Miner Safety and Health Act Faces Committee Vote Today

by Matt Shudtz | July 21, 2010

Just before the July 4 recess, Representative George Miller, Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, introduced the Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010. Recent explosions at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine, Tesoro’s Anacortes (WA) refinery, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, and U.S. Steel’s coke oven in Clairton (PA), highlight the life-threatening hazards that American workers face on a daily basis. Despite these hazards—and the myriad other less serious or even chronic hazards that don’t make headlines—workers continue to do their jobs day in and day out.

Contrast these workers’ diligence with that of certain members of Congress, who, in advance of today’s committee vote on the Miner Safety and Health Act, have said that they want to hold off on legislating until they see the official reports on the causes of the Upper Big Branch explosion. Sure, official reports on that explosion will reveal important details about exactly what caused that particular disaster, notable for its severity and harrowing death toll. But as MSHA proved with its five-day “inspection blitz” of 57 underground coal mines in April, miners continue to work in conditions that we know are hazardous. The problem isn’t that we don’t understand the hazards that lead to explosions or other dangerous conditions, it’s that companies are choosing not to comply with the standards that would protect their workers. In just three days, MSHA issued more than 1,500 citations for violations of federal mine health and safety ...

Utilities-Only Carbon Cap

by Daniel Farber | July 16, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. According to Thursday's NY Times, Senate Democrats have agreed to include a utilities-only cap-and-trade program in their energy bill.  That’s certainly not ideal — it excludes a large number of industrial sources, which limits its environmental effectiveness.  The utilities-only program will also be less economically efficient, since it precludes taking advantage of possible low-cost reductions available in the industrial sector. Opinions will always differ about how much you can compromise before the game isn’t worth the ...

Some Toyota Context

by Ben Somberg | July 15, 2010
The last time the WSJ attempted a big scoop on the Toyota story (attempting to discredit the Prius driver case in California), the article did not hold up well. This week's story ("Early Tests Pin Toyota Accidents on Drivers") has caught attention, and a response from NHTSA: the agency has "several more months of work to do" before it announces conclusions of its investigation. From the response by Safety Research & Strategies Inc.: Recall that Toyota reported to Congress in ...

Dangerous Work Conditions For Migrant Women in Maryland Crab Industry, Report Says

by Ben Somberg | July 14, 2010
A report released in Washington this morning highlights "The Hidden Struggles of Migrant Worker Women In The Maryland Crab Industry." The paper, by Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. and the International Human Right Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law, is focused mostly on immigration policy issues (a little outside our purview), but I wanted to note the section on worker safety. The report looks at the hundreds of Mexican women who travel every year to ...

OIRA's Fuzzy Math on Coal Ash: A Billion Here, a Billion There

by Rena Steinzor | July 13, 2010
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Michael Patoka, a student at the University of Maryland School of Law and research assistant to Steinzor. Last October, the EPA proposed to regulate, for the first time, the toxic coal ash that sits in massive landfills and ponds next to coal-fired power plants across the nation. The 140 million tons of ash generated every year threaten to contaminate groundwater and cause catastrophic spills, like the 1-billion-gallon release that devastated ...

Interior Hits the Pause Button Again

by Holly Doremus | July 13, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. As he had promised, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Monday issued a new decision memorandum suspending certain deepwater drilling operations.Monday’s decision replaces the moratorium that the federal District Court in New Orleans enjoined on June 22, and which the Fifth Circuit declined to reinstate last week. As I made clear in my post on the Fifth Circuit decision, I think both the District Court and the Fifth Circuit were wrong on the first moratorium. Even if ...

Stay Denied in Appeal of Offshore Moratorium Decision

by Holly Doremus | July 09, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit heard arguments Thursday on the Obama administration’s request that it stay the District Court’s injunction of the 6-month deepwater oil development moratorium, and by a 2-1 vote quickly rejected the request. The moratorium halted any new drilling, and the granting of any new permits for drilling, in depths beyond 500 feet based on the Secretary of Interior’s finding that “deepwater drilling poses an unacceptable threat of serious and irreparable ...

EPA Threads the Needle with New CAIR Rule

by Victor Flatt | July 08, 2010
On Tuesday, the EPA released its long awaited rule to replace the Bush era Clean Air Interstate Rule, invalidated by the DC Circuit in 2008’s North Carolina v. EPA. There are many things that could have been different or improved, but given the EPA’s need to get a rule out quickly to replace the existing rule, they have done a good job of addressing the flaws of the earlier rule and getting something in place. The main problem with the previous ...

A Dose of Media False Equivalence

by Matthew Freeman | July 08, 2010
Over on Slate this weekend, William Saletan posted an Elena Kagan piece in which he describes a 1996 incident in which the future presumptive Supreme Court Justice, then working at the White House, commented on a draft statement on “partial birth abortion” by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).  Congress was then on the verge of banning certain abortion procedures lumped together under the umbrella of “partial birth,” a name made up by the right wing and not ...

Back in Black, Consumer Product Safety Edition

by Ben Somberg | July 07, 2010
Sorry to link to the Daily Show again, but I swear it's relevant. On last night's show, Lewis Black covered recent food safety and consumer product safety news. "But knowingly selling us broken cars, poisoned medicines -- if I didn't know any better, I'd think these companies were just in for the money!" ...

Out of the Scrum, a Bad Deal for the Chesapeake Bay

by Rena Steinzor | July 06, 2010
Desperate to move a funding bill for Chesapeake Bay restoration out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, progressive Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) went into the scrum with one of the body’s most conservative members, James Inhofe (R-OK). After a struggle of uncertain intensity and duration, the two emerged, with Inhofe, who openly ridicules the idea of global climate change, firmly in control of the ball.  Cardin agreed to put his name on a dispiriting proposal that misses a crucial ...

Offshore Drilling and Endangered Species -- Part 2

by Holly Doremus | July 06, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Previously I wrote about the shortcomings of ESA consultation on the Deepwater Horizon and other offshore oil rigs. Today I take up the implications of the spill itself under the ESA. At least one ESA lawsuit has already been filed, and at least partially resolved. The Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint on July 1, accusing BP and the Coast Guard of killing ...

BP Oil Spill: CPR's Flatt Calls for Realistic Worst-Case Planning

by Matthew Freeman | July 05, 2010
In an op-ed in this morning's Raleigh News & Observer, CPR Member Scholar Victor Flatt describes why it is that BP was allowed to drill its Macondo 252 deepwater well -- the one that is now spewing oil into the Gulf -- without conducting a serious analysis of the risks of a blowout, and providing a detailed and realistic plan describing what it would do in such a scenario. Flatt writes: The National Environmental Policy Act requires that federal agencies analyze the environmental ...

Offshore Drilling and Endangered Species - Part 1

by Holly Doremus | July 02, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. The media have paid a lot of attention to the cavalier attitude of the former Minerals Management Service (now called the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement) toward the National Environmental Policy Act (I blogged about it here and here and Dan weighed in here). Less has been said, so far, about the Endangered Species Act. (One conspicuous exception is Keith Rizzardi’s ESA Blawg, which called on May 29 for a review of ESA ...

New Worker Safety Bill Introduced in House, Protects Whisleblowers, Targets Bad Actors

by Celeste Monforton | July 02, 2010
Cross-posted from The Pump Handle. Cong. George Miller (D-CA) is a man of tough talk and swift action. Today, along with 15 other House members, he introduced H.R. 5663 a bill to upgrade provisions of our nation's key federal workplace health and safety laws. Every year, tens of thousands of workers are killed or made ill because of on-the-job hazards, and this year the toll of death made headline news. The Deepwater Horizon disaster and the Upper Big Branch mine ...

ACC Files DQA RfC on EPA Pthalate CAP

by Matt Shudtz | July 01, 2010
With the strong support of their new Administrator, last year the EPA staff who administer TSCA came up with a novel idea for jump-starting a moribund regulatory program. They started publishing Chemical Action Plans (CAPs) for a selection of chemicals “that pose a concern to the public.” Having selected chemicals that are found in consumer products, produced in large volumes, have particular concerns for children’s health, or meet other criteria, EPA staff published action plans for the chemicals that provide a clear ...

Chesapeake Bay Bill Amended and Passed out of Committee

by Shana Campbell Jones | June 30, 2010
Senator Cardin's bill to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay program passed a committee vote this morning, though not before significant amendments were made (see Baltimore Sun, E&E). We'll have more on the specifics in the future. But for now it's worth noting that one of the amendments takes away EPA’s authority to write permits for nonpoint sources, a much-needed tool in EPA’s toolbox to bolster accountability if the states fail to address nonpoint source pollution. It’s too bad that, once again, ...

Bingaman-Murkowski Bill on BP Oil Spill Captures Low-Hanging Fruit But Leaves the Environment at Risk

by Alyson Flournoy | June 30, 2010
Senate Bill 3516, introduced by Senators Bingaman and Murkowski in response to the BP oil spill to reform the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), proposes many intelligent and much-needed changes (the Energy & Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the bill today). Among these, the legislation would imposea long-overdue mandate for best available technology for oil exploration and extraction, require that proponents of drilling evaluate the possibility of a well blowout and develop a response plan for a ...

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