In North Carolina, Open Season on Poverty Advocates

by Victor Flatt | February 23, 2015

Today I joined a group more than 40 environmental law professors and clinicians from institutions around the nation in a joint letter to the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors urging that they reject a recommendation to shutter the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, housed at the University of North Carolina Law School. That unfortunate recommendation arose from a special committee created by the board at the direction of the legislature to review all 237 of the state university system’s centers, in the wake of criticism of state anti-poverty efforts by the Center’s director, Professor Gene Nichol.

To be clear, the Center takes no money from the state, and hasn’t since 2009. It’s funded by private contributions. It’s being targeted not to save money, but because some in the legislature would rather not have to be reminded of poverty, and don’t have the stomach for criticism of their policies. And since Professor Nichol’s criticisms were a trigger for the special committee’s review, it’s no surprise that the committee has taken aim at the Center.

I’m not directly affiliated with the Center, but our Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources (CLEAR) at UNC Law has been looking to work with both the Poverty Center and the Carolina Law School’s Center for Civil Rights to try and address how to minimize the disparate impacts on the poor and minorities from climate change that are going to happen ...

Winning Safer Workplaces: Watchdogging State Agencies

by Matt Shudtz | February 19, 2015
Our intrepid colleague Celeste Monforton, who writes at the Pump Handle blog, recently passed along a neat example of a tool that we wrote about in our Winning Safer Workplaces manual. Minnesota’s Office of the Legislative Auditor released a report on the state’s regulatory protections for meatpacking workers. As we noted in the Winning Safer Workplaces manual, state-level oversight of government regulation can be a valuable tool for advocates who are fighting for stronger workplace protections. The results of new ...

But Wait, There’s Less! The GOP Has a 'Sue and Settle' Bill They Would Like to Sell You

by James Goodwin | February 17, 2015
Last week, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) continued the parade of anti-regulatory bills resurrected from past sessions of Congress by introducing in their respective chambers the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2015 (SRDSA).  While all of these anti-regulatory bills are categorically terrible, the SRDSA really needs to be singled out for special condemnation.  After all, it is the only one of the lot that purports to take on a problem—so-called “sue and settle” ...

At Last, the Obama Administration Acknowledges Need for Urgency on Advancing Regulatory Agenda

by James Goodwin | February 13, 2015
At last, the Obama Administration is articulating a sense of urgency about moving vitally needed health and safty regulations through its pipeline. Here’s Howard Shelanski, White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, in a Bloomberg BNA story this week: “So we are working now, here in January of 2015, on getting priorities lined up, so that we do not find ourselves at some point in 2016 with really important policy priorities unexecuted,” Shelanski said. Later in the interview: Still, ...

The Age of Greed: Toxic Chemical Control Is 'High Priority' Failure for Nation’s Government

by Rena Steinzor | February 11, 2015
Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reiterated its conclusion that EPA’s regulation of toxic chemicals is in crisis, unable to deliver badly needed protection to the American people.  These benighted programs are among a couple of dozen of “high priority” failures that cause serious harm to public health, waste resources, or endanger national security, and Congress is giving the report red carpet treatment, with House and Senate hearings on the report scheduled the very day it was released.  In auditor ...

Department of Transportation’s Crude-by-Rail Safety Standards Keep Chugging Along

by James Goodwin | February 09, 2015
According to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) records, the Department of Transportation submitted its draft final crude-by-rail safety rule for White House review late last week.  OIRA’s review of draft final rules represents the last hurdle in what can be a long and resource-intensive rulemaking process; just about any rule of consequence cannot take effect without OIRA’s final approval.  Once completed, the crude-by-rail rulemaking would help to avoid train derailments and crashes involving the more than 415,000 ...

Winning Safer Workplaces: The State-plan Switcheroo

by Matt Shudtz | February 09, 2015
In Kansas and Maryland, two states separated by geography and politics, Republican state lawmakers are touting plans that could seriously alter the institutions that workers in those states rely upon to keep them safe on the job. Two weeks ago, Maryland Delegate (now State Senator) Andrew Serafini introduced a bill that would make drastic changes to the way the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health agency (MOSH) does its job. So drastic, in fact, that the feds would likely have to ...

New CPR Issue Alert: The Small Business Charade

by Matt Shudtz | February 04, 2015
Tomorrow, the House is set to vote on the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (SBRFIA), a piece of legislation that CPR Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin has explained would “further entrench big businesses’ control over rulemaking institutions and procedures that are ostensibly intended to help small businesses participate more effectively in the development of new regulations.” As Members of the House prepare for Thursday’s vote, CPR has something to add to their files: a new Issue Alert with details ...

Your Up-to-Date 10-Day Forecast for Capitol Hill: A Blizzard of Antiregulatory Bills

by James Goodwin | January 28, 2015
While meteorologists’ recent doom-laden predictions of an apocalyptic blizzard hitting the mid-Atlantic may not have exactly panned out, I have a forecast that you can take to the bank:  A large mass of conservative hot air has recently moved into the Washington, DC, region where it is now combining with a high pressure zone of intense industry lobbying.  As a result, we can expect over the next several days a heavy downpour of bills aimed at eviscerating our nation’s regulatory ...

In Their Rush to Help Big Business, Antiregulatory Members of Congress are Trampling Small Ones Along the Way

by James Goodwin | January 26, 2015
Just as The Sixth Sense makes more sense when you realize that Bruce Willis’s character has been dead the whole time, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (SBRFIA)—the latest antiregulatory bill being championed by antiregulatory members of the House of Representatives—makes more sense when you realize that it has nothing to do with helping small businesses at all.  Rather, it’s all about helping powerful corporate interests increase their profits at the expense of public health, safety, and the environment. ...

With State of the Union Address, Obama Begins Sketching Out a Positive View of Government

by Rena Steinzor | January 23, 2015
There were many highlights in President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, but one passage in particular stuck out for us.  In this passage, Obama laid out his clear vision of the positive role that government can and must play in our society—and sharing this vision with the American public will be essential for successfully repelling the oncoming Republican onslaught against regulatory safeguards.  He cast his positive vision of government in the following terms: But here’s the thing—those of ...

Killer Coal

by Daniel Farber | January 23, 2015
Black lung has been the underlying or contributing cause of death for more than 75,000 coal miners since 1968, according to NIOSH, the federal agency responsible for conducting research on work-related diseases and injuries. Since 1970, the Department of Labor has paid over $44 billion in benefits to miners totally disabled by respiratory diseases (or their survivors). The annual death rate from mining accidents is 20-25 per 100,000, about six times the average industry. If you do the math, that means ...

The Anti-Regulatory Crowd's Small Business Rhetoric Is a Scam

by James Goodwin | January 22, 2015
Just as The Sixth Sense makes more sense when you realize that Bruce Willis’s character has been dead the whole time, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (SBRFIA)—the latest antiregulatory bill being championed by antiregulatory members of the House of Representatives—makes more sense when you realize that it has nothing to do with helping small businesses at all.  Rather, it’s all about helping powerful corporate interests increase their profits at the expense of public health, safety, and the environment.   The twist ending ...

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan Should Reverse his Opposition to the PMT

by Anne Havemann | January 21, 2015
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan was sworn in earlier today and legislators, farmers, environmentalists, state agency staff, and scientists are waiting with bated breath to see whether he will act on his post-election promise to fight the proposed Phosphorous Management Tool (PMT). The desperately needed regulation would limit the amount of phosphorus-laded chicken manure farmers can spread on their fields.   Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for healthy waterways, provided it is present in the right quantity. Too much phosphorus, however, and ...

Winning Safer Workplaces with Simple Changes

by Matt Shudtz | January 20, 2015
Last week on The Pump Handle, Kim Krisberg highlighted an interesting pilot program in Rockaway Township, New Jersey that puts an extra set of eyes on the lookout for workplace safety concerns that might otherwise have gone unnoticed by government inspectors. As she explains here, restaurant inspectors in Rockaway are pilot testing a simple modification to their inspection responsibilities—while they check refrigerator temperatures and cleanliness for food safety concerns, they’re now also looking for good practices that ensure workers are ...

Government Files Petition for Certiorari in FERC Demand Response Case

by Joel Eisen | January 16, 2015
As expected, yesterday the Solicitor General filed a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court in FERC v. Electric Power Supply Association, asking the Supreme Court to review a May 23, 2014 decision from a divided panel of the D.C. Circuit that invalidated FERC’s Order 745. Order 745 directs Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) and Independent System Operators (ISOs) to establish rules that compensate demand response resources at the wholesale market price—the same rate that electric power suppliers receive for selling ...

Keystone XL Pipeline Route through Nebraska Upheld on Constitutional Technicality – for Now

by Sandra Zellmer | January 15, 2015
In almost any other appellate court, winning over a simple majority of the justices means that you win the case.  Not so in Nebraska.  Last Friday, in Thompson v. Heineman, a majority of the Nebraska Supreme Court found the Keystone XL Pipeline routing law, LB 1161, which granted the Governor the power to approve Keystone’s route through the state, unconstitutional.  The catch?  Nebraska’s rarely invoked Const. Art. V, § 2, or “supermajority clause.”  Under this clause, “no legislative act shall ...

GAO Debunks Republicans' 'Sue and Settle' Myth

by James Goodwin | January 14, 2015
Today, Rep. Fred Upton and the rest of his anti-environmental allies on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are probably suffering from a stingingbout of buyers' remorse as the Government Accountability Office report they requested didn't deliver the answer they were seeking.   The Commerce Committee hoped to demonstrate that “In many instances, EPA has entered into settlements or consent decrees committing the agency to undertake significant new rule-makings subject to specific timelines or schedules, including rule-makings that may result in substantial new compliance costs.” ...

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