Obama's Regulators Earn a B- for Year One in New CPR Report

by Rena Steinzor | January 14, 2010

Over the weekend, the Associated Press ran a story on the results of its enterprising investigation into the toxic content of children’s jewelry imported from China. Pressed to abandon the use of toxic lead in toys and jewelry, manufacturers have apparently begun using an even more dangerous metal, cadmium, which can cause neurological damage – brain damage – to children and give them cancer. AP tested 103 pieces of jewelry bought in American stores within the last few months, and found that 12 percent contained at least 10 percent cadmium. One item, a cute little Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer trinket, was 91 percent cadmium.

Addressing the question that leaps to mind – How did these extraordinarily dangerous trinkets get onto store shelves in the first place? – reporter Justin Pritchard writes these utterly terrifying and completely truthful words:

A patchwork of federal consumer protection regulations does nothing to keep these nuggets of cadmium from U.S. store shelves. If the products were painted toys, they would face a recall. If they were industrial garbage, they could qualify as hazardous waste. But since there are no cadmium restrictions on jewelry, such items are sold legally.

Of course, this is just the latest in a series of startling tales of dangerous products making it to market in the United States – poisoned peanut butter, toxic drywall, lead-painted toys, and more. Not to put too fine a point on it, but ...

EPA's Proposed Rulemaking on Runoff and CAFOs Good News for the Chesapeake Bay

by Rena Steinzor | January 13, 2010
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced Monday that the agency will propose new rules to reduce pollution from runoff from urban and suburban areas and from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). This announcement goes far in demonstrating that the EPA under President Obama is serious about its commitments to improve the quality of the nation’s waters, especially those waters that continue to be plagued by pollution from nonpoint and other unregulated sources. The new rules would apply nationwide, but Administrator Jackson ...

Atrazine, Syngenta's Confidential Data, EPA's Review, and the Five Stages of Grief

by Sandra Zellmer | January 13, 2010
My family has gotten a lot smaller lately. My mother died in 2004, my father in 2007, and my uncle in 2008. I’ve done the five stages of grief, as introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, but not exactly as she described. It’s true that I initially felt denial: “I’m a lucky person; this can't be happening.” Then I was angry and felt sorry for myself. Then, at least during my mother’s struggle with pancreatic cancer, I hit the bargaining ...

On EPA Approval of the Hobet 45 Mountaintop Removal Permit

by Holly Doremus | January 12, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Last Monday, EPA signed off on the Corps of Engineers’ issuance of a Clean Water Act § 404 permit to Hobet Mining for a mountaintop removal coal mining project in West Virginia. The decision is important because it’s the first product of the process announced last fall for joint EPA / Corps review of a large number of pending permit applications. It’s troubling for several reasons. First and most simply, it allows a major mountaintop mining ...

Back to the Future: OMB Intervention in Coal Ash Rule Replicates the Bush Administration's Way of Doing Business

by Sidney Shapiro | January 11, 2010
As reported in a post Saturday, OMB has become the epicenter for industry efforts to head off an EPA regulation concerning coal ash. There have been 17 meetings between industry interests and OMB officials. When questioned about the large number of meetings, an OMB spokesman said, "This has been a very regular, very normal deliberative process on a very complex rule.” For progressives who had hoped that OMB in the Obama administration would not replicate OMB in the Bush administration, ...

WSJ Says White House and EPA at Odds on Coal Ash; Industry Meetings with OIRA on Issue at 17 and Counting

by James Goodwin | January 09, 2010
"White House, EPA at Odds Over Coal-Waste Rules" reads a headline in Saturday's Wall Street Journal. It's worth a look. The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has in fact continued to host meetings with outside groups regarding EPA’s work on a rule for controlling the disposal of hazardous coal ash waste. Since my last post on this topic, OIRA has hosted 10 more meetings on this topic. (These latest meetings were held between December 9 and ...

Regulating Hydraulic Fracturing -- Can/Will States do the Job?

by Ben Somberg | January 07, 2010
A few months ago Rena Steinzor wrote skeptically here about state (as opposed to federal) regulation of hydraulic fracturing: ... the idea that after doing all this research, EPA should stand back and let the gas-producing states take the lead, stepping in only after much more delay, would amount to a rollback of environmental protection to the dark days of the 1950s and 1960s, before modern environmentalism and federal regulation began. Last week ProPublica had a useful article on a ...

A Look at the Interim Federal Delta Plan

by Holly Doremus | January 05, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. As I pointed out three months ago, the federal government has awakened from its 8-year Bush administration slumber to notice that the SF Bay-Delta is an important environmental and economic resource whose management requires federal input. On December 22, the Obama administration issued an Interim Federal Action Plan for the California Bay-Delta. The best news about the plan is simply that it was issued. It’s one more sign that the feds are serious about joining in ...

Healthy Housing Groups Issue Letter of Concern on Randall Lutter

by Ben Somberg | January 04, 2010
A group of organizations who work to eliminate health hazards in housing have sent a letter to OMB chief Peter Orszag expressing concern over the "detailing" of Randall Lutter to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The letter focuses on Lutter's writings on the economics of lead poisoning: Mr. Lutter's statement, "...the children who would benefit from reduced lead hazards are living in the care of their parents, and their parents have control of such hazards" profoundly ignores ...

60 Minutes Flubs the California Water Story

by Holly Doremus | December 31, 2009
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. On Sunday, 60 Minutes had a long story on the California water crisis, featuring Lesley Stahl interviewing (among others) Arnold Schwarzenegger and UC Davis professor Jeff Mount. On the positive side, the story accurately portrayed the vulnerability of California’s fragile through-Delta water delivery system to a major earthquake or catastrophic levee break. But CBS News flubbed the overall storyline. In typical media fashion, it oversimplified the story to “Delta smelt versus farmers,” with barely a mention ...

EPA Proposes New Lead Monitoring Requirements

by Matt Shudtz | December 30, 2009
EPA today took an important step toward reversing one of the Bush Administration’s “midnight regulations,” announcing a proposed rule that would improve monitoring standards for airborne lead. Under EPA’s new proposal, any establishment that emits lead into the air at a rate of a half a ton per year or more could be required to have a monitoring station. In a previous post I noted that EPA finalized a rule in late 2008 that only required monitoring at sites with ...

Regulatory Highs and Lows of 2009: OSHA and Toxics

by Matt Shudtz | December 30, 2009
CPRBlog asked some of our regular bloggers to give us some suggestions for the high and low points of the regulatory year. We began by taking the Bush Administration’s “midnight regulations” off the table, so that we could focus in on the Obama Administration’s impact to date. CPR Policy Analyst Matt Shudtz offers up a number of items, below, focusing on the positive: At OSHA, several high points:  The leadership of David Michaels (as Assistant Secretary, the head of OSHA) and Jordan ...

Regulatory Highs and Lows of 2009: 'The Adults Are Back in Charge'

by Rena Steinzor | December 29, 2009
  CPRBlog asked some of our regular bloggers to give us some suggestions for the high and low points of the regulatory year. We began by taking the Bush Administration’s “midnight regulations” off the table, so that we could focus in on the Obama Administration’s impact to date. CPR President Rena Steinzor begins. The high point of the year on the regulatory front was EPA’s endangerment finding on climate change, issued December 7, 2009, finally giving the seventh day of December a ...

Copenhagen in a Nutshell

by Daniel Farber | December 23, 2009
 [cross-posted from Legal Planet] Rob Stavins has a good, concise overview of the session and the outcome on the Belfer Center website.  Not as negative as some other observers, he highlights the extraordinary procecess that resulted in the Copenhagen Accord: It is virtually unprecedented in international negotiations for heads of government (or heads of state) to be directly engaged in, let alone lead, negotiations, but that is what transpired in Copenhagen. Although the outcome is less than many people had ...

Tennessee Coal Ash Disaster Anniversary -- News Roundup

by Ben Somberg | December 22, 2009
One year ago today, about 1 billion gallons of coal ash were spilled when a dyke collapsed at the Tennessee Valley Authority's fossil plant in Kingston, Tennessee. The Knoxville News-Sentinel has the moment-by-moment account of what happened that night. They report that Roane County real estate and tourism have suffered, and that there are 14 lawsuits pending against TVA in relation to the disaster, which will likely take years to resolve. And they editorialize: TVA and the EPA have vowed ...

Senator Snowe's Bill on Fisheries Would Open a Wide Loophole

by Rebecca Bratspies | December 21, 2009
On December 9, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced S. 2856, a one paragraph bill that would quietly gut a key portion of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) by dramatically expanding a narrow exception to one of the Act’s central mandates. Were it to pass, the bill would mark a significant step in the wrong direction for United States fisheries policy. The bill, the "International Fisheries Agreement Clarification Act," is co-sponsored by interim Senator Paul Kirk (D-MA). The MSA requires fisheries managers ...

While EPA Delays Decision on Coal Ash, Industry and White House Busy With Backdoor Meetings on Issue, Documents Show

by James Goodwin | December 18, 2009
While the EPA announced Thursday that it was delaying a decision on issuing a proposed rule for coal ash, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has already hosted 10 meetings with industry representatives in recent months on the issue. The 10 meetings -- the most on any topic at OIRA so far in the Obama Administration, according to records on its website -- were completely outside of EPA's rulemaking process. In that process, once a proposed ...

NOAA's Draft Catch Share Policy is Cautious, and That's Good News

by Rebecca Bratspies | December 18, 2009
NOAA issued a draft of its new catch share policy last week. Despite Director Jane Lubchenco’s clear support for the concept, the draft policy stops short of requiring that fisheries managers implement catch shares. This is a good thing. Instead of mandating catch shares, the draft policy focuses on education, cooperation, and transparency. The agency commits itself to “reducing technical barriers and administrative impediments” to implementing catch shares. Those are exactly the roles that NOAA should be playing. Too often, ...

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