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 important public health protections on arsenic and other toxic chemicals.
Ever since the National Research Council released its review of the IRIS formaldehyde assessment in April, the chemical industry and its GOP allies have been arguing that the IRIS program should be stopped until EPA revamps its process for assessing chemical risks. The NRC committee went beyond its charge of assessing EPA’s draft formaldehyde assessment and included some significant criticisms regarding the form of recent IRIS assessments and EPA’s transparency about its methods for developing assessments. But even though NRC’s complaints were serious, the reviewers were careful to state explicitly that EPA should not delay even the formaldehyde assessment as the agency works toward implementing NRC’s recommendations for improving the IRIS process.
The chemical industry’s congressional backers like to embrace the NRC report, but conveniently omit the part about not stalling current assessments. These industry backers shoehorned some particularly extreme riders into the budget bill debated in the House in
Obama Administration vs. Obama Administration: Are Regulations a Problem in this Economy?
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
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
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
Sen. McCaskill Joins the Republican Attack on Regulations with Misguided Bill
On Tuesday, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced the Bipartisan Jobs Creation Act, legislation that offers a number of proposals for jump-starting the economy. The bill includes two provisions that would hobble the regulatory system without generating the new jobs that the Senators seek. If these provisions were enacted, the bill would block regulatory safeguards that protect all Americans and our environment. The bill’s regulatory provisions would make it harder for the EPA and other regulatory agencies
Don Blankenship Still Needs to Be Prosecuted
Booth Goodwin, the U.S. Attorney for the southern district of West Virginia, and Attorney General Eric Holder announced today a landmark settlement with Alpha Natural Resources, the coal company that bought out its rival Massey Energy after a catastrophic explosion deep within the Big Branch mine killed 29 miners. Alpha recently announced that its third quarter 2011 profits had more than doubled in the wake of its purchase of Massey, up to $66 million in the quarter. The settlement requires
David Brooks on OIRA
New York Times columnist David Brooks weighs in this morning on CPR’s latest report, Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Health, Worker Safety and the Environment. To his credit, he begins by dismissing one of congressional Republicans’ principal lines of argument for 2011 – that an imagined tsunami of Obama Administration regulatory excess is somehow at the root of the nation’s economic distress. In fact, almost any economist will tell you that we got
OIRA's All-You-Can-Meet Policy in Practice: Indulging Industry Lobbyists (It Doesn't Have to Be This Way)
by Ben Somberg | December 02, 2011
The CPR white paper on OIRA earlier this week looked at how this little office within OMB facilitates an industry-dominated process that serves to weaken regulations proposed by federal agencies. Appearances by industry representatives have outnumbered those by public interest lobbyists more than 5-to-1 in meetings at OIRA in the last ten years, the paper found (3,763 to 708, for the record). Does it have to be this way? The Obama Administration has said on numerous occasions that it has
OSHA Expands National Emphasis Program for Chemical Facility Process Safety Management
by Matt Shudtz | December 01, 2011
This week OSHA expanded a two-year-old enforcement program aimed at preventing catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals—the type of headline-grabbing event that ruined thousands of lives in Bhopal in 1984 and was narrowly avoided in West Virginia in 2008. Originally targeted at just three regions (and optional for state-plan states in those regions), the National Emphasis Program for PSM Covered Chemical Facilities (aka “Chem NEP”) has now been expanded nationwide and requires all state-plan states to adopt their own version
Sweeping Anti-Reg Bills Reach House Floor
by Ben Somberg | December 01, 2011
The “Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act” (RFIA) and the “Regulatory Accountability Act” (RAA) are headed for votes on the House floor shortly (today and/or tomorrow). The “Gum Up Public Health and Safety Protections Act” apparently wasn’t going to sell as well. A quick recap of the Regulatory Accountability Act, via CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro’s Congressional testimony on the bill in October: The regulatory system is already too ossified, and H.R. 3010 would only exacerbate this problem. It currently takes four to
Is State Ownership of Public Trust Waters At Risk When SCOTUS Hears PPL Montana v. Montana?
When the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral argument in PPL Montana, L.L.C v. State of Montana on December 7, it will consider issues of constitutional history dating to the early days of the American Republic and legal sources that some claim (and others dispute) trace to Magna Charta and the Institutes of Justinian in Roman law. The court will also consider a factual record that includes the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Moreover, the case involves a challenge for
Even More Evidence Disputes Claims that Regulation Is Stalling Economic Recovery, But Regulatory Opponents Continue to Press Their (False) Claims
Republicans in the House have spent much of the fall trying to blame regulation for the nation’s slow economic recovery. The fact that there is no reasonable evidence to back up this claim is apparently not a concern for the regulatory opponents. Moreover, regulatory opponents skip entirely over the impacts of the failure to regulate, pretending that while regulation imposes costs on the economy, the failure to regulate does not. Now, there is even more evidence of that regulation cannot
New Report: Behind Closed Doors at the White House, Obama Administration Politicizes the Regulatory Process
When former Harvard Law Professor and eclectic intellectual Cass Sunstein was named administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), conservative, industry-oriented Wall Street Journal editorial writers enthused that his appointment was a “promising sign.” A slew of subsequent events has proved their optimism well placed, as we have noted repeatedly in CPRBlog. But nothing beats hard, empirical evidence. In a report released today, CPR announces the results of an exhaustive six-month analysis of the barebones information OIRA
Small Business Owners: Top Concern is Poor Sales. Blanche Lincoln: Top Concern is Regulations.
by Ben Somberg | November 22, 2011
Former Senator Blanche Lincoln, currently heading an anti-regulatory campaign called “Small Businesses for Sensible Regulation,” appeared on CNBC on Friday to make her case. Lincoln’s been busy trying to use different iterations of a debunked SBA report claiming astronomical costs for regulations. This time she skipped that piece, but offered this take (at 3:15): This is the single most important issue to small businesses. It’s the biggest threat. The compliance with government regulations that don’t make sense, that cost ‘em
Sore Losers: Two House Subcommittee Chairs Want to Discount the Lives of Seniors in Last-Ditch Effort to Downplay Benefits of Clean Air Regulation
by Amy Sinden | November 17, 2011
Remember that kid on the playground who always insisted on changing the rules of the game and then still threw a tantrum when he lost? That’s just the kind of spoiled-brat behavior we’re seeing from the coal industry and its elected agents on Capitol Hill this week. Coal and other polluting industries have spent decades complaining about the federal laws that protect public health and the environment, arguing that we should change the rules by which they operate, forcing agencies to perform
Fifth Circuit Mulls Katrina Flood Ruling
Today’s question: When are flood waters not “flood waters”? We New Orleanians have become fluent in all things subaqueous; last week three Texans sitting on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals took their turn. Yes, we’re talking about Katrina. Or, more specifically, its flood waters, which busted federal levees in fifty places, swamped 80% of New Orleans, and caused 800 deaths in the urban area. It is beyond argument that federal malfeasance played a key role. But sovereign immunity
TransCanada Says Nebraska Bill on Pipeline Rerouting Is Unconstitutional. Here's Why They're Wrong.
The Nebraska Legislature is in a special session currently to consider five bills concerning the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The situation was shaken up by Thursday’s announcement from the Obama Administration that it was pushing back its decision on federal approval of the pipeline. This news may take away some urgency for the Nebraska Legislature, but considering that no options (including the original proposed route) have been taken off the table, the bills remain firmly relevant. Nebraska—and any other states