President Obama’s Executive Order on Chemical Facility Safety Is a Step in the Right Direction
Yesterday President Obama signed an executive order, entitled “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security,” that is designed to get state, federal and local chemical safety agencies and first responders to improve coordination, information gathering, and regulation with respect to the risks posed by the many highly reactive chemical compounds that are stored and used throughout the United States.
Inspired by the tragic explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas on April 17 of this year, the Executive Order establishes a federal working group chaired by Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and orders the working group to develop a plan to “support and further enable efforts by State regulators, State, local, and tribal emergency responders, chemical facility owners and operators, and local and tribal communities to work together to improve chemical facility safety and security.”
Coordination and Data Sharing.
The Executive Order also addresses the easier question of coordination and data sharing among agencies with responsibility for protecting the public from chemical explosions.
Among other things the working group is supposed to:
• Identify ways to improve coordination among the Federal Government, first responders, and State, local, and tribal entities
• Identify ways to ensure that the various state, local and federal entities with responsibilities for regulating reactive chemicals and reacting to explosions, either accidental or intentional (for
Senate Hearing to Bring Some Sanity to the Debate Over Federal Regulatory Policy
Tomorrow, a new panel in the Senate Judiciary Committee—the Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights, and Agency Action—will bring some much-need sanity to the discussion of federal regulatory policy when it holds a hearing entitled “Justice Delayed: The Human Cost of Regulatory Paralysis.” What’s so refreshing about this hearing is that it starts from the premise that blocked and delayed safeguards are a problem that needs to be solved. Crucially, this hearing will provide an opportunity to shine a light on the
CPR Scholar Tom McGarity to Testify at Senate Hearing on Toxic Chemical Reform
This morning, CPR Member Scholar Tom McGarity testifies at the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works on "Strengthening Public Health Protections by Addressing Toxic Chemical Threats." His testimony can be found in full here. McGarity contributed the following blog post in advance of the hearing. The Chemical Safety Improvement Act: The Wrong Way to Fix a Broken Federal Statute We live in an era in which human health and the environment are threatened by toxic chemicals that have not
New CPR Issue Alert on TSCA Reform: Progressive Principles for Toxic Risk Regulation
Today, Senator Boxer’s Environment and Public Works committee will hold a hearing to discuss the best ways to fix the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the badly outdated law governing some 80,000 chemicals used in commerce in the United States. Communities across the country are not aware of the dangers present in chemicals in everything from baby bottles to face creams, with little to no regulation because of weak TSCA legislation passed over 40 years ago. Strong toxic chemical regulation
Robert Verchick: Will the White House stall its own climate change plans?
Last week, The Hill published an opinion piece by Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Robert Verchick. The piece entitled, "Politics and progress: Will the White House stall its own climate change plans?" can be read here. According to Verchick: Under its statutory authority, EPA has ample power to write rules limiting power plant emissions, for example. But since the Reagan administration, all “major” rules—those seen as important to national policy—have been funneled into a little-known process of review, conducted
Shelanski Said What During the House Small Business Committee?
Earlier this week, Regulatory Czar Howard Shelanski testified before the House Small Business committee to update committee members on the progress the Obama Administration has made with the regulatory look-back process established by Executive Orders 13563 and 13610. In one interesting exchange with Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), Shelanski offered the following perspective on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) approach to regulatory review: The interpretation of an agency’s statute and the choice of policy—to the extent there is discretion
Chemical Safety Board Introduces a Most Wanted List of Reforms to Protect Workers
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, better known as CSB, is held a meeting today to discuss several recommendations and a newly created “Most Wanted Program.” CSB has invited public input, so CPR President Rena Steinzor and I submitted comments to CSB yesterday, urging the agency to target the White House in its advocacy efforts related to the Most Wanted Program. CSB has numerous recommendations that it considers “open” because the target of those recommendations, be it OSHA, another
Ash Time Goes By: Administration Continues Foot-Dragging on Coal Ash Rule as Toxic Landfills and Ash Ponds Grow by 94 Million Tons Each Year
Further along the Ohio River, there’s a pond literally across the street from a residential neighborhood (see below). It drains millions of gallons of contaminated water into the river under its state permit, to prevent overflow. Not only is the groundwater polluted with dangerous levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and selenium, but the landfill scatters “black soot everywhere” in the words of one resident, who said, “I‘ve lived there for 35 years and all I do is watch people die.”
Shelanski to Testify on Regulatory Look-Back, Hopefully with an Update on the Poultry Slaughter Rule
Tomorrow, the new OIRA Administrator, Howard Shelanski, will testify before the House Small Business Committee on the results of the government-wide “look-back” at existing regulations. It will be an opportunity for the Committee’s Republicans to continue their assault on government programs that keep our food safe, air and water clean, and highways fit for travel. Shelanski could follow in his predecessor’s footsteps by trying to assuage the Republicans’ fears with glowing statistics about the allegedly huge savings that are expected to flow from revising
The Obama Worker Safety and Health Legacy: The Fifth Inning and the Possibility of a Shutout; A Big Challenge for Tom Perez
The Senate’s grudging confirmation of Tom Perez as Secretary of Labor was the first piece of good news working people have had out of the federal government for quite some time. I know Perez--as a neighbor, a law school colleague, Maryland’s labor secretary, and a civil rights prosecutor. He’s a fearless, smart, and hard-driving public servant—exactly the qualities that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his caucus deplore in Obama appointees. With luck, Perez will be successful in direct proportion to the unprecedented vitriol
Downwind States Deserve Protection: Supreme Court’s Review of Decision Gutting Cross-State Pollution Protections Right on Point
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari, or review of EME Homer City Generation v. EPA, 696 F.3d 7 (D.C. Cir. 2012), reh’g en banc denied, 2013 WL 656247 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 24, 2013). This is a welcome development, as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals got many things wrong in its tossing out of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSPAR), the follow-up to the previously invalidated Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) which regulated potential cross-state air pollution. For
The Strange World of the Small Business Administration
When you say “small business,” most people probably imagine a mom-and-pop corner grocery. Actually, the federal Small Business Administration’s concept of small goes well beyond that. For instance, it includes a computer business that does up to $25 million per year in business. A convenience store can do $27 million and still be considered “small,” while a grocery store can go up to $30 million. If you’re in parts of the financial sector, you can do $175 million in business
Senate's Confirmation of Gina McCarthy as Head of EPA a Welcome Development
The Senate's confirmation of Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a welcome development and a signal that Congress and the President are willing to get serious about the Agency's role in protecting the health of all Americans and the affects of climate change on the environment. It won't be easy. Lawmakers seem divided on nearly every issue in this debate. In the past EPA's efforts to protect the environment and public health and safety have sometimes
As Good as a Stopped Clock: The House does Transparency
One day in May, climate change got a lot more expensive. The price tag on emissions – the value of the damages done by one more ton of CO2 in the air – used to be a mere $25 or so, in today’s dollars, according to an anonymous government task force that met in secret in 2009-2010. Now it’s $40, according to an anonymous government task force that met in secret in early 2013. Anyone who cares about combating climate
Government Seeks Certiorari on Clean Water Act’s Direct Review Provision in EPA v. Friends of the Everglades
by Bill Funk | July 17, 2013
Environmentalists know about the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Transfer Rule. See 40 CFR § 122.3(i). It states in essence that discharging polluted water from one body of water to another unpolluted body of water is not a discharge of a pollutant under the Clean Water Act. According to the EPA, this action would not be regulated by the Act, because no pollutant is being “added” to the “waters of the United States.” There may be an addition of a pollutant to a
Urban Stormwater Runoff: The Residual Designation Authority Bombshell
by Dave Owen | July 16, 2013
Statement of CPR President Rena Steinzor on "Energy Consumer Relief Act" Mark-up
This morning, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee is expected to advance the "Energy Consumer Relief Act" for consideration. The Act would allow the head of the Department of Energy to veto any rules promulgated by the EPA with estimated "costs" of over $1 billion. Center for Progressive Reform President Rena Steinzor testified against the bill in April at a Legislative Hearing. Below is Steinzor's reaction to the Committee's movement of the Act: The deceptively named, "Energy Consumer Relief Act"
By the Numbers: The Costs of New Regulatory Delays Announced in the Spring 2013 Regulatory Agenda
“April showers bring May flowers.” To that well-known spring-related proverb one might soon add “the Spring Regulatory Agenda brings new groundless complaints from corporate interests and their anti-regulatory allies in Congress about so-called regulatory overreach.” Last Wednesday, the Obama Administration issued the 2013 edition of the Spring Regulatory Agenda, one of two documents the President must issue every year (the other is published in the fall) that compiles and summarizes the various regulatory actions that the Administration expects to take in the