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CRS — EPA and the Army Corps’ Proposed Rule to Define “Waters of the United States” (March 20, 2015)

May 28, 2015 Comments off

EPA and the Army Corps’ Proposed Rule to Define “Waters of the United States” (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On March 25, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) jointly announced a proposed rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The proposal would revise regulations that have been in place for more than 25 years. Revisions are proposed in light of 2001 and 2006 Supreme Court rulings that interpreted the regulatory scope of the CWA more narrowly than previously, but created uncertainty about the precise effect of the Court’s decisions.

According to the agencies, the proposed rule would revise the existing administrative definition of “waters of the United States” consistent with legal rulings and science concerning the interconnectedness of tributaries, wetlands, and other waters and effects of these connections on the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of downstream waters. Waters that are “jurisdictional” are subject to the multiple regulatory requirements of the CWA. Nonjurisdictional waters are not subject to those requirements.

This report describes the proposed rule—which the agencies refer to as the Clean Water Rule— and includes a table comparing the existing regulatory language that defines “waters of the United States” with the proposed revisions. The proposal is particularly focused on clarifying the regulatory status of waters located in isolated places in a landscape. It does not modify some categories of waters that currently are jurisdictional by rule (traditional navigable waters, interstate waters and wetlands, the territorial seas, and impoundments). The proposed rule would replace EPA-Corps guidance that was issued in 2003 and 2008, which has guided agency interpretation of the Court’s rulings but also has caused considerable confusion.

Reshoring: Myth or Reality?

May 28, 2015 Comments off

Reshoring: Myth or Reality?
Source: IBISWorld

For decades, US companies in the manufacturing sector have increasingly sought to cut costs and improve profitability by offshoring and offshore outsourcing operations. Offshoring is the process in which companies base their operations overseas; offshore outsourcing is the process in which companies base part of their operations overseas and third-party companies are hired to perform operational duties.

However, recent analysis by independent sources suggests there has been some reversal in this trend over the past five years. As manufacturing makes its way back to the United States, a process known as reshoring, US-based manufacturers will have to determine the potential consequences and opportunities that can arise as a result of this movement.

The paperwork pile-up: Measuring the burden of charter school applications

May 28, 2015 Comments off

The paperwork pile-up: Measuring the burden of charter school applications
Source: American Enterprise Institute

Key Points

  • Charter schools were created with a clear bargain in mind: charter authorizers would give operators autonomy to run schools as they saw fit as long as those schools met defined performance metrics.
  • Currently, the balance between accountability and autonomy is heavily tilted toward accountability, with charter authorizers requiring unnecessarily extensive, time-consuming applications.
  • Excising unnecessary or inappropriate requirements could shorten the average charter application by one-third, saving applicants more than 700 hours of work and avoiding wasting money that could be better spent educating students.

Report of Findings from an Open Data Roundtable with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

May 28, 2015 Comments off

Report of Findings from an Open Data Roundtable with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PDF)
Source: U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (GovLab)

Today, data is widely recognized as not just an important tool, but a platform for innovation, and this Administration has taken many important steps towards making government data more open and accessible to the public. As Secretary Pritzker has said, the Department of Commerce is “America’s Data Agency,” and has a unique and central role in unlocking the potential of government data.

For the USPTO, disclosing and disseminating data go to the very heart of our mission. After all, the patent system rests on the bargain an inventor makes when he or she discloses an invention and teaches the public how it works, and in turn receives the right to exclude others from practicing it. From that perspective, the USPTO has been in the business of open data for a very long time. Our data lets inventors and businesses know when they need to invent around a technology and when they need to consider a license, which serves as fuel for our nation’s innovation engine. If we are going to live up to our mission to disseminate information about patents and trademarks, it requires an agency-wide commitment to the principles of open data—a commitment that the USPTO has made.

The Social Progress Index: A holistic measure of progress

May 28, 2015 Comments off

The Social Progress Index: A holistic measure of progress
Source: Deloitte

On 9 April, the 2015 Social Progress Index launched – it measures the social and environmental outcomes for 133 countries, covering 94% of the world’s population.

As a complement to economic measures such as GDP, the Social Progress Index provides a more holistic measure of country performance and helps to drive real and sustainable growth that is important for business and vital for building a prosperous society.

How did your country do?

An objective look at high-frequency trading

May 28, 2015 Comments off

An objective look at high-frequency trading
Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers

Today’s trading is complex and frequently involves little human intervention. Five years after the “Flash Crash,” do you know how high frequency trading and dark pools work? Our new report separates fact from fiction.

Industry Impacts of a Canadian Housing Bubble

May 28, 2015 Comments off

Industry Impacts of a Canadian Housing Bubble
Source: IBISWorld

The fear of a housing bubble has been renewed in Canada, as the drop in oil prices in recent months prompted a surprise interest-rate cut by the central bank in January. As expected, the country’s big banks have reduced their prime rates, which are tied to home-equity lines of credit and variable-rate mortgages, but did not fully pass on the Bank of Canada’s 25-percentage point cut. Coupled with home prices that continue to grow, lower rates could encourage borrowers to continue entering the market, ahead of the spring home-buying season in the coming months. Once again, the cooling housing market is gaining some steam.

Analysts and policymakers have debated whether or not Canada is following in the footsteps of the American housing crisis that precipitated the 2007 to 2009 recession. Rising house prices encourage speculators to enter the market, which typically fuels a housing bubble, as it creates artificial demand and pushes prices further. Eventually, as affordability dwindles, supply will begin to outpace demand, resulting in price corrections that signify a bust. Skeptics point to favourable demographic trends, a sound banking system and stronger regulatory oversight to argue that Canada is in for a soft landing. However, household debt remains alarmingly high and, combined with an overvalued property market, creates the necessary environment for a real estate bubble.

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