In Washington – ACMA Insider – March 9, 2023

Rail Safety Legislation Gathering Momentum as Rail CEO Testifies  Just months after a contentious negotiation over a railroad union contract, …

Rail Safety Legislation Gathering Momentum as Rail CEO Testifies 

Just months after a contentious negotiation over a railroad union contract, a train derailment in Ohio is pushing Congress closer to legislating new requirements for U.S. rail carriers as an embattled CEO faces an angry Senate. 

A bipartisan group of senators is pushing for new legislation on the safety of U.S. rail operations following the ongoing environmental fallout from a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.  Ohio Senators JD Vance, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat up for reelection, are working with Democrats John Fetterman and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania as well as Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri on legislation that would require a minimum train crew of two people, create new safety standards for carrying hazardous materials and increase fines for railroads found at fault in derailments.  

After a hotly contested election, many believed that the two Ohio Senators would not be close allies in Washington, but the ongoing environmental fallout from the derailment has seen the two Senators collaborate on letters to the Administration as well as this legislation. The bill is gathering momentum as Norfolk Southern Chief Executive Officer Alan Shaw prepares to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on March 9.   

The EPW witness list also features: EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore, Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel, Executive Director and Chief Engineer of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission Richard Harrison and Director and Chief of Hazardous Materials Response, Beaver County Department of Emergency Services Eric Brewer. 

West Coast Port Labor Negotiations Continuing as Shipments Continue to Shift 

In a rare public statement, the labor and management involved in the West Coast port contract negotiation issued a statement on February 23.  The two sides state that a tentative agreement had been reached on a number of core topics, including healthcare coverage for port workers. 

Both sides are committed to finalizing negotiations “as expeditiously as possible” with talking continuing on an “ongoing basis until an agreement is reached.” One contentious issue not covered by the press release is the desire by management to expand the use of automation in the loading and unloading of containers. The members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) have been working without a contract since July 1. 

The statement comes as both sides in the negotiation feel substantial pressure to remove the uncertainty that currently exists with the absence of a contract. Fears of a strike have led many retailers to shift to other ports. The shift has been so dramatic that the Port of New York/New Jersey has surpassed the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as the busiest port facility in the nation. This is the first time in 22 years that the west coast port was not the busiest.   

As Biden Administration Expands Russia Sanctions, Ukrainian Leader Addresses NAM Board, Calls for Investment in Ukraine 

The war in Ukraine will continue to impact global supply chains. The Biden Administration expanded the list of individuals and entities restricted from doing business with the United States and imposed restrictions on imports of aluminum from Russia or using Russian inputs on February 24.  

ACMA members are urged to look at any Russian supply chains as many banks and companies have been barred from doing business with the United States. 

On the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion, the Biden Administration added 22 individuals and 83 entities, including financial services firms, to the Specially Designated National (“SDN”) sanctions list. U.S. businesses have until late May to wind down any operations with these entities. The Biden Administration also issued a determination authorizing the imposition of economic sanctions on anyone determined to operate or have operated in the metals and mining sector of the Russian economy. 

The Biden Administration also expanded tariffs on Russian imports of aluminum. Starting March 10, aluminum imports from Russia will face a 200% tariff. Furthermore, if Russian inputs are used in a third country, that product will also face a 200% tariff beginning one month later, on April 10.  

The newly announced restrictions utilize the Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, the same law used by the then-Trump Administration to restrict global imports of steel and aluminum into the United States.  

Separately, in video remarks broadcast to the National Association of Manufacturers Board of Directors on February 28, Ukrainian President Voldomyr Zelenskyy called on U.S. manufacturers to plan to compete for Ukrainian infrastructure projects while pulling out of the Russian market.   

President Zelenskyy also predicted the need for post-war investment in Ukraine and warned that businesses remaining in Russia will see negative public reaction. Zelenskyy specifically cited the need for infrastructure investment in Ukraine post-war.  

“Every business that is now helping the Russian tyranny in any way will not be able to avoid problems and their reputation crisis,” Zelenskyy warned. “The American business [community] has every opportunity to take on leadership positions both in the reconstruction of the Ukrainian economy and infrastructure, and in demonstrating to the world that human nature should serve worthy goals and that it produces, and will always produce, the best result.”   

The full remarks to the National Association of Manufacturers Board of Directors can be viewed here.