Issue Update

Guestworker Visas

The Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed changes to the guestworker application process for the H-2B program. DOL’S Federal Register notice specifies that the new proposed Appendix A to the Form 9142B, “would require an employer to use a standard format to disclose multiple worksites and, if applicable, multiple wage offers for the job opportunity within an area of intended employment.” Forestry employers with an itinerant workforce that participate in the H-2B program utilize the Department’s longstanding Special Procedures (TEGL 27-06) and as part of the current application process are already required to submit an itinerary with their application listing each worksite and applicable wage rate. Although not certain, FRA is concerned that Appendix A will require more detailed information on locations, such as exact address, that will make it difficult to participate in the H-2B program. Comments are due by November 6th. Proposed FRA comments can be found here.

Biomass/ACE

On October 31, FRA submitted comments in response to EPA’s proposed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which will serve as a substitute to the Clean Power Plan. FRA’s comments may be viewed here. Our comments support the proposed rule because it recognizes biomass carbon neutrality as a policy concept. Moreover, the proposal would allow for coal-fired utilities to cofire with biomass as a compliance option. EPA notes that while this is not economical or feasible in many instances, there are utilities in areas with abundant biomass supplies where cofiring may be attractive. FRA notes in the comments that cofiring may provide a market for sawmill residuals that are accumulated at many facilities across the country due to weak demand for this material.

In a related development, a letter was sent to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees dated October 24 that outlines the many steps federal departments and agencies are taking to implement the biomass carbon neutrality directive that was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. The letter was signed by acting EPA Administrator Andy Wheeler, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The letter may be found here.

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