When Politics Trump Science: How the Ozone Standard's Three-Year Delay Has Already Led to Thousands of Avoidable Deaths

by Rena Steinzor | July 20, 2011

This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst James Goodwin.

Few incidents better illustrate the Bush Administration’s outright hostility to politically inconvenient science than its 2008 rule updating the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). In the run-up to that rule, Bush’s EPA ignored the unanimous recommendation of the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC), an independent and well-respected advisor to the EPA on clean air issues, that it set the standard in the range of 60 to 70 parts per billion (ppb) to replace the existing standard of 84 ppb. Instead, the final rule—issued in the waning days of the Bush Administration—set the standard at 75 ppb, well above CASAC’s recommended range.

The ozone standard was so bad that soon after it was issued in 2008, CASAC took the unusual step of publicly criticizing Bush’s EPA for ignoring its advice.

Fortunately, the Obama Administration, which began before the ozone standard could take effect, delayed its implementation, and in September of 2010, the EPA began a formal reconsideration process to revise the ozone standard. The EPA is now set to issue a final rule setting the ozone standard somewhere in the recommended range of 60 to 70 ppb sometime next month—more than three years late. (In the interim, the original 84-ppb standard has remained in effect.)

The cost of this delay has been intolerably high. The EPA’s proposed revision is expected, by 2020, to ...

White Paper on Habitat Conservation Plans and Climate Change

by Holly Doremus | July 20, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Melinda Taylor at the University of Texas School of Law and I have just put out a white paper on Habitat Conservation Plans and Climate Change: Recommendations for Policy.  It can be accessed here through Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment, or here through UT’s Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law. A lot of attention has been paid lately to what role, if any, the Endangered Species Act should play ...

How to Diss A Book Without Reading It

by Carl Cranor | July 19, 2011
When you write a book, particularly one that has something to do with matters political, you have to expect criticism. So when I wrote Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants (Harvard, 2011), I fully expected it to take a shot or two – not just from some of my colleagues in academia, but also from allies of the chemical industry. In fact, since this book isn’t exactly my first rodeo, I’ve grown accustomed to reviewers ...

Regulatory Plans Show Agencies at Risk of Failing to Finish Numerous Critical Rules During President Obama's First Term

by Lena Pons | July 18, 2011
In April, CPR released a paper that looked at 12 critical rulemaking activities that we urged the Obama administration to finish by June 2012. The new regulatory agendas released by the agencies earlier this month show that instead of moving forward, the agencies are often slowing down.  Contrary to the “tsunami” of regulations that the Chamber of Commerce claims is hampering economic recovery, this is a molasses flow that will delay life-saving public protections for workers, air breathers and water drinkers.  ...

Debunked SBA Regulatory Costs Study Front and Center at House Energy & Commerce Committee Hearing

by Ben Somberg | July 15, 2011
The House Energy & Commerce sub-committee on Environment and the Economy held a hearing yesterday on “regulatory chaos” (yikes!). One figure seemed popular: $1.75 trillion. That’s how much regulations cost the U.S. economy each year, sub-committee vice-chair Tim Murphy said in his opening statement. Two of the four witnesses made the same claim in their testimony (William Kovacs of the Chamber of Commerce and Karen Harned of the National Federation of Independent Business). The committee’s briefing memo on the hearing ...

The Big Business Dilemma: What Could Happen When Government Is Gone

by Rena Steinzor | July 14, 2011
The nation’s capital is all but intolerable these days, even for those of us who have lived here for decades and are used to excessive histrionics and gross summer weather. A pall of bad, hot, wet air has settled over the place, and serves as a backdrop to the slow-motion car wreck that is the debt ceiling negotiations—in every sense a crisis of political creation. In the midst of this misery, a small spark of comic relief was provided yesterday by ...

Through the Looking Glass: Chemical Industry to Star in the Role of Weeping Walrus at House Hearing on EPA's Assessment of Toxic Chemicals

by Daniel Rosenberg | July 14, 2011
Editor's Note: This morning, CPR President Rena Steinzor will testify at a House hearing regarding EPA's Integrated Risk Information System chemical database (full testimony). This post by NRDC Senior Attorney Daniel Rosenberg, cross-posted from Switchboard, explains the importance of IRIS and how the program is under attack. Thursday morning, the House Science Committee’s Investigation and Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on EPA’s premier program for assessing the dangers of chemicals.   It is called the IRIS program, (which stands for ...

Some Pleasant Surprises in Agency Regulatory Plans

by Lena Pons | July 13, 2011
Last week, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of the Office of Management and Budget released the semiannual regulatory agenda. I pointed out that the agenda, which contains the regulatory agencies’ planned actions, was quite late. Although the plans share problems from past years, like simply pushing back the target dates for regulatory actions, there are some pleasant surprises. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is moving forward with some proactive regulatory responses to the Toyota recalls of ...

President Obama's Puzzling New Executive Order: Should the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Really be Spending Its Precious Time and Resources Weakening Existing Regulations?

by Thomas McGarity | July 13, 2011
On Monday, the White House announced that President Obama had signed a new executive order on federal regulation to supplement January’s executive order to executive branch regulatory agencies. The new executive order is aimed at the “independent agencies,” so named because the heads of those agencies do not serve at the pleasure of the president. By statute, they serve for a term of years and can be removed from office only “for cause,” which usually means misbehavior unrelated to the exercise of ...

The End of the Acid Rain Program

by Lesley McAllister | July 12, 2011
Cross-posted from Environmental Law Prof Blog. Do you realize that the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency  last week represents the end of the famed Acid Rain Program? It's a good thing because the Acid Rain Program had outlived its usefulness by several years and its allowance market had collapsed. Legislated into existence by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the Acid Rain Program (ARP) was a major experiment with cap-and-trade regulation. It began in ...

Member Scholars Pen Letter to OMB on Attacks on EPA's IRIS Toxics Database

by Ben Somberg | July 08, 2011
Last month, the American Chemistry Council sent a letter to Jacob Lew, Director of the Office of Managmenet and Budget, calling on OMB to “take greater responsibility in the coordination and review of chemical safety assessments” and to “require EPA to submit all ongoing EPA IRIS assessments to the NAS for independent review.” The letter was the latest industry attack on the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), the EPA’s primary toxicological database. IRIS assessments of chemicals are used in regulatory ...

Looking Back, But How Much Looking Ahead? Agencies Release Regulatory Agendas Months Late

by Lena Pons | July 07, 2011
The Administration has been busy promoting President Obama’s new approach to regulatory review, which required federal regulatory agencies to produce plans for how they would review existing regulations and look for regulations to cut. But while the mad dash to find regulations the administration can trot out as misguided or outdated continued, the agencies were delayed in releasing plans about what they want to do proactively to protect workers, children, and the environment. As our friend Celeste Monforton over at The ...

Species Conservation Efforts Only a Scapegoat in Missouri River Flooding

by Sandra Zellmer | July 06, 2011
This post was written by CPR Member Scholar Sandra Zellmer and John H. Davidson, an emeritus professor of law at the University of South Dakota. It appeared first in the Omaha World-Herald. As the Missouri River nears the 500-year flood mark, we sympathize with those whose homes and businesses are flooded. And we recognize that it’s natural for the afflicted to cast blame on a scapegoat — a practice as old as recorded history. But those who blame the flooding ...

BPA, the Chamber of Commerce, and a Summer Road Trip to Remember

by Shana Campbell Jones | July 05, 2011
Let’s go on a road trip. Whether it’s the beach or the mountains, we all know what going on a road trip means: great memories, possible adventure, time to mosey around the country we love. The Chamber of Commerce is also planning a road trip this summer, headed by former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Andrew Card, George W. Bush’s former chief of staff. But fun and relaxation are not on the itinerary. Regulations that could protect our children are. At ThinkProgress, CPR Member Scholar ...

OIRA's Annual Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Regulation: Sunstein Rips another Page from the Republican Playbook

by Amy Sinden | June 30, 2011
Upon reading the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) latest annual Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations, one can be forgiven for wondering momentarily whether the 2008 election was just a dream and whether we’re still in the midst of a Republican administration. OIRA is telling us that the primary goal of government regulation—particularly environmental, health, and safety regulation—is not to protect the environment or public health, but to “promote[] the goals of ...

Cass Sunstein and the Obama Legacy

by Rena Steinzor | June 28, 2011
Cross-posted from ACSblog. A series of catastrophic regulatory failures in recent years has focused attention on the weakened condition of regulatory agencies assigned to protect public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment. The failures are the product of a destructive convergence of funding shortfalls, political attacks, and outmoded legal authority, setting the stage for ineffective enforcement and unsupervised industry self-regulation. From the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico that killed eleven and caused grave environmental and ...

EPA's Apparent Effort to Appease Environmentalists over the Boiler MACT Rule Not Very Appeasing

by Catherine O'Neill | June 24, 2011
The EPA has developed an inexplicable penchant for making decisions that please no one. So, it should come as no surprise that its announcement today regarding the ongoing, will-they-won’t-they Boiler MACT saga falls into this category too. The agency traded in the indefinite delay it gave itself last month to “reconsider” the final Boiler MACT standards it issued in February for a firm deadline:  The EPA now promises to complete the reconsidered final standard by the end of April of 2012. Environmentalists responded ...

Evan Bayh Kicks off Anti-Regulatory Campaign With Series of Falsehoods

by Sidney Shapiro | June 24, 2011
On Wednesday, former senator Evan Bayh joined former George W. Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card at the Chamber of Commerce to formally announce their plans to tour around the country campaigning against regulations. The pair have already jumped into a series of falsehoods, endorsing, for example, the discredited SBA-sponsored study claiming regulations cost $1.75 Trillion in a year. Over at ThinkProgress, CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro takes a closer look at the pair's claims: Bayh and Card see regulators ...

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