Jobs Council's Shortsighted Report Calls for Gumming up Public Protections

by Rena Steinzor | January 17, 2012

A panel of business leaders comprising President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness today published a “Road Map to Renewal,” including proposals for expanded oil and gas drilling, and, of particular interest, five pages of policy recommendations related to regulation. Among them were procedural proposals aimed at further hamstringing regulatory agencies in their effort to promulgate badly needed safeguards for health, safety, and the environment. 

For example, the Council proposes:

  • lengthening the regulatory process by adding in an additional public-comment period so that commenters can comment on other commenters’ comments,
  • requiring independent regulatory agencies be required by statute to conduct cost-benefit analyses of their regulations, presumably so that regulations that do not sufficiently benefit industry’s bottom line would be rejected, and
  • creating a group of economists within regulatory agencies, separated in some fashion from the legal and scientific issue experts, who would pass judgment on proposed regulations.

It’s worth noting that several of the proposals from the Jobs Council are ideas industry and its Republican allies have been pushing for a while; the cost-benefit requirement for independent agencies, for example, was included in the Regulatory Accountability Act and CURB Act, two bills popular in the GOP. The comments-on-comments concept, meanwhile, has been touted by the anti-regulation Center for Regulatory Effectiveness.

All in all, the recommendations start from a false premise – that environmental, health and safety safeguards are the economy’s problem – and proceed toward ...

Where Does NOAA Belong?

by Holly Doremus | January 14, 2012
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Clearly I need to slow down Rick’s internet connection to get him to stop scooping me. Rick reported earlier that the President has floated a proposal to reorganize the Commerce Department and related agencies which would apparently include moving NOAA (all of NOAA, according to OMB’s Jeffrey Zeints, not just its ESA functions) into the Department of Interior. Actually, although that’s the way the story is being spun out in the media, it’s not exactly what’s going ...

Can You Stand to Hear More About Sackett?

by Holly Doremus | January 11, 2012
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. As usual, I’m behind Rick on commenting on the latest Supreme Court development. (In my defense, it is the first day of classes, although I know that’s not much of an excuse.) Unlike Rick, I didn’t attend the oral argument (see lame excuse above), but having read the transcript I agree with the general consensus that EPA is going to lose this case. However, I don’t agree with Rick’s conclusion that “the Sacketts will wind up ...

GAO Releases New Report on IRIS

by Matt Shudtz | January 10, 2012
On Monday, GAO released its latest installment in what has become a somewhat regular series of reports on EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program.  In 2008, GAO warned that “the IRIS database was at serious risk of becoming obsolete because the agency had not been able to keep its existing assessments current, decrease its ongoing assessments workload to a manageable level, or complete assessments of the most important chemicals of concern.”  Although IRIS didn’t get a clean bill of ...

The Age of Greed: Chemical Industry Fights to Suppress Dioxin Assessment

by Rena Steinzor | January 09, 2012
With a reverential nod to maverick economist Jeff Madrick, who wrote a popular book of the same name, I begin today a series of blog posts entitled “The Age of Greed” that is designed to shine a bright spotlight into the dark corners where Washington lobbyists are busy looting the protection of public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment.  Business-as-usual efforts to stall or derail regulation won’t make it into this space.  Rather, behavior has to be demonstrably ...

In Chevron versus Ecuador, the Decisions (and the Ironies) Multiply

by John Knox | January 09, 2012
If environmental cases had their own Olympics, the dispute between Chevron and Ecuador would be a contender for multiple gold medals.  It seems to have a shot not only at winning the award for the largest damages, but also for running the longest and appearing in the most courtrooms.  To recap:  Residents of the Amazon have been trying for nearly 20 years to receive compensation for massive environmental damage Chevron’s predecessor, Texaco, allegedly caused in Ecuador in what’s been called ...

In Sackett v. EPA, Troubling Potential for SCOTUS to Undermine Government's Ability to Promptly Respond to Environmental Threats

by Nina Mendelson | January 04, 2012
On January 9th, the Supreme Court will hear Sackett v. EPA, which concerns whether an individual has a right to a judicial hearing before, rather than after, an agency finalizes a so-called administrative compliance order.  The case has important potential to undermine the environmental protection, including the government’s ability to promptly respond to environmental threats such as factory outfalls leaking pollutants into rivers.  The lawsuit involves an Idaho couple, Chantell and Mike Sackett, with a .63 acre property overlooking Priest ...

CPR Announces New Executive Director: Jake Caldwell

by Rena Steinzor | January 03, 2012
It’s my great pleasure to announce that the Board of Directors of CPR has selected Jake Caldwell to serve as our new executive director. He succeeds Shana Jones, who earlier this year announced she would be leaving CPR to teach environmental policy at Old Dominion University.  Jake comes to CPR after six years at the Center for American Progress, where he was the Director of Policy for Agriculture, Trade and Energy. His research and writing in that capacity frequently focused ...

Looking in the Wrong Place: Senators Warner and Moran Join House GOP Seeking to Codify Cost-Benefit Analysis, an Erroneous Remedy for Anemic Economic Growth

by Sidney Shapiro | December 29, 2011
Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced a bill earlier this month that proposes to change regulatory and tax policies with the goal of encouraging more entrepreneurial activity and creating more jobs.  The legislation contains a grab-bag of proposals, such as allowing more aliens with professional expertise in stem cell research to become permanent residents and extending an income tax credit for certain small businesses.  I can’t speak to the merits of these and other proposals in the ...

American Chemistry Council Doesn't Get What it Wants in Omnibus; Pretends to EPA That it Does

by Ben Somberg | December 22, 2011
On Tuesday, the American Chemistry Council sent EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a letter about the provisions regarding IRIS toxic chemical assessments in the omnibus spending bill. The ACC said: H.R. 2055 also directs EPA to include documentation describing how the NAS Chapter 7 recommendations have been implemented or addressed in all IRIS assessments released in Fiscal Year 2012. The documentation is to include an explanation for why certain recommendations were not incorporated. Thus, it is incumbent on EPA to fully ...

Three Years After Tennessee Disaster, U.S. Effort to Prevent the Next Coal Ash Catastrophe Faces Uncertain Future

by Ben Somberg | December 22, 2011
Three years ago today, an earthen wall holding back a giant coal ash impoundment failed in Kingston, Tennessee, sending more than a billion gallons of coal ash slurry over nearby land and into the Emory River. The ash had chemicals including arsenic, lead, and mercury. Clean up costs could be as much as $1.2 billion. Public policy progress often comes in the wake of disasters. But three years after Kingston, it very much remains to be seen whether that disaster ...

The Utility MACT: Finally Telling Coal Plants They Can't Spew All the Mercury They Want

by Catherine O'Neill | December 21, 2011
It was October 1990, George H.W. Bush was President, and the vote wasn’t close in either chamber: Congress overwhelmingly passed the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, including provisions requiring EPA to reduce mercury emissions from major sources such as power plants. Today the EPA at long last released its rule regulating mercury emissions from coal-fired utilities.  The fact that the largest remaining sources of mercury will finally be required to reduce their emissions is an important and historic development. And ...

The Cost of Delay: Stormwater Rule Postponed Again

by Yee Huang | December 21, 2011
Whoever accused the EPA of running amok is surely chagrined by the news last week that the agency is behind (again) on another important rule, this one to regulate the stormwater that pollutes many waterbodies across the United States.  Nancy Stoner, EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, told a House Subcommittee last week that the agency would be missing another deadline for proposing the rule. "We're continuing to work on those …  We are behind schedule," she said, according to ...

GOP Provision in Omnibus Spending Bill Will Add Extra Review for IRIS Arsenic Assessment, Cause Delay

by Matt Shudtz | December 20, 2011
The environmental community breathed a small sigh of relief last week when congressional negotiators released a spending bill without policy riders that would have prevented EPA from advancing rules on greenhouse gases, endangered species, and coal ash.  One rider that was included will slow EPA’s efforts to assess toxic chemicals’ potential health effects under the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) process.  Although the rider was substantially revised from a version floated in the House in July, it will still delay ...

Obama Administration vs. Obama Administration: Are Regulations a Problem in this Economy?

by Rena Steinzor | December 15, 2011
The Obama Administration is sending mixed messages. On the one hand, several top economic officials have noted the extensive evidence that a lack of demand, rather than regulation, is the cause of a slow economic recovery and low job creation. Yet the President himself has contradicted his economic advisers on the issue in a misguided effort to pander to industry concerns, leaving the Administration’s message confused. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, hardly the most progressive force in the Administration, said in ...

Draft ESA Listing Policy Suggests "Museum Piece" Approach to Species Conservation

by Dan Rohlf | December 13, 2011
A draft policy released for comment last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service took on the challenging question of defining the circumstances under which only a portion of an ailing species may be eligible for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, the Services’ proposal continued the agencies’ trend toward restrictively interpreting the ESA’s listing provisions. If finalized, the new policy will likely result in fewer protections for formerly widespread species, such ...

House Passes REINS Act; CPR's Shapiro Responds

by Sidney Shapiro | December 07, 2011
Within the last hour, the House of Representatives approved the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act – the REINS Act. The bill was among House Republicans’ top priorities for the year, and they’ve made it and a series of other anti-regulatory bills a centerpiece of their agenda. The plain purpose of the REINS Act is to make it all but impossible for the nation’s regulatory agencies to adopt regulations that would enforce a host of protective laws, ...

What David Brooks Gets Right -- Regulations Aren't Tanking the Economy -- and What He Misses

by Isaac Shapiro | December 07, 2011
Cross-posted from the Economic Policy Institute's Working Economics blog. Isaac Shapiro is EPI's Director of Regulatory Policy Research. The House of Representatives is poised to vote for the REINS (Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) bill today; this would come on top of votes on two bills last week that would also upend the regulatory process.  These efforts are premised on assertions that regulations are greatly damaging the economy, and David Brooks’ op-ed Tuesday is another timely reminder that these ...

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