Presidential Appointee at SBA Maligns OSHA's Industrial Noise Proposal; Claims Ear Plugs "Solve" the Problem

by Sidney Shapiro | April 15, 2011

Congress charged the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) with the job of representing the interests of small business before regulatory agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As an agency of the federal government, it has an obligation to taxpayers to get its facts straight before it speaks. Lately, it has ignored this basic obligation, most notably sponsoring a study that used flawed methodology to claim that regulations impose $1.75 trillion in costs every year.

Now, Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy at the SBA, has upped his attack on OSHA’s efforts to update its noise regulation, making assertions that are highly misleading and at times simply wrong. In an interview last week with the Phoenix Business Journal, Sargeant claimed:

The OSHA rule was a solution to a problem that had already been solved. Basically, this was a noise abatement rule. At some factories, there's noise. The machine makes noise. There's already a solution -- ear plugs, earmuffs that workers would wear. That solved the problem. OSHA came along and said, well, that may solve the problem. But we think companies should buy new equipment with lower noise figures. So now we've gone from a solution of $10 or so to millions of dollars to solve the same problem.

Dr. Sargeant, a presidential appointee, is not arguing that he thinks reducing machine noise isn't worth the cost; he's actually asserting ...

Echeverria Testifies on Eminent Domain Bill

by Matthew Freeman | April 13, 2011
CPR Member Scholar John Echeverria was on Capitol Hill yesterday, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution. His topic was a proposed bill from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to impose federal limits on state and local use of eminent domain – the authority to condemn private property so that it can be used for public purposes. The subject became particularly controversial in 2005 when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Kelo vs. City of New London, ...

White House Transparency Doesn't Apply to Industry Meetings on Worker Safety Rules

by Celeste Monforton | April 13, 2011
Cross-posted from The Pump Handle. President Obama received an award last week for his efforts to improve openness in federal agencies. Jon Stewart poked fun at it (see clip) and I actually thought it might have been an April Fool's joke because of what I'd learned earlier in the week. The President's own Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has hosted two meetings with industry representatives who are opposed to an OSHA regulation on crystalline silica, but OIRA fails ...

Making Good Use of Adaptive Management

by Yee Huang | April 12, 2011
Today CPR releases Making Good Use of Adaptive Management, a white paper explaining the basic principles of adaptive management and highlighting best practices for implementing and applying it to natural resources management.  Over the last two decades, natural resource scientists, managers, and policymakers have employed adaptive management of land and natural resources. The approach calls for resource managers to design management actions as structured and iterative scientific experiments. Resource managers monitor the results of a particular experiment and then adjust future management ...

Vitter and Bishop Bills Aim to Weaken Enforcement of Existing Environmental Protections

by Dan Rohlf | April 08, 2011
A student-run environmental group operating out of a 150-square-foot office at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon has an important lesson to teach congressional Republicans. In 2004, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center – a small group with an annual budget of a few thousand dollars and a single staff member – secured more fines for violations of pollution control laws than the collective efforts of 110 enforcement personnel at the State of Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality. NEDC ...

GOP's Latest Anti-Regulatory Effort is a (S)TRAIN; CPR's Steinzor to Testify on New Bill

by Matthew Freeman | April 07, 2011
This afternoon at 1:00 p.m., the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power will check one more box in the House GOP's ongoing effort to demonstrate its appreciation to the corporate interests that helped elect them, by holding a hearing on a proposal disingenuously called the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011, or as they acronym-ize it, the TRAIN Act. As the name does not at all suggest, it’s a bill ...

SBA Defends Peer Review Process on Regs Study; ‘Offered the Study for Review’ to Experts Beyond the Two Who Actually Responded

by Ben Somberg | April 06, 2011
When the U.S. Small Business Administration issued a study last September claiming regulations cost the U.S. economy $1.75 Trillion in a single year, the agency trumpeted that the "report was peer reviewed consistent with the Office of Advocacy’s data quality guidelines." But the peer review file included with the study was embarrassingly meager -- comments from all of two individuals. The authors, economists Nicole Crain and Mark Crain, ignored a fundamental criticism raised by one of the two reviewers that ...

White House Review Delays EPA Mountaintop Removal Guidance

by Holly Doremus | April 05, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. EPA has announced that it will delay finalizing its guidance memorandum on Clean Water Act permitting for mountaintop removal mining projects pending review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The announcement is bad news for Appalachian streams, and worse news for environmental interests hoping the Obama administration won’t completely cave to regulated interests. The guidance was issued in interim form on April 1 of last year. EPA described the memorandum as clarifying how ...

Environmental Justice and Adaptation to Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | April 04, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. I’m beginning to wonder whether we need an “Endangered People Act” to ensure that the most vulnerable get the protection they need from climate change impacts. Climate change will disproportionately affect vulnerable individuals and poorer regions and countries, as I discuss in a recent paper comparing adaptation efforts in China, England, and the U.S.  For example, by the end of the century, the number of heat wave days in Los Angeles could double, while the number ...

Right on the Commerce Clause, Wrong on the ESA

by Holly Doremus | April 01, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. As Rick noted earlier, the Ninth Circuit is now the fifth federal circuit court of appeals to reject a Commerce Clause challenge to the ESA. In San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority v. Salazar, a Ninth Circuit panel upheld protection of the Delta smelt. I agree with Rick’s analysis of the Commerce Clause holding, but wanted to make two additional points. First, while a petition for certiorari is almost inevitable, it’s unlikely to be granted. But ...

Key OSHA Health and Safety Initiative Potentially Delayed Months by OMB Nitpicking

by Sidney Shapiro | March 30, 2011
Last week, the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) approved a survey to be conducted for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as part of the agency's efforts to develop an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) standard. Surveys, like this one, have to be approved by OIRA according to the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the lengthy approval may stall development of the I2P2 standard for four or more months for no apparently good reason. OIRA made ...

Robert Glicksman Testifies at House Hearing on Agency Rulemaking Process

by Ben Somberg | March 29, 2011
CPR Member Scholar Robert Glicksman testifies at a hearing this afternoon on "Raising the Agencies' Grades – Protecting the Economy, Assuring Regulatory Quality and Improving Assessments of Regulatory Need." The hearing will be held by the Courts, Commercial and Administrate Law subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing will feature two witnesses from the Mercatus Center, who will argue that federal agencies produce flawed regulations, and need to engage in more rigorous regulatory analysis to provide better justifications of ...

EPA Punts on Cooling Water Rule; Despite Facts on the Ground, Decides Technology That Would Prevent Massive Fish Kills no Longer Feasible

by Amy Sinden | March 29, 2011
Around 6pm ET last night, after most reporters had wrapped up, EPA issued its long-awaited proposed cooling water rule. Under the Clean Water Act, this rule is supposed to protect the billions of fish and other aquatic organisms that are killed each day when they are squashed against intake screens or sucked up into cooling water systems at existing power plants and other industrial facilities. Unfortunately, the rule seems aimed more at protecting industry profits than fish. And in justifying the rule, EPA ...

Echoes of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in Today’s Debate over Regulation

by Matthew Freeman | March 25, 2011
One hundred years ago today, 146 people perished in one of the nation’s worst workplace tragedies – the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in the heart of New York City. The story is gruesome, and each detail of exactly how so many people were trapped in a burning building was, and remains, a reminder of what can happen when worker safety is sacrificed in the name of profit. Here’s the barest sketch. The Triangle Waist Factory in lower Manhattan relied on cheap, ...

As the VSL Turns...: In Value of a Statistical Life Debate at EPA, Moral Decisions Hide Behind Technical Jargon

by Douglas Kysar | March 24, 2011
A report yesterday from Inside EPA offered a fascinating overview of the agency’s struggle to update the way it assigns dollar values to the suffering and premature death that its regulations prevent. Seriously, as far as economic esoterica goes, this stuff is riveting. What’s more, your life may depend on it. Currently, EPA values each statistical human life saved by its rules at $7.9 million. This number is derived from so-called “wage-risk premium” studies that examine large data sets on employment and occupational ...

Energy Efficiency on the Rebound?

by Lesley McAllister | March 24, 2011
Cross-posted from Environmental Law Prof Blog. Energy efficiency policy is one of the few areas where we might still expect some progress at the federal level toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next few years.  Predictably, energy efficiency has become the target of criticism. Republican senators argue that phasing out inefficient incandescent light bulbs is anti-consumer even though it would save consumers money on their energy bills.  And in a New York Times article, John Tierney took aim at ...

Mintz Op-ed Looks at the Real Consequences of Proposed EPA Budget Cuts

by Ben Somberg | March 23, 2011
CPR Member Scholar Joel Mintz has an op-ed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel taking a look at the House's continuing resolution for the FY 2011 budget and what it would do to the EPA. Writes Mintz: House leaders would have us believe they're cutting fat from the budget. In fact, they're taking dead aim at nerves, muscles, and vital organs. EPA's existing regulations — and their enforcement — provide vital protections against emissions of toxic air and water pollutants, contamination ...

Does the Radiation from Japan Violate International Law When It Crosses International Boundaries?

by John Knox | March 22, 2011
Friday, the first traces of the plume of radioactive gas from the damaged Japanese reactors were reported to reach California. The cornerstone of international environmental law is often said to be the “prevention principle,” which says that states have “the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States.”  Does that mean that the transboundary radiation has put Japan in violation of international law?  In a word, No. Although the ...

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