Save the Date: Mid-west Seminar

June 26-28, 2014
Boyne Highlands Resort
Harbor Springs, Michigan
Sponsored by the NASF Michigan Chapter

We invite you to join colleagues in the finishing industry for three days of educational sessions, informative table top display’s and industry networking in the idyllic setting of the beautiful Boyne Highlands Resort. Here is a perfect opportunity to get away for a remarkable learning experience at a great value.

You will experience informative technical sessions given by officials from OSHA, EPA, and the DEQ, as well as other notable industry experts and NASF members. Communicate and collaborate more productively and return to your company with ideas that can help your business grow further and faster.

Posted in Events, NASF Chapters

House Approves “Keep Your Health Plan Act” after President’s Announcement

Following the President’s announcement this week of an administrative fix to Obamacare, the House passed legislation that would allow individuals to keep their current health insurance policies in 2014.  The Republican-sponsored bill, HR 3350, passed by a vote of 261-157, with 39 Democrats breaking from the party and supporting passage, and four Republicans voting in opposition.  The Senate is unlikely to take up the measure.

The legislation was sponsored by Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton, and would permit health insurance companies during 2014 to sell those policies in place on the individual market on January 1, 2013. The bill is more expansive than the President’s administrative fix.  The President’s revision allows insurers to continue offering individual policies for those now covered — insurance companies would not be required to continue the plans, and state insurance commissioners would not be required to force them to do so.

Posted in Government Relations, Law & Regulation | Tagged

House Holds Chemicals Law Reform Hearing

A legislative proposal that would impact the surface finishing industry, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), was discussed today at a widely attended hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.  CSIA would reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which governs the federal regulation of chemicals and other substances.  Among the major reforms that would broadly impact industry, CSIA would allow for federal law to take precedence over state regulations and change the standards for the release of confidential business information from chemical companies.

As bill cosponsors Senators David Vitter and Tom Udall testified, bipartisan agreement is emerging to modernize TSCA.  Most congressional members argued for broader authority for EPA in acquiring and reviewing health and risk information on chemicals, imposing deadlines on EPA in its review process – particularly for new chemicals coming to market –  and on the need to ensure adequate protections for consumers.

A primary challenge remaining is reaching consensus on how broad EPA’s authority should be and how autonomously it should be able to act in reviewing, classifying, and regulating chemicals.  Most notably for industry, significant discussion focused on whether the federal government should be able to preempt state regulations and at what point in the process this preemption should take place.

Congressional members such as Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Paul Tonko (D-CA) expressed concern about federal preemption overall given the lengthy federal review process, while Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) considered the possibility that federal preemption should take place, but only in the final rulemaking process at the federal level, thus allowing states to individually regulate in the meantime.  Additionally, Reps. Gene Green (D-TX) and Bob Latta (R-OH) questioned EPA Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety James Jones about the treatment and protection of confidential business information.

Jones noted that EPA has already begun challenging companies’ assertions that information is “confidential” and as a result has removed over 1,000 claims of confidentiality that EPA deemed unwarranted.  Under the new legislation, EPA would likely be permitted to continue this practice, and would also be given authority to share even confidential information with state, local, and emergency officials as long as those recipients agreed to keep such information private.

Other topics included whether to explicitly identify and address “vulnerable populations”, the role of cost-benefit analysis, EPA’s process and methodology for review and prioritization of chemicals, and whether EPA will require additional resources to undertake this work.

Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) concluded today’s hearing by remarking that passing an update to TSCA, even if imperfect, is better than passing nothing given the ineffectiveness and staleness of the current regulations.  If you would like more information on this topic in order to contact your Member of Congress, please contact Jeff Hannapel at jhannapel@thepolicygroup.com.

Posted in Government Relations, Law & Regulation

DoD Seeking Environmental Research & Development Proposals

The Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) announced November 7 it is seeking environmental research and development proposals for funding beginning in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. Projects will be selected through a competitive process. Details are available on the website under Funding Opportunities here.

The Core Solicitation provides funding opportunities for basic and applied research and advanced technology development. Core projects vary in cost and duration consistent with the scope of the work proposed. The Statements of Need (SON) referenced by this solicitation request proposals related to the SERDP program areas of Environmental Restoration (ER), Munitions Response (MR), Resource Conservation and Climate Change (RC), and Weapons Systems and Platforms (WP). All Core pre-proposals are due Thursday, January 9, 2014.

The SEED Solicitation provides funding opportunities for work that will investigate innovative environmental approaches that entail high technical risk or require supporting data to provide proof of concept. Funding is limited to not more than $150,000 and projects are approximately one year in duration. This year, SERDP is requesting SEED proposals for the Environmental Restoration and Weapons Systems and Platforms program areas. SEED proposals are due Tuesday, March 11, 2014.

LEARN MORE ABOUT SERDP FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

Webinar for the SERDP Solicitations: The SERDP Executive Director will conduct an online seminar “SERDP Funding Opportunities” on Tuesday, November 19, 2013, from 2:00-3:00 PM EST. This “how to play” briefing will offer valuable information for those interested in new SERDP funding opportunities. During the online seminar, participants may ask questions about the funding process, the current SERDP solicitations, and the proposal submission process. Pre-registration for this webinar is required. To register, click here. If you have difficulty registering, please contact the SERDP Support Office at 703-736-4547 or by e-mail at partners@hgl.com.

Posted in Business, Government Relations, Research

More Chemicals, Metals Targeted under REACH

NASF and other trade associations worldwide are closely watching as the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and other decision makers in the EU are discussing new substances to be added for potential restriction under the REACH chemicals framework.   A draft proposal containing 125 substances will be reviewed for the 2014-2016 timeframe.

The draft proposal puts forward 55 substances for review in 2014. The number has been steadily increasing since 2012, when 36 substances were evaluated. In 2013, 47 substances are being evaluated. The current REACH work plan assumes that 50 substances will be evaluated each year.  The agency intends to make a decision on adopting the 2014-16 update for 2014-2016 by next March.

Posted in Business, Government Relations, International, Law & Regulation

U.S. Economy Expands: 3rd Quarter Data Released

1. The numbers.  The economy expanded at a 2.8% annualized rate for the July through September period.  This compares with a 2.5% advance during the April to June quarter.  Broad-based GDP inflation came in at 1.9% for Q3.  Both GDP growth and GDP inflation came in higher than the market consensus expectations, as well as ClearView’s latest projections: GDP_est = +2.4% and Prices_est = +0.9%.  The biggest surprise in the Q3 figures – hence, the source of forecast error – was the fast accumulation of business inventories during Q3.

2. Sector details:

Consumption, +1.5%;

Residential investment, +14.6%;

Business fixed investment, +1.6% — equipment/software (-3.7%) and structures (+12.3%);

Inventory change (Bil. $), +$86.0B  (this is a speed-up from Q2, which thus exerted a 0.8 percentage points addition to Q3 GDP growth);

Exports, +4.5%;

Imports, +1.9%  (the $11.2B decrease of the trade deficit added 0.3 percentage points to Q3 GDP growth);

Government purchases, +0.2% — federal (-1.7%) and state/local (+1.5%).

3. A tougher climb in Q4.  The economy fared fairly well in Q3.  The lesson here is that the economy wants to grow.  It posted decent results with little support from the consumer—that’s a jobs issue.  (Just think what kind of growth we would see if we were experiencing a normal pace of jobs expansion, say, 350k to 450k per month.  We’ve done this repeatedly in the past.)  But there are three major challenges to Q4 GDP growth.  The first is jobs (and income).  The October job situation (reported tomorrow) is likely to be soft—affected by the partial government shutdown.

The results for November and December (as well as succeeding months) could be adversely affected by effects of the upcoming implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  The second challenge is government spending, which might have been nicked by the partial government shutdown.  The third challenge is inventories, which built at a rather fast pace in Q3.  If the pace of Q4 inventory accumulation slows (NOT necessarily a decline of inventories), then there will be a Q4 subtraction from GDP growth.  My bet: Q4 GDP growth will be less than seen in Q3.

4. Star performers in Q3.  Residential investments (i.e., housing); nonresidential structures; and exports.

5. NOT at your service.  Where was the slowdown of consumer spending concentrated?  NOT durable goods purchases: +7.8%.  NOT even nondurable good purchases: +2.7%.  The slowdown was highly concentrated in the biggest segment (by far) of consumer spending, services: +0.1%.  Housing and utility services subtracted 0.28 percentage points off Q3 GDP.

6. A peek at prices.  There will be additional details tomorrow in the Personal Income and Personal Consumption Expenditures report, but elevated Q3 rates of price increases were seen in nondurable consumer goods (which includes energy), at +4.5% (AR) and residential investment, at +3.0% (AR).

7. Bonus.  The weekly initial claims for unemployment compensation for the week ending 11/2 receded 9k, to 336k.  The 4-week moving average stepped down 9k, to 348k.  The temporary surge of government workers and other affected persons resulting from the partial government shutdown are dropping out of the weekly initial claims figures.  Below 350k, we are in the “green” zone for the economy—typically associated with solid economic growth AND substantial new job formation.  The problem is that while employers are laying off fewer workers, they are not hiring en masse new workers, largely due to the regulatory headwinds.

NASF Economic Report – Dr. Ken Mayland

Posted in Business, Economy

NASF Economic “Snapshot”: Manufacturing Growth Continues

1. The numbers.  The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported this week that its summary Purchasing Manages’ Index (PMI) rose 0.2 points, for an October reading of 56.4.  According to the ISM, a reading above 50 would typically be associated with an expansion of the manufacturing sector.  October saw the fifth straight accelerated rise of the PMI.  Furthermore, based on the ISM’s estimates, if the current reading of 56.4 were sustained, it would tend to be consistent with 4.4% real GDP growth (annualized).

2. Two for two.  Orders (60.6, up 0.1 points) and production (60.8, down 1.8 points) continue to run at very strong rates of increase.  (Don’t forget, levels above or below 50 indicate direction of change, so any reading around 60 suggests a high preponderance of firms indicating “increases,” and from that, one might infer that in the aggregate, manufacturing’s rate of increase is strong.)  This is exactly where you like to see the strength concentrated.  Our “inventory dynamic” indicator has been in a positive configuration for three consecutive readings (after being negative for 17 consecutive months.

3. With a twist!  Even exports (57.0, up 5.0 points) appear to be doing well.  Imports (55.5, up 0.5 points) are arriving onshore at a pretty good clip, too.  This is consistent with, and in support of, solid domestic demands.

4. You’re biased!  Notice the bias on prices?  Price Index = 55.5, down 1.0 points.  Despite all you hear about inflation, that there isn’t any, the purchasing managers are saying that prices are creeping higher.

5. Toll.  If there were any toll on factories coming out of the partial government shutdown, it appeared to be in the form of tempered demands for new employees.  The ISM Employment Index for October = 53.2, down 2.2 points.

Dr. Ken Mayland, ClearView Economics

 

Posted in Business, Economy