Senate Republicans' Boycott of McCarthy Vote: More Shameless Obstructionism

by Rena Steinzor | May 09, 2013

Today's move by Senate Republicans to boycott a committee confirmation vote on Gina McCarthy to lead the EPA is just another in a series of shameless tactics aimed at hampering the Environmental Protection Agency and preventing it from doing the people's business. The list includes endless filibusters; sequester cuts that make it harder to enforce existing laws; a host of attacks on specific environmental regulations under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other statutes addressing critical environmental ...

Lisa Heinzerling Reflects on OIRA-EPA Relationship

by Matthew Freeman | May 08, 2013
CPR's Lisa Heinzerling has an article in the most recent issue of the Pace Environmental Law Review, Inside EPA: A Former Insider's Reflections on the Relationship between the Obama EPA and the Obama White House, in which she discusses the ways that the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) under Cass Sustein exercised control over EPA's regulatory process. She writes that, using cost-benefit analysis as a point of access, OIRA departs considerably from the structure created by the executive ...

In Dallas Morning News Op-Ed, McGarity Examines Texas Legislature's Response to West, Texas, Disaster

by Matthew Freeman | May 06, 2013
Last week, CPR’s Tom McGarity had a column in the Christian Science Monitor, describing the ways that the political right’s war on regulation and enforcement helped contribute to the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion last month. Today, he’s got a separate piece in the Dallas Morning News (and this past Friday, it was in the Houston Chronicle) taking a look at the Texas legislature’s response to the disaster. In the piece, McGarity takes a state legislator to task for declaring ...

Large OSHA Fine for Poultry Processor Highlights Flaw in USDA Proposal to Revise Inspection System

by Matt Shudtz | May 03, 2013
Just days before The Washington Post's Kimberly Kindy published her eye-opening story of chemical showers in chicken processing plants and the untimely death of a federal food safety inspector, OSHA announced fines totaling $58,775 in a case involving a worker fatality at another chicken processing plant – this one in Canton, Georgia. According to OSHA's press release, the worker "became caught in an unguarded hopper while attempting to remove a piece of cardboard."  The agency does not typically release the full ...

Who Is Running OIRA?

by Lisa Heinzerling | April 30, 2013
Reposted from RegBlog. In his revealing new book about his nearly four years as President Barack Obama’s “regulatory czar,” Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein describes a striking moment:  “After I had been in the job for a few years, a Cabinet member showed up at my office and told my chief of staff, ‘I work for Cass Sunstein.’  Of course that wasn’t true – but still.”  But still, indeed.  Sunstein’s book, Simpler: The Future of Government, makes clear just ...

OIRA Nominee's Disappearing Affiliation with Industry Think Tank

by Rena Steinzor | April 30, 2013
See the UPDATE at the bottom of the page. Last Thursday, President Obama named Howard Shelanski as his new nominee for Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). As of that evening, Shelanski was listed on the website of the industry-funded, fiercely anti-regulatory Mercatus Center as an "expert" in its Technology Policy Program. OIRA has long operated as a regulatory chokepoint, stalling and weakening health and environmental safeguards at the behest of industry groups, and as I've written, ...

Tom McGarity Op-Ed in the Christian Science Monitor: Feeble Oversight in West, Texas, Was No Accident

by Matthew Freeman | April 29, 2013
CPR's Tom McGarity has an op-ed in this morning's Christian Science Monitor describing the regulatory environment in which that West, Texas, fertilizer plant came to have a large stockpile of explosive material while operating with little or no oversight from state or federal authorities. An April 17 explosion at the plant claimed at least 15 lives and destroyed several hundred homes. McGarity notes that Texas has no state program for occupational health and safety, so leaves such matters to the ...

Obama's Next Regulatory Czar

by Rena Steinzor | April 26, 2013
A few months ago, I urged the Obama Administration to view the nomination of a second-term Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) as an opportunity to fundamentally change the role that the office plays in the regulatory system. Dozens of important rules got stuck at OIRA in the year before the presidential elections and are still languishing. House Republicans continue their blistering and unsubstantiated attacks on the agencies, doing everything they can to cut their budgets ...

An Energy No-Brainer

by Daniel Farber | April 24, 2013
Reposted from Legal Planet, by permisison. There are a lot of things to disagree about in terms of energy policy.  One thing that ought to be common ground, as discussed in a Washington Post column, is increased research in energy R&D.  As this chart shows, federal support for energy R&D is smaller than it was under Ronald Reagan: The economic argument for supporting R&D is simple.  Private firms don’t have enough of an incentive to engage in basic research because ...

Blistering Comments on State's Draft Keystone XL Environmental Impact Statement

by Sandra Zellmer | April 23, 2013
Monday was the deadline for public comment on the State Department's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Keystone XL Pipeline. Mine, which I submitted with the support of two of my University of Nebraska colleagues, are here. The State Department had initially announced that it would take the unusual path of refusing to make all of the comments available to the public absent a Freedom of Information Act request, but after a storm of criticism, the Department has reversed ...

Death of a Statute: The Kiobel Ruling

by John Knox | April 19, 2013
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ended a generation of human rights litigation in the United States by holding, in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) does not apply to actions occurring in foreign countries. The ATS allows plaintiffs to sue in federal courts for torts committed in violation of international law and, since 1980, plaintiffs have used it for claims of grave human rights violations, such as torture, crimes against humanity, extrajudicial killing, and even genocide, ...

CPR Briefing Paper: Chesapeake Bay States Need to Strengthen Penalty Policies to Make Sure there is No Profit in Pollution

by Robert Glicksman | April 19, 2013
Industries that discharge water pollution are required to abide by clean water laws and regulations that limit how much they can pollute the nation's rivers, lakes, streams, and other bodies of water. If they exceed their limits or fail to implement appropriate methods for controlling their pollution, they violate the law. Such violations should trigger appropriate sanctions to deter all regulated entities from committing future violations. Unfortunately, polluters may weigh decisions about whether and how much to pollute from a dollars-and-cents perspective ...

The Reliability of the Sun and the Wind

by Lesley McAllister | April 17, 2013
The following is reposted from the Environmental Law Prof Blog. The electric utility industry often complains that renewable energy proponents don’t pay enough attention to the intermittency of renewable resources.  A common refrain is “the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.”  The industry then reminds us that, for a reliable electricity grid, supply and demand must be in balance at all times. The implication is that this will be impossible if we rely heavily on renewable energy. A new report published by the ...

Letting Nature Do Its Thing for Our Benefit

by Yee Huang | April 17, 2013
In the decades since Congress and state legislatures passed most of the nation's most significant environmental laws, our knowledge about ecosystems has increased dramatically. We know much more about the “goods and services” that ecosystems provide—more, for example, about the migratory species that sustain agriculture by functioning as pollinators, and more about how healthy ecosystems help to filter and clean our water. But our policymakers haven’t yet taken advantage of much of that new knowledge. As ecologists learn more about ...

A Tribute to Joe Feller

by Robert Glicksman | April 16, 2013
Last week, CPR lost one its most dynamic scholars, Joe Feller, in a tragic accident. Joe was deservedly well known as a staunch and vigorous advocate on behalf of natural resource preservation, especially the public rangelands that he loved. Joe was not cut from the typical academic mold. Although he wrote frequently and with vision about subjects that included rangeland protection and water law issues, he was at least as comfortable leading environmental protection efforts in the agencies and the courts. Joe filed administrative ...

Steinzor Testifies Today on Proposed Giveaway to Energy Industry

by Matthew Freeman | April 12, 2013
This morning, CPR President Rena Steinzor will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the proposed Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013 (ECRA), yet another in a series of bills from House Republicans aimed at blocking federal regulatory agencies from fully implementing the nation's health and safety laws — in this case such landmark legislation as the Clean Air Act, and any other law enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency that is in any sense "energy-related." Here's the ...

President's Proposed Budget Assumes Savings from Finalizing Proposed USDA Poultry Inspection Rule That Would Be Harmful to Food Safety, Workers, and the Environment

by Matt Shudtz | April 10, 2013
For more than a year now, food safety and worker safety advocates have been fighting a proposal out of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service that would pull most government inspectors off poultry slaughter lines in favor of potentially un-trained company inspectors, speed up the lines, and allow companies to use additional antimicrobial chemicals to cover up expected increases in contamination.  Today, President Obama released a proposed budget that indicates USDA’s proposal will be finalized before the start of FY2014 (see ...

USDA's Poultry Rule Will Exacerbate Water Pollution, in Addition to Its Negative Impacts on Food and Worker Safety

by Michael Patoka | April 09, 2013
The Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal to “modernize” the poultry inspection system by replacing government inspectors with company employees, and speeding up the processing line to a staggering 175 birds per minute, has been exposed on numerous occasions as a disaster-waiting-to-happen for food and worker safety. In its zeal to save money for poultry corporations, the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) failed to conduct its much-vaunted “interagency review” before giving the proposed rule its stamp of ...
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