CPR Member Scholars Call on Congress to Reject 'Unnecessary' and 'Unwise' REINS Act

by James Goodwin | April 15, 2015

This morning, the House Judiciary Committee is holding a markup on the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2015, or REINS Act (H.R. 427).  Even among the many extreme antiregulatory bills that Congress has considered this session, the REINS Act still stands out for its breathtaking audacity.  If enacted, this bill would block the most important environmental, safety, and public health regulations from taking effect unless Congress affirmatively approves them within the extraordinarily short period of 70 session days or legislative days.  It is not a stretch to say that many regulations that are now benefitting millions of Americans—such as those limiting lead in gasoline or requiring air bags in automobiles—would never have seen the light of day had the REINS Act been in place.  Versions of this bill have been introduced in both chambers of Congress over the last several sessions, but fortunately none have been enacted into law.

In response to this bill, 83 of the nation’s leading experts on administrative law and regulatory policy have signed on to a letter to the members of Congress expressing their concerns with the REINS Act.  Among the concerns described in the letter are that “the REINS Act would replace the strengths of agency rulemaking with the weaknesses of the legislative process” and that the bill is “counter-democratic.”  Twenty-six CPR Member Scholars were among the experts to sign on to the letter.

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Defeating the Public Interest One Bill at a Time: The ALERT Act (H.R. 1759)

by James Goodwin | April 14, 2015
Background:  Tomorrow, the full House Judiciary Committee will be holding a markup of the H.R. 1759, the All Economic Regulations are Transparent Act of 2015 (ALERT Act), sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.).  The House of Representatives considered a similar bill during its last session.  (The hearing is also noteworthy, because the committee will be marking up H.R. 427, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2015, or REINS Act.  For more information on the REINS ...

CPR's Buzbee to Testify at House Hearing on Waters of the US Rule

by Erin Kesler | April 14, 2015
CPR Scholar and Georgetown University Law School professor William Buzbee testified at a House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans Oversight hearing today entitled, “Proposed Federal Water Grabs and Their Potential Impacts on States, Water, and Power Users, and Landowners.” The Hearing concerned the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers' proposed "Waters of The US," rule related to water pollution and agriculture. According to his testimony: The legal uncertainty of recent years about what are protected federal waters has benefitted no one. For those concerned about protection ...

Defusing Blunderbuss Constitutional Attacks on EPA's Proposed Regulation of Existing Power Plants to Abate Climate Change

by Robert Glicksman | April 10, 2015
As climate scientists have been telling us for years, and as all but the most obstinate climate deniers acknowledge, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels are contributing to climatic changes.  These changes have taken the form of melting ice sheets, rising sea levels, changes in wind and ocean current patterns, and increases in the frequency of severe weather events, to name but a few effects.  Rising temperatures linked to GHG emissions also exacerbate public health problems ...

CPR's Winning Safer Workplaces, now in Spanish

by Matt Shudtz | April 09, 2015
  Last year, the Center for Progressive Reform published Winning Safer Workplaces: A Manual for State & Local Policy Reform. The manual is intended as a tool for state and local advocates. It highlights successful local campaigns to adopt workplace safety policies, and offers a series of innovative proposals to help state and local advocates make headway even in the face of intense opposition from big-moneyed, anti-regulatory interests. We focused on cross-cutting ideas that will empower workers, ensure crime doesn’t ...

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 ...

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 ...
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