The Case Against Sulking

by Daniel Farber | April 07, 2015

States will only lose out if they refuse to cooperate with the Clean Power Plan.

Mitch McConnell has urged states to refuse to submit plans if the Clean Power Plan is upheld by the Court.  He has been accused of inciting lawless behavior on the part of state governments.  Let me come to his defense on this.  (How often do I get to do that??) The states are under no legal obligation to submit plans.  The Clean Air Act does not require them to do so.  Coercing states to administer a federal regulatory program would violate the Constitution, at least as the current Court sees things.  So there’s nothing illegitimate about McConnell exercising his American right of free speech and advising them what to do.  The fact that he’s doing so presumably reflects his own inability as the leader of the Senate to do anything about it.

As it is said, this is completely legitimate advice.  But it’s also very bad advice.  Assuming the courts uphold the EPA regulation, states have three choices:refuse to submit a state plan, submit a bad faith plan that tries to game the system, or submit a good faith plan.  The first option is the one that McConnell recommends.  The problem is that EPA is already developing a template so it can step in with a federal plan.  In some contexts, the threat to impose a federal plan is a hollow threat because EPA doesn’t have ...

EPA's Budget Declines Raise Serious Concerns

by Joel Mintz | March 31, 2015
When it comes to the size of the federal workforce, most of the rhetoric in Washington revolves around how to cut it. That’s particularly true where Republicans are concerned, and perhaps nowhere truer than with the Environmental Protection Agency, a favorite GOP target. What they almost never mention is that cutting staff means making sacrifices in protecting the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink, bathe, swim and fish in, and the many individuals—including infants, the elderly, ...

The sky is not falling: FDA proposes common-sense treatment of generic drugs

by Frank Ackerman | March 30, 2015
There must be a global template for business complaints about regulation, located on some secret right-wing server. Just type in the industry and the name of the regulation: Billions of dollars are at stake, companies will be driven out of the industry and consumers will lose access to low-priced products, if the government dares to impose an ordinary, common-sense rule. Such as, making drug companies responsible for the safety of their products? Aren’t pharmaceutical companies already responsible for warning their ...

Monetization, Myopia, and MATS

by Catherine O'Neill | March 26, 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday heard oral argument in the consolidated cases challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule regulating mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants.  These utilities remain by far the largest domestic source of mercury emissions, contributing more than half of the mercury releases nationwide.   Mercury emissions are at the root of widespread methylmercury contamination in the nation’s fish.  Fish consumption is the primary way by which humans are exposed to what is, after ...

Carry the Zero: The Polluters’ Flawed Arithmetic in the EPA's Hazardous Air Pollution Rule

by James Goodwin | March 25, 2015
In the run-up to this morning’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule to limit hazardous air pollutants from fossil-fueled power plants—and indeed throughout the oral arguments themselves—opponents repeatedly pointed out that the benefits of the rule in reducing mercury pollution were “only” between $4 million and $6 million.  Putting aside the ethically problematic question of trying to put a dollars-and-cents value on achieving improved public health and environmental protection, it is worth pondering this ...

CPR's Tom McGarity Responds to Supreme Court's Examination of Costs Associated with Rule-making in Michigan v. EPA

by Erin Kesler | March 25, 2015
Today, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Michigan v. EPA.  CPR Member Scholar and University of Texas School of Law professor Thomas O. McGarity responded to the debate with the following statement: Following today’s oral arguments, the Supreme Court must decide whether EPA misinterpreted a section in the Clean Air Act requiring it to regulate hazardous emissions from power plants when such regulation is “appropriate and necessary.”  EPA interpreted those words to require the agency to focus on the harm that ...

Today at the U.S. Supreme Court: Industry Tries to Shove a Cost-Shaped Peg Into a Benefit-Shaped Hole

by James Goodwin | March 25, 2015
When it comes to public safeguards, industry never wants to talk about keeping people healthy and protecting the environment; they’d much rather have a conversation about how safeguards will cut into their profits — the costs in the cost-benefit equation.  Even on matters where Congress, by statute, has made the discussion of regulatory costs legally irrelevant or a matter of only secondary importance, you can rest assured that industry will still be there talking exclusively about costs.  That is largely ...

Issue Alert: How to Hold Big Chicken Responsible for Pollution

by Erin Kesler | March 24, 2015
In the United States, a handful of large corporations including Perdue and Tyson direct and oversee nearly every step in the poultry production process, essentially serving as overlords to the tens of thousands of small farmers with whom they contract to raise their chickens for slaughter. While deriving the lion’s share of the profit, these corporations have so far managed to avoid all responsibility for the pollution their chickens produce. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state agencies have been ...

CPR President Rena Steinzor in the Houston Chronicle: Criminal investigations crucial to making refineries safer

by Erin Kesler | March 23, 2015
Last Friday marked the 10 year anniversary of the BP Texas City Refinery explosion that killed 15 people and injured 170 others. In an opinion piece for the Houston Chronicle, CPR President Rena Steinzor describes the systemic failures which led to the explosion and the regulatory gaps that remain. She calls for criminal investigations, "everytime refinery operations kill, maim, or threaten public health." She notes: BP executive Ross Pillari blamed low-level workers for not "doing their jobs." Yet some of the men stationed at the tower ...

OSHA Rejects Petition to Better Protect Poultry Workers

by Matt Shudtz | March 20, 2015
Last week, workers’ advocates at the Southern Poverty Law Center and Nebraska Appleseed got the official word that OSHA will not develop new regulations to protect the men and women who do the dirty work of turning clucking chickens into boneless cutlets. It’s an industry where vulnerable workers—mostly women, immigrants, and folks geographically isolated from other job opportunities—face great hazards from the strains of repetitive motion. Some of the plants process tens of thousands of birds on every shift, and ...

CPR Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin Testifies on Regulation for the House Committee on Small Business

by Erin Kesler | March 18, 2015
Today, CPR Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin will testify as an expert witness on the regulatory process for a House Committee on Small Business Hearing, "Tangled in Red Tape: New Challenges for Small Manufacturers."  Goodwin's testimony highlights the economic as well as public health and safety benefits of regulations in relation to small businesses. He notes: Over the past four decades, U.S. regulatory agencies have achieved remarkable success in establishing safeguards that protect people and the environment against unreasonable risks. During ...

CPR Scholars Call on Senators to Enact Meaningful Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act

by Matt Shudtz | March 16, 2015
What’s old is new again. This week, competing bills to reform the 40-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) hit the Senate—one from Senators Vitter and Udall, the other from Senators Boxer and Markey. Both the environmental community and the chemical industry agree that TSCA is broken and must be fixed. This is a law that’s so poorly designed; EPA has been stymied in its efforts to ban asbestos. Yes, that asbestos. But where environmentalists and the chemical industry diverge is on the ...

Econ101, Ideological Blinders, and the New Head of CBO

by Daniel Farber | March 09, 2015
There are troubling indications that Keith Hall lets ideology blind him to basic economics. Last week, in a post about the employment effect of regulations, I mentioned briefly that the new Director of the Congressional Budget Office, Keith Hall, had endorsed some questionable views on the subject.  A reader pointed me toward an additional writing that has done a lot to escalate my concerns.  There are disturbing signs about both Hall’s ideological bias and even his grasp of basic economics. This writing was part of an exchange ...

Congress squeezes Obama's reg czar about lack of transparency

by Celeste Monforton | March 09, 2015
This blog is cross-posted from the Pump Handle.  It’s a rare thing on Capitol Hill when a member of the Administration is on the hot seat from both sides of the aisle. But that’s what happened on Tuesday when President Obama’s regulatory czar, Howard Shelanski, JD, PhD, testified at a joint hearing of two subcommittees of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. The Republican Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Ranking Member Gerry Connolly (D-VA)and other subcommittee members, peppered him with questions about OIRA’s lack ...

Three Quick Reactions to Yesterday's House Oversight Committee Hearing on OIRA

by James Goodwin | March 04, 2015
Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on “Challenges Facing OIRA in Ensuring Transparency and Effective Rulemaking” that featured as its only witness the head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Administrator Howard Shelanski.   Given that regulations are a huge source of consternation on the Hill, and the prominent role that OIRA plays in the federal regulatory apparatus, oversight hearings involving OIRA always have the potential for fireworks.  Despite this potential, these hearings—which take ...

CPR's Tom McGarity in Austin-American Statesman: Public Utility Commission rule would hurt consumers

by Erin Kesler | March 03, 2015
The Texas Public Utility Commission, which sets electricity rates for the state and allows adjustments for fuel costs, has recently proposed amendments to its procedural rules that would limit consumer advocate input into potentially abusive rate changes. Prior to any rate changes, the Commission holds public hearings where experts for the utility companies present highly technical reports drawn from their own data. Representatives of consumer groups can participate in these hearings, but they typically advance consumer interests by challenging the data and assumptions presented by the industry's ...

Accounting for Job Loss -- The consequences of doing so may not be what you'd expect

by Daniel Farber | March 02, 2015
The Republicans’ choice for head of the CBO, Keith Hall, spent some time at a libertarian think tank reportedly funded by the Koch brothers, where he wrote about the effect of regulation on employment. Hall argued that regulations cause unemployment (include indirect effects because of price changes), and that the costs of unemployment should be included in regulatory cost-benefit analysis. In principle, it seems right to include the special harms associated with job loss in cost-benefit analysis (not just for regulations but everything else too).  ...

Bad Feds, Deadly Meds: Steinzor in USA Today

by Matthew Freeman | March 01, 2015
Last December, the Justice Department announced the indictiment of the owner/head pharmacist, the supervising pharmacist, and 12 others associated with the New England Compounding Compounding Center. The 131-count indictment, which included 25 charges of second-degree murder, grew out of a 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis caused by contaminated drugs manufactured by the company. More than 750 patients were diagnosed with the illness as a result, and 64 patients in nine states died from it.  In a February 28, 2015, op-ed ...

Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

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