The announcement of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) on January 22, 2018, that the Trump Administration is granting relief for the domestic solar panels and modules industry under section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, confirmed the fears of many consumers that substantial additional duties would be imposed on those products. USTR announced that the relief would come in the form of a tariff increase of 30% in the first year, decreasing to 25% in year two, 20% in year three, and then to 15% in year four. On January 23, 2018, President Trump signed the Proclamation implementing the relief. The relief will go into effect on February 7, 2018.

Despite the above tariffs, the relief announced provides that the first 2.5 gigawatts of imported cells are excluded from the additional tariffs. The use of the exemption for the first 2.5 gigawatts makes the relief a form of a “tariff rate quota,” meaning that tariffs only apply if imports rise above a certain quota amount. This type of relief has been imposed in the past, including on certain steel products. The ITC Commissioners made various recommendations to the President in this case, some of which included types of tariff rate quotas.

The nature of the relief will mean that exporters now are likely want to rush to import their products in order to be within the 2.5 gigawatt exclusion. The Proclamation states that the quota of 2.5 gigawatts “shall be allocated among all countries except those countries the product of which are excluded from such tariff rate quotas…” While this statement seems to imply that there will be a base time period used to determine different market shares within the total quota for different countries, our discussions with government officials indicate that this was not what was intended. Instead, the intention was to have one worldwide quota of 2.5 gigawatts that will apply to all countries, without any allocation among countries. Regardless of whether allocations are made among countries or there is just one overall quota, if shipments are made in the hope that they will fall within the exclusion but the 2.5 gigawatt quota already is filled at the time of entry, the 30% tariff that then will be applied may change the economics of a deal if the possibility of a tariff has not been taken into account. It is not clear at this time whether there will be some kind of pre-clearance for such imports before the time of exportation, or whether there will be a free-for-all at the time of entry. Continue Reading Solar Panels and Modules Trade Decision Creates New Uncertainty for Purchasers

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Fulfilling repeated campaign pledges to roll back the Obama administration’s climate change initiatives, President Trump signed a sweeping executive order yesterday targeting key Obama-era regulations, including the Clean Power Plan and emission standards for the oil and gas industry. The executive order states that it is in the interest of the nation to promote development of energy resources “while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation.” The multi-faceted approach taken by the order makes it clear that this Administration views any regulation of climate change or carbon pollution as “unnecessary.”  Continue Reading Trump’s Executive Order Takes a Multi-Faceted Approach to Eliminating Climate Change Regulation

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Robert Horn
Adam Sachs
Adam Sachs

During his confirmation hearing to become Secretary of Energy, former Texas Governor Rick Perry sensibly walked back his 2011 recommendation that the Department of Energy (DOE) be eliminated. After a few weeks on the job, it is now apparent that the secretary not only thinks the DOE should continue to exist but recognizes it’s an essential element of our national security.

President Trump’s inaugural address called for an “America First Energy Plan.”  Although admittedly short on details, the Trump plan seems to Continue Reading Around the Horn: Perry, Policy & Politics

No RegulationsAs we reported in a previous blog post, President Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued a memorandum entitled “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” to all federal executive departments and agencies implementing a regulatory freeze on new and pending regulations.  This post provides some further information and insight into the freeze and the specific impacts it has had and will have on final and proposed environmental, health, safety, and pipeline regulations.

Technically speaking, the directive is not an executive order and does not have the effect of law.  Thus, federal agencies are left with considerable discretion regarding how to implement it.  The directive was issued with the intent of Continue Reading Trump Administration’s Regulatory Freeze Impacts Environmental, Health, Safety, and Pipeline Regulations

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Bob Horn
Adam Sachs
Adam Sachs

I’m Adam Sachs, a partner in Husch Blackwell’s energy practice and a registered DC lobbyist. I will be joined in these semi-regular blog posts by my colleague and longtime Washington lawyer, Bob Horn.  Bob served in the Ford administration, ran Detroit Edison’s federal affairs operations, co-founded the Republican National Lawyers Association, and most recently served as a member of the Trump transition team.  I have extensive Capitol Hill experience, having served in senior policy and legal positions since the mid-1980’s.  My most recent Hill gig was serving as committee counsel to now assistant Democratic leader James Clyburn of South Carolina. Continue Reading Around the Horn: Trump DOE/EPA Nominations and Energy Policy Initiatives

logo-cop21Last Tuesday, the European Union ratified the Paris Agreement, the landmark international agreement dealing with the mitigation, financing and adaptation of greenhouse gas emissions. With the EU ratification, enough nations have ratified the Agreement, representing a sufficient percentage of the worldwide production of greenhouse gases, for the Agreement to take effect on November 4, 2016. Presently, more than 190 nations have signed the Agreement, of which around 76 have ratified it. In September, the U.S. and China mutually announced that the world’s two largest economies – and the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases – were ratifying the Agreement. Continue Reading Paris Agreement Climate Change Accord to Take Effect