With State of the Union Address, Obama Begins Sketching Out a Positive View of Government
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 us here tonight, we need to set our sights higher than just making sure government doesn’t halt the progress we’re making. We need to do more than just do no harm. Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.
In other words, we as a society benefit when everyone has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential. The government is uniquely positioned to ensure that everyone is afforded opportunity; and, when the government is permitted to function effectively, it can and will fulfill this task successfully. Individuals win. Society wins. And the government has a critical role to play in achieving these results.
Of course, in articulating this vision, President Obama was referring most directly to several of the economic policy initiatives he outlined in his address, including paid sick leave, increased minimum wage, and access to a free community college education.
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
Irresponsible Reform: The House Favors Extreme Legislation That Would Delay Public Protections by Ten Years or More
Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015, which would amend the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to add over 74 new procedural requirements to the rule-making process, including more than 29 new “documentation” requirements. The goal of administrative procedure is to ensure that the government’s adoption of regulation is accountable and fair, but not at the expense of hamstringing the ability of agencies to fulfill the public interest. The House obviously has no such concern.
Corporate Violence as Crime
A year ago, about 300,000 people in and around Charleston, West Virginia, lost their drinking water source when thousands of gallons of a toxic chemical known as MCHM (4-methylcyclohexanemethanol) leaked into the nearby Elk River through a hole in a rusted-out storage tank. Last month, the wheels of justice began to catch up with the owners of the responsible company when they were indicted by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. Coincidentally, the West Virginia indictments came down on the same day
Modernization? The Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015 Adds 74 New Steps to the Rule-Making Process
This week, House Republicans re-introduced the “Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015,” (H.R. 185). Proponents of the bill are claiming that it would “modernize” the rule-making process and streamline government inefficiencies. In fact, the RAA would bog down attempts by federal agencies to protect our health, safety and environment in red tape by adding over 74 new requirements to the rule-making process, including over 29 new “documentation” requirements. Center for Progressive Reform Senior Analyst James Goodwin compiled a list of all the potential
Obama’s Path to Progress: Preventing Train Derailments
by Matt Shudtz | December 23, 2014
We are closing out the “Path to Progress” series for this year with a potential bright spot. In its Fall 2014 Regulatory Agenda, the Obama Administration set a target date of March 2015 for finalizing new rules designed to prevent and minimize the consequences of derailments in trains carrying crude oil and other highly hazardous materials. If the Department of Transportation is able to accomplish that feat, it would beat even our own proposed schedule—a welcome achievement. We are looking
CPR President Rena Steinzor Reacts to Final Coal Ash Rule
by Erin Kesler | December 19, 2014
Today, the EPA announced national standards governing coal waste from coal-fired power plants, also known as coal ash. The rule does not treat coal ash as a hazardous material, but as household garbage. CPR President and University of Maryland law professor Rena Steinzor reacted to the classification: It's bitterly disappointing that the electric utility industry, which earns profits hand over fist, has succeeded in bamboozling the White House to gut this rule. Originally designed by EPA to prevent fatalities, injuries, and grave long-term damage to the public's health,
Electronic Reporting Requirements: A No-Brainer
The main tool available to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit the amount of pollution discharged into the nation’s waterways is a system of permits issued to polluters that restricts how much they may discharge. This permitting scheme, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), requires permittees to monitor their operations and report back to the EPA or an approved state environmental agency. On those data rest EPA’s ability to enforce the terms of the permits, and thus control pollution
OSHA Urged to Pick up Its Pen for Poultry Workers
by Matt Shudtz | December 17, 2014
Today, Nebraska Appleseed, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and several allied organizations sent a letter to OSHA requesting a response to their petition for a rulemaking on work speed in poultry and meatpacking plants. The groups originally submitted the petition to OSHA over a year ago, and it’s been radio silence ever since. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of workers, most low-income and socially vulnerable, continue to work in conditions that lead to crippling musculoskeletal disorders. The workers’ advocates who submitted
Steinzor Reacts to Indictments in West Virginia Chemical Spill Case
CPR President Rena Steinzor issued the following statement in response to today's announcement that a grand jury had indicted owners and managers of Freedom Industries in connection with the massive leak of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MHCM) that fouled the Elk River and triggered a drinking water ban for 300,000 residents earlier this year: Booth Goodwin continues to distinguish himself as a tough prosecutor who is willing to use the law to punish and deter those who threaten public health. Because this harsh
Why Not Jail?
by Matt Shudtz | December 16, 2014
When 29 miners died at Upper Big Branch or 11 workers died on the Deepwater Horizon, when 64 people died from tainted steroids, or when hundreds got Salmonella poisoning from peanut butter, did you ask yourself, 'Why not send the people responsible to jail?' You're not the only one. In her new book, Why Not Jail: Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction, CPR President Rena Steinzor asks the same question and concludes: The criminal justice system is as important
Obama’s Path to Progress: Will the White House Compel Rich Utilities to Clean Up Giant Coal Ash Pits?
We’ll soon learn the results of White House deliberations over EPA’s long-delayed coal ash rule, one of the Essential 13 regulatory initiatives we’ve called upon President Barack Obama to complete before he leaves office. Under the terms of a consent decree, EPA is required to issue its new rule by Friday, December 19. As glad as we are to see this phase of the rule’s tortuous odyssey come to a close, we suspect that court, not a victory party, will