CPR's Tom McGarity in Austin-American Statesman: Public Utility Commission rule would hurt consumers
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 experts.
The Commission has proposed to limit the amount of demands for information that consumer advocates can make of utility companies and the number of written question they can submit at public hearings.
In an op-ed for yesterday's Austin-American Statesman, CPR Scholar and University of Texas School of Law professor Tom McGarity lays out the potential problems for consumers if the rule goes forward. McGarity notes:
Most of us take for granted the large role that electricity plays in our daily lives until we receive our monthly electric bills. And most of us are unaware of the role that consumer advocates play in keeping those bills as low as possible. But we had best pay attention to a battle that is brewing between consumer advocates and the electric utility industry in the Texas Public Utility Commission, because it has serious implications for the rates that we will pay for electricity in the future.
Accounting for Job Loss -- The consequences of doing so may not be what you'd expect
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
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
More Fun Than Escaped Llamas: House GOP to Hold Yet Another Antiregulatory Hearing
In keeping with an apparent effort to hold an antiregulatory hearing on any and all days ending in “y,” Congressional Republicans have teed up yet another humdinger for Monday, March 2. That’s when the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Administrative law will take a closer look at three more antiregulatory bills that have been recycled from previous congresses, including the Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development Act of 2015 (RAPID Act), the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and
What Should be Discussed at the Senate Homeland Security's Hearing on the U.S. Regulatory System (But Probably Won't)
A clock hangs in Room 342 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building—the room where tomorrow at 10:00 am the Republican leadership of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will convene its first antiregulatory circus hearing of the new Congress. Below that clock, the hearing will play out according to a now-familiar script: the Republican members will cite vague constituent concerns about the regulatory system harming their families and businesses; the three industry shills invited by the majority will
Winning Safer Workplaces: Responsible Contracting in Maryland
by Matt Shudtz | February 24, 2015
This week, the Maryland General Assembly will review new legislation that could help ensure safer workplaces in the state’s construction industry. The proposal, which is a type of “responsible contracting” legislation similar to other policies being tested out in states and municipalities across the country, would require companies that put in bids for work on public works projects in Maryland to attest that they have workplace health and safety programs and that they would implement the programs in construction projects
In North Carolina, Open Season on Poverty Advocates
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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