OSHA’s new tools for addressing chemical hazards could bolster enforcement

by Matt Shudtz | October 24, 2013

Today OSHA announced two new web-based resources designed to help employers eliminate chemical hazards in the workplace. Both the toolkit for identifying less-hazardous substitutes and the annotated exposure limits table are useful informational resources designed to promote voluntary action by conscientious employers and informed demands by workers and their advocates. But OSHA has to deal with both the “high road” and the “low road” employers, so using these new tools in enforcement proceedings is a necessary adjunct to voluntary employer efforts. With some enterprising work by enforcement officials and strong support from the Solicitor of Labor the tools could be the basis for a new wave of enforcement under the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause.

As OSHA freely admits, the Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) found in current regulations are out-of-date and inadequately protective. Employers may expose workers to chemicals up to those limits without incurring fines for violating the standard, even though the exposures are patently dangerous. Most were adopted in the early 1970s and were based on scientific research from the 1940s through 1960s. In the late 1980s, the agency undertook an effort to set new exposure limits for hundreds of chemicals in one fell swoop, only to be thwarted by a court that wanted more detailed analyses of each individual chemical exposure limit. Since then, OSHA has initiated and finalized just one new PEL – as ...

Mass. v. EPA bears fruit for environmental petitioners

by Holly Doremus | October 23, 2013
Court rules that EPA must decide if new water quality standards are needed to protect the Gulf of Mexico A US District Court in Louisiana recently ruled, in Gulf Restoration Network v. Jackson, that EPA must decide whether it has to impose new water quality standards for nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River watershed. Although that might seem far afield from the Supreme Court’s greenhouse gas emissions decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, in fact it’s a direct descendant.  The Administrative Procedure ...

SBA’s Office of Advocacy wants even more time to review OSHA’s silica proposal

by Matt Shudtz | October 23, 2013
SBA’s Office of Advocacy has added its voice to the chorus of business interests who want OSHA to delay publication of a new rule that would protect workers from the deadly effects of silica exposure. In a letter to OSHA chief David Michaels, the top lawyers from the Office of Advocacy claim that it will be “nearly impossible” for small business representatives to review OSHA’s proposal and prepare the comments and testimony due in early December. To be sure, the rulemaking ...

USDA to poultry plant workers: no promise we’ll address line speed hazards

by Celeste Monforton | October 21, 2013
“Es ridículo,” was the reaction of a poultry plant worker when he heard of the USDA’s proposal to “modernize” poultry slaughter. The agency’s January 2012 proposal (77 Fed Reg 4408) would allow companies to increase assembly line speeds from about 90 to 175 birds per minute, and remove most USDA inspectors from the poultry processing line. The Obama Administration should have heard the loud and clear opposition from civil rights, food safety, public health and the workers’ safety communities to the USDA’s ...

Myths and facts surrounding the Supreme Court’s review of GHG emission permitting

by Bill Funk | October 17, 2013
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court granted six of the nine petitions challenging a DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the EPA’s rules regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. However, the Court granted review of only one aspect of the various petitions: whether the EPA’s use of vehicle emission standards to regulate greenhouse gases triggers permitting requirements for stationary power sources that contribute to carbon pollution. The regulations at issue implement the Clean Air Act’s Prevention ...

Cook That Chicken Because You’re on Your Own

by Rena Steinzor | October 17, 2013
Salmonella outbreak reveals we need more, not fewer, cops on the food safety beat.  Some 317 victims of salmonella poisoning from Foster Farms chicken sold in 20 states have learned firsthand why we need government.   Who knows how much faster the threat would have been contained if Centers for Disease Control (CDC) experts had been walking their usual beat, coordinating state investigators and working frantically to discover the origins of the virulent strain of salmonella that has already hospitalized 42 ...

What is a “Small Business,” Exactly? Two Concepts from OSHA’s Silica Proposal

by Matt Shudtz | October 17, 2013
OSHA’s proposed new silica standards promise to improve the health and safety of more than two million workers across the U.S. By reducing exposures to respirable silica dust, the standards are expected to save 700 workers’ lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis every year. Of course, these impressive benefits come at a cost to employers and those costs will be a major talking point for the business community as OSHA’s proposal moves through the rulemaking process. One argument that we’re sure ...

Regulating Existing Power Plants Under Clean Air Act 111(d) (Part I): The CAA's Language & Structure

by William Buzbee | October 15, 2013
In late September, the EPA proposed regulation of new power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act’s “New Source Performance Standards” (NSPS) provisions. Now an often little noticed follow-on provision—Section 111(d)--- is suddenly in the spotlight. Section 111(d) requires regulation of existing sources that are in categories of polluters subject to NSPS regulation. President Obama, EPA, industry, environmental groups, and states have all entered the fray about what Section 111(d) requires and allows.  This issue presents several important choices and ...

Denial As a Way of Life

by Daniel Farber | October 11, 2013
As it turns out, many of the same people who deny that climate change is a problem also deny that government default would be a problem.  No doubt there are several reasons: the fact that Barack Obama is on the opposite side of both issues; the general impermeability of ideologues to facts or expert opinion; a general suspicion of elite views.  But I’d like to suggest that there is also a deeper belief about the invulnerability of systems to outside ...

The Government Shutdown and the EPA: The Environmental Dangers of Congressional Recklessness

by Erin Kesler | October 09, 2013
It can be read in full here. According to Mintz: The indefinite close down of EPA’s operations poses major risks, some imminent and others long term, to the health and natural environment of millions of Americans. The EPA’s enforcement of existing regulations provides vital protections against the emission of toxic air and water pollutants and the contamination of public drinking water supplies. The EPA works to prevent the exposure of school children to asbestos, the ingestion of toxic lead paint ...

EO 12866 20th Anniversary: Roundup Edition

by Erin Kesler | October 08, 2013
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White House Buries Itself in Analysis of Non-Economically Significant Rules: A Tour of OIRA's Regulatory Dashboard

by Robert Verchick | October 07, 2013
Ever wonder how Professor Tom McGarity knows about all those delays in regulatory review? Or how Professor Lisa Heinzerling learns about food safety regulations that the White House appears to be burying? Well, now you too can be an OIRA ninja. In President Obama’s first term, the White House introduced an interactive Web portal stocked with charts and figures to give you better information about the President’s centralized system of regulatory review. (Last summer I referred to OIRA as “the ...

The End of Centralized White House Regulatory Review: Don’t Tweak EO 12,866, Repeal It

by Rena Steinzor | October 04, 2013
A series of catastrophic regulatory failures have focused attention on the weakened condition of regulatory agencies assigned to protect public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment. The destructive convergence of funding shortfalls, political attacks, and outmoded legal authority have set the stage for ineffective enforcement, unsupervised industry self-regulation, and a slew of devastating and preventable catastrophes.  From the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico to the worst mining disaster in 40 years at the Upper Big ...

More Politics, Less Expertise: What OIRA has Wrought

by Sidney Shapiro | October 03, 2013
As indicated by the 20th anniversary of Executive Order 12866, which guides the workings of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at OMB, OIRA has become a fixture of the regulatory landscape.  OIRA review of proposed rules is problematic, as other blogs in this series have indicated.   In the Obama administration, however, this is an additional problem. Other offices in the White House, besides OIRA, are more deeply involved in making regulatory decisions than in any other previous administration. ...

Regulatory Review Needs to Comply with Transparency Requirements

by Nina Mendelson | October 03, 2013
On this 20th anniversary of the regulatory review regime of Executive Order 12,866, the appropriate thing to do would be to take stock. Has centralized regulatory review, on balance, improved the quality of federal regulation or interfered with it?   Is this now-extensive regulatory review process worth it, given its costs? Sadly, the opaque quality of the process precludes a definitive answer.   Readers familiar with regulatory review already know that Executive Order 12,866, issued by President Bill Clinton, significantly reaffirmed systematic, centralized ...

Keeping OIRA from Harming Efforts to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

by David Driesen | October 03, 2013
This blog explains why President Obama should exempt proposals to mitigate climate disruption by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from OIRA review. First, the procedure that justifies OIRA review, cost-benefit analysis (CBA), just does not work for climate disruption measures. Second, CBA undermines just and legal climate policy. Third, climate disruption poses special risks that make the delay and weakening that comes from OIRA review unacceptable.  Because of climate disruption's nature, prominent CBA proponents, such as Eric Posner and Martin Weitzman, ...

A Long History of Analysis and Intervention

by Thomas McGarity | October 02, 2013
The origins of Executive Order 12866 go all the way back to the Nixon and Ford Administrations.  Soon after the enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air and Water Acts, affected industries began to complain bitterly about the burdens the new wave of public interest statutes imposed on them.  The business community was also chaffing under the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement that federal agencies prepare environmental impact statements (EISs) for major federal actions that ...

Executive Order 12866’s Cost-Benefit Test is still with us and I Can Hear Ben Franklin Rolling Over in his Grave

by Amy Sinden | October 02, 2013
It was 20 years ago this week that President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12866.   That was a watershed of sorts, because it marked the adoption by a Democratic administration of a key aspect of President Reagan’s anti-regulatory agenda -- the requirement that all major federal regulations undergo cost-benefit analysis.  This was not a move that pleased Clinton’s liberal base, since cost-benefit analysis was widely understood to be a tool favored by industry for weakening and delaying regulation.  But, nonetheless, Clinton signed ...

Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

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