Tom Ewing’s Regulatory Update

* Titanium Sponge: BIS – the Bureau of industry and Security, part of the Department of Commerce – is seeking comments on behalf of the “Titanium Sponge Working Group.”  Titanium sponge…?  Well, I know what a kitchen sponge is, but I never heard of a titanium sponge.  According to a site called Metalpedia titanium sponge results from processing raw titanium ore.  Titanium, of course, is critical in aircraft and defense industries.  Production is currently concentrated in just six countries, with China being both the largest producer and the one with the largest production capacity.  See the problem?  Right now, BIS doesn’t see sponge conditions warranting market corrections, e.g., tariffs.  However, this issue is not settled, and the Working Group seeks public comments that can expand on deliberations about sponge policy.  BIS presents seven broad questions within the meeting notice.  Comments are due January 11.

* Waters of the United States: EPA has issued draft guidance for Clean Water Act discharge permits for point source discharges that travel through groundwater before reaching waters of the United States.  This is built upon a Supreme Court case: County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund.  Just what qualifies as federal waters, and therefore gets federal protection, is one of those issues that may be settled, but will always be contentious.  EPA wants comments on the draft guidance.  Watch for possible future rulemaking.  Comments are due by January 11.

*  Thinking big and, uh, maybe wanna daydream for a few minutes…?  The US Forest Service has prepared boundary descriptions for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area exterior boundary, Special Management Area boundaries, and Urban Area boundaries.  These are Congressionally Designated areas.  The boundary descriptions clarify previously existing boundary maps.  The boundaries are prepared in partnership with the Columbia River Gorge Commission.  Just how big?  Oh only about 350,000 acres.

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