 1, changing carpet recycling requirements in California.

DHS announces additional visas for foreign workers to assist American businesses

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On May 25, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen announced that an additional 15,000 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas will be available for fiscal year 2018. This allocation is in addition to the 66,000 visas already issued this year.

The H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker program was designed to serve U.S. businesses unable to find a sufficient number of qualified U.S. workers to perform nonagricultural work of a temporary nature. Congress set the annual H-2B visa cap at 66,000. A maximum of 33,000 H-2B visas are available during the first half of the fiscal year, and the remainder, including any unused H-2B visas from the first half of that fiscal year, is available starting April 1 through Sept. 30.

On Feb. 27, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services determined that it had received sufficient H-2B petitions to meet the full 2018 statutory cap of 66,000.

In the 2018 Omnibus, Congress delegated its authority to the secretary to increase the number of temporary nonagricultural worker visas available to U.S. employers through September 30, just as it did in the 2017 Omnibus. In the intervening time since enactment of the 2018 Omnibus, the secretary consulted with the secretary of labor on the issue, in accordance with Congressional requirements, and developed this rule.

Eligible petitioners for H-2B visas can file Form I-129, known as Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Eligible petitioners must submit a supplemental attestation on Form ETA 9142-B-CAA-2 with their petition.

Details on eligibility and filing requirements will be available in the final temporary rule and on the Increase in H-2B Nonimmigrant Visas for 2018 webpage to be published on uscis.gov when the final temporary rule is posted for public inspection.

Michigan votes to repeal prevailing wage law

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The Michigan legislature voted to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law on June 6. According to Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC), Washington, the 50-year-old law overcharged taxpayers on public construction projects and limited competitive bidding opportunities for Michigan workers, ABC says.

“For the first time in decades, Michigan will be a place where fair and open competition will be welcomed on public construction projects,” Jeff Wiggins, state director of the ABC of Michigan, says.

In addition to forcing businesses to adhere to inflated union contract terms on public projects, critics say the regulations are just as bad. In 2017, Michigan published more than 500,000 prevailing wage designations, resulting in almost four times more classifications than there are construction workers in the state.

The inflated costs associated with prevailing wage laws have been documented in studies from across the country, including Michigan and Ohio. ABC says these studies provide ample evidence that repeal would save hundreds of millions of dollars, citing an Ohio Legislative Service Commission report that showed almost $500 million in savings in the first four years following Ohio’s repeal of its prevailing wage law on school construction.

“Michigan is the sixth state since 2015 to repeal their archaic and costly prevailing wage law,” Ben Brubeck, vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs for ABC National, says. “Studies and anecdotal evidence suggest eliminating prevailing wage red tape will decrease the cost of doing business for local and state governments, creating the opportunity for more projects, more schools, more infrastructure and more employment opportunities for small-business contractors and their employees in the local community.”

EPA proposes action to limit the use of asbestos

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, has announced it is releasing a significant new use rule (SNUR) proposal for public comment that would enable the agency to prevent new uses of asbestos. Additionally, the EPA released the first 10 problem formulation documents and its systemic review approach document for public comment.

“These actions provide the American people with transparency and an opportunity to comment on how EPA plans to evaluate the 10 chemicals undergoing risk evaluation, select studies and use the best available science to ensure chemicals in the marketplace are safe,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says. “At the same time, we are moving forward to take important, unprecedented action on asbestos.”

The problem formulation documents refine the scope of risk evaluations for the first 10 chemicals selected under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The agency’s problem formulation documents are an important interim step prior to completing and publishing the final risk evaluations by December 2019. They clarify the chemical uses that EPA expects to evaluate and describe how EPA expects to conduct the evaluations.

For asbestos, EPA is proposing a SNUR for certain uses of asbestos (including asbestos-containing goods) that would require manufacturers and importers to receive EPA approval before starting or resuming manufacturing. This would also pertain to the importing or processing of asbestos. This review process would provide EPA with the opportunity to evaluate the intended use of asbestos and, when necessary, take action to prohibit or limit the use. Comments are due in 60 days upon publication in the Federal Register.