Farm groups are cheering final congressional passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill after weeks of delay in the House. The bill includes $550 billion in new spending for a range of needs affecting agriculture and rural Americans —  from broadband to roads and bridges, inland waterways, Western water projects and clean energy development. 
“The supply chain challenges over the past year have highlighted the reality that we can get supply right, and we can get demand right, but if we do not get infrastructure right, we, as an industry and as a broader economy, will not flourish,” said Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. 
Timing note: President Biden said this weekend that he planned to have a formal signing ceremony for the bill when the lawmakers who worked on it are available to attend. 
Keep in mind: The intra-party impasse that had stalled the public works bill since August didn’t break until a small group of Democrats committed to supporting the larger, and partisan Build Back Better Act on the condition that its official cost estimate is in line what the White House has projected. 
The moderates agreed to consider that legislation, which includes Biden’s social spending and climate priorities, when the House returns to action after this week’s recess. 
The bigger question is what happens to the BBB bill when it gets to the 50-50 Senate. The measure is likely to be scaled back to satisfy the two key moderates in that chamber, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. 
Administration nixes first RFS refinery waiver
EPA has turned down a refinery exemption from the Renewable Fuel Standard for the first time under the Biden administration. The waiver request that was denied was for the 2019 compliance year. 
EPA has 29 pending requests for small refinery exemptions for 2019 and 28 more for 2020. There are three pending SRE requests for 2021. 
“Our industry lost more than 4 billion gallons of demand due to the previous administration’s rampant abuse of the SRE program, and we are pleased to see that the days of EPA-induced demand destruction appear to be behind us,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association. “EPA’s new leadership appears to be making good on its promises to rein in the SRE program.”
OSHA vaccination, testing rule stayed by appeals court

Barely out of the gate, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule requiring employees in companies of 100 or more to get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing has been stayed by a federal court.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said Saturday there was “cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate,” whose requirements were due to kick in Dec. 6 for all but the testing provisions, which have a Jan. 4 compliance deadline.

The order signed by the three-judge panel was in response to a petition brought by a management company and 15 locally owned Louisiana supermarkets, including Ralph’s Market, Butcher Boy, and Save A Lot, employing nearly 500 people.

The states of Texas, Louisiana, Utah, South Carolina and Mississippi and six individual workers from Texas are also petitioners.

Twenty-six states have also sued in other appeals courts. The 5thCircuit gave OSHA until 5 p.m. today to respond to the petitioners’ motion for a permanent injunction.

EPA, Corps extend deadline for WOTUS roundtable nominations

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have extended the deadline to submit nominations for regional roundtables to discuss development of a new definition of “waters of the U.S.”
 “In response to robust interest in these roundtables,” the agencies said in the Federal Register they would now accept nominations until Dec. 1. But they clarified that they would consider nominated groups of no more than 15 people with “diverse perspectives” even if they lack a representative from “one or more of the named stakeholder groups.”

Those groups include: “agriculture; conservation groups; developers; drinking water/wastewater management; environmental organizations; environmental justice communities; industry; and other key interests” in the region. 

Vilsack pushes UK on biotech approvals

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took time during his attendance at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow to impress upon his British counterpart how important it is that the UK not delay the approval of genetically modified ag traits.

The U.S. is still hoping that the British will not keep the lengthy and burdensome approach to biotech approvals that typifies the European Union approach. Meanwhile, Vilsack said he highlighted during the meeting that there are 18 GM events still waiting for approval in the UK.

“The UK has indicated that they are embracing a science approach … which we think allows them to move forward on these 18 events,” Vilsack told reporters in a conference call.

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