A New Look at Science in Regulatory Policy

by Wendy Wagner | August 10, 2009

On Wednesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center's Science for Policy Project released its report (press release, full report) on the use of science in regulation-making. I was on the panel and thus am a bit biased, but I think the report makes a terrific contribution. It significantly narrows the range of positions that can be credibly debated about the appropriate level of oversight needed to ensure the quality of regulatory science. At the same time, it introduces some important new ideas for improving science-policy, like creating incentives for scientists to provide stronger peer review. In the process of finalizing the report, we all had to make some concessions. Rather than feeling that the resulting recommendations were of the lowest-common-denominator type, however, I believe the entire panel felt that the report contains a lot of specific details that, if implemented, would be dramatic improvements on the status quo. Hopefully the report will be useful to OSTP’s work and other ...

Sid Shapiro Interview on Michaels Nomination to OSHA

by Matthew Freeman | August 10, 2009
  CPR's Sid Shapiro is interviewed in this week's edition of Living On Earth, the environment-focused public radio show heard in 300 markets around the nation.  The subject is David Michaels's nomination to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.   Says Shapiro:  "David Michaels has his job cut out for him. I think it's fair to say that OSHA is one of the most dysfunctional agencies in Washington. For example, Congress had a plan how to regulate toxic chemicals ...

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: An Assessment of the Facts (Below) the Ground Today

by Alexandra Klass | August 06, 2009
One of many approaches to combating climate change is “Carbon Capture and Geologic Sequestration” (CCS). It’s a pretty straightforward idea: capture climate-change-causing carbon emissions and lock them up underground, rather than letting them float up into the atmosphere where they would contribute to global warming. The concept may be simple, but the actual engineering of it is as complicated as you might guess. The first problem is capturing and transporting CO2 emissions to their “resting place.” And then comes the ...

Thoughts on Tuesday’s Senate Hearing on Preemption

by Matt Shudtz | August 05, 2009
Following up on Ben’s post about Tuesday’s Senate HELP Committee hearing on medical device preemption, I’d like to respond to three issues that came up during the question-and-answer session. Innovation: Senators Harkin and Hatch had a bit of a disagreement about whether the possibility of tort liability stifles innovation by medical device firms. Peter Barton Hutt, who Senator Hatch lauded as the “dean of all FDA lawyers,” noted that he sits on the board of ten small biotech firms and ...

McGarity Testifies on Medical Device Safety

by Ben Somberg | August 04, 2009
CPR Member Scholar Thomas McGarity testified this afternoon at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on the issue of medical device safety (written testimony, press release). Currently, individuals injured by a faulty medical device generally cannot sue the device manufacturer in state courts if that device was fully approved by the FDA, even if the manufacturer was aware of new research showing faults in the product. The Senate is considering a bill that would ...

The Chesapeake Bay and Beyond: Pollution Targets Met, Not Just Set

by Shana Campbell Jones | August 03, 2009
Today, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife is holding a hearing entitled “A Renewed Commitment to Protecting the Chesapeake Bay: Reauthorizing the Chesapeake Bay Program." Here's something that should be on Congress's agenda: making the Bay-wide TMDL (“pollution cap”) enforceable to ensure that it is actually implemented. First, some background: Congress created the Bay Program in 1983, establishing it under the Clean Water Act. The regional partnership, which now includes several federal agencies in ...

CPR Scholars Submit Comments on Reforming ESA's Inter-Agency Consultation Regulations

by James Goodwin | August 03, 2009
Today, I joined CPR Member Scholars Mary Jane Angelo, Holly Doremus, and Dan Rohlf in submitting comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)—one of the agencies charged with primary responsibility for executing the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—suggesting several ways to improve the regulations for implementing interagency consultations under the Act. Under Section 7 of the ESA, which governs interagency consultations, any time that a federal agency like the Department of Defense or the Department of Transportation wants to ...

In NYC Area, Contaminated Fish on the Plate

by Ben Somberg | July 31, 2009
More New Yorkers are fishing off area piers in this economy, and, in many cases, eating unsafe amounts of fish contaminated with PCBs and mercury. That was the thrust of a NY Daily News report earlier this month. They also reported that there were extremely few signs alerting the public to any kind of danger. New York City official soon responded that they'd put up more warning signs. CPR Member Scholar Catherine O'Neill discussed the fish contamination issues on WNYC's ...

'Curiouser and Curiouser!' Cried Alice ... A Tale of Regulatory Policy in the Obama Administration

by Sidney Shapiro | July 30, 2009
Like Alice's adventure, the development of regulatory oversight in the Obama administration is becoming "curiouser and curiouser." President Obama selected Cass Sunstein to be the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a curious choice since Sunstein, although one of the country’s most distinguished academics, is in favor of extending the use of cost-benefit analysis, a position so popular with the business community that the Wall Street Journal endorsed his nomination. Sunstein's confirmation hearing was uneventful, probably ...

Reviving OSHA: The New Administrator's Big Challenge

by Sidney Shapiro | July 30, 2009
On Tuesday, the White House announced the appointment of Dr. David Michaels to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). An epidemiologist and a professor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services, Michaels will bring substantial expertise and experience to the job. Besides being an active health research – he studies the health effects of occupational exposure to toxic chemicals – he has also written impressively on science and regulatory policy. His book, Doubt Is ...

Proposed Order on Floodplain Development

by Daniel Farber | July 29, 2009
This item cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. The White House is considering a new executive order to limit floodplain development.  The proposal covers roughly the same federal licensing, project, and funding decisions as NEPA.  The heart of the proposal is section 4, which unlike NEPA imposes a substantive requirement (preventing or mitigating floodplain development.)  The proposed language is after the jump.  This is a very constructive step — we can’t keep putting people and infrastructure in harm’s way, nor ...

Thoughts on EPA's Decision to Reconsider Lead Monitoring Requirements

by Matt Shudtz | July 28, 2009
Last Thursday, EPA announced (pdf) that they would reconsider a rule on monitoring lead in the air that was published in the waning days of the Bush Administration. I wrote about the original announcement, criticizing EPA for turning its back on children in neighborhoods like mine, where certain sources of airborne lead wouldn’t be monitored because of some questionable lobbying by the lead battery industry. Long story, short: After originally proposing and asking the public to comment on lead monitoring ...

Regulatory Czar Sunstein's First Days

by Rena Steinzor | July 27, 2009
Michael Livermore is right to suggest that environmentalists should be focused on Cass Sunstein’s first official day as regulatory czar for the Obama Administration. After months of delay over the Harvard professor’s eclectic and provocative writings, he will eventually take office if he can placate cattle ranchers concerned about his views on animal rights. Whatever their level of paranoia about Sunstein’s ability to grant animals standing to bring lawsuits, the likely character of his reign was more accurately predicted by ...

Protecting the Invisible: The Public Trust Doctrine and Groundwater

by Yee Huang | July 24, 2009
This is the fourth and final post on the application of the public trust doctrine to water resources, based on a forthcoming CPR publication, Restoring the Trust: Water Resources and the Public Trust Doctrine, A Manual for Advocates, which will be released this summer.  If you are interested in attending a free web-based seminar on Thursday, July 30, at 3:00 pm EDT, please contact CPR Policy Analyst Yee Huang or register here.  Prior posts are available here. Groundwater, invisible as ...

Get the Lead Out

by Matt Shudtz | July 24, 2009
The Bush Administration’s anti-regulatory henchmen in the Office of Management and Budget are at it again – fighting to keep EPA and state environmental agencies in the dark about how much pollution is being emitted into the air.   On October 16, EPA announced that it was slashing the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead from 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³) to 0.15 µg/m³. (Side note: EPA’s 90-percent reduction in permissible lead levels is good, but it’s still on ...

Wanted: A Wise Latina

by Rena Steinzor | July 23, 2009
This post is co-written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst Matt Shudtz. Just as the traditional media finished a breathless cycle of reporting on how prospective Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had renounced her claim that a “wise Latina” would make different decisions than a white man, an article in USA Today reminded us of the need for many more wise Latinas in the corridors of power in Washington. According to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor ...

Time For Mining Law Reform?

by Holly Doremus | July 22, 2009
This item cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. Hardrock mining (as opposed to oil and gas drilling) on federal land is a topic that rarely hits the national news. And there are plenty of other high-profile items on the agenda in DC at the moment, like health care reform and climate legislation. So I was a bit surprised, but pleased, to see this editorial calling for reform of the General Mining Law in the NY Times. The Times is right ...

Peer Review Slams Corps's New Flood-Control Study in the Gulf

by Robert Verchick | July 21, 2009
A new report from the National Research Council on Friday slams a long-delayed Army Corps of Engineers hurricane protection study, saying it fails to recommend a unified, comprehensive long-term plan for protecting New Orleans and the Louisiana coast. You know the story: as Hurricane Katrina swept across New Orleans, the city’s levee system broke apart and billions of gallons of water poured into the city. Two independent forensic engineering reports (here and here) found the levee failures were caused by ...

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