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 nut paragraph of the bill:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency may not promulgate as final an energy-related rule that is estimated to cost more than $1 billion if the Secretary of Energy determines under Section 3(3) [of ECRA] that, with respect to the rule, significant adverse effects to the economy will be caused.

In other words, the Secretary of Energy would have veto power over EPA.

Here's Steinzor's description of the proposal:

The ECRA is nothing more—and certainly nothing less—than yet another attempt by certain Members of Congress to shield some of the wealthiest and most heavily subsidized corporations in history from the relatively modest financial costs associated with carrying out their businesses in a manner that does not place people and the environment at unreasonable risk of harm.

Steinzor's full testimony is here.

One other note: For years, the mantra from the right wing ...

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 ...

Updating OSHA Inspection Policies

by Adam Finkel | April 05, 2013
This post originally appeared on Harvard Law School’s Bill of Health and on RegBlog and is cross-posted with permisison. For many of the federal agencies that promulgate and enforce regulations to protect public health, safety, and the environment, the era of “big government” never even began.  The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a prime example: the agency employs about 2,000 inspectors, who are collectively able to visit roughly 100,000 establishments each year to look for unsafe and unhealthy conditions in the ...

Simpler Government, or Secret and Unaccountable Government?

by Ben Somberg | April 04, 2013
Over at Climate Progress, CPR Member Scholar Lisa Heinzerling critiques Cass Sunstein's new book, “Simpler: The Future of Government." Rules on worker health, environmental protection, food safety, health care, consumer protection, and more all passed through Sunstein’s inbox. Some never left. ... In Sunstein’s account, OIRA’s interventions also ensured “a well-functioning system of public comment” and “compliance with procedural ideals that might not always be strictly compulsory but that might be loosely organized under the rubric of ‘good government’.” No theme more ...

Who Will Run the EPA?

by Ben Somberg | April 01, 2013
From Member Scholar Lisa Heinzerling's new article in the Yale Journal on Regulation: With President Obama's nomination of Gina McCarthy as the new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), much attention has turned to her record as the EPA official in charge of air pollution programs, experience as the head of two states’ environmental agencies, and views on specific policies and priorities. And with the President’s nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the Director of the Office of ...

Rep. Duckworth's Small Business Paperwork Relief Act is a Flawed Solution for the Wrong Problem

by Sidney Shapiro | March 28, 2013
Rep. Tammy Duckworth appears to have been caught up in the anti-regulatory fervor that has continued to afflict the House of Representatives ever since the GOP took control there in 2010.  On Monday, Representative Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, announced a plan to address what she said was a problem: “For businesses with less than twenty employees, the annual cost of federal regulation can be over $10,000 per worker.”  But before we get to the proposed solution, there’s a problem with ...

Taking ACUS to Task for Industry Bias in 'International Regulatory Cooperation' Project

by Michael Patoka | March 22, 2013
In late 2011, a little known but surprisingly influential independent federal agency called the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) conducted a research project on “International Regulatory Cooperation” (IRC), culminating in a set of recommendations to U.S. agencies. In a letter sent yesterday (March 21), CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Thomas McGarity, and I urge ACUS Chairman Paul Verkuil to look back over the project’s many flaws, which reflect—in both process and substance—ACUS’s pervasive bias toward the views of ...

Friday in DC: Creative Approaches to Critical Habitat Protection Under the ESA

by Dave Owen | March 20, 2013
Two months ago, a federal district court in Alaska set aside the Department of the Interior’s designation of critical habitat for the polar bear.  This had been the most geographically extensive critical habitat designation ever under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but it provoked adamant opposition from the petroleum industry and the state of Alaska.  That isn’t atypical; critical habitat designations often generate controversy.  But one might wonder why. The ESA’s only provision directly targeted at critical habitat protection is ...

Refinery Rule Returned to EPA for Additional 'Analysis': How Big Oil, OIRA, and the SBA Office of Advocacy Teamed Up to Delay Progress

by Rena Steinzor | March 19, 2013
On Friday, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) returned a proposed rule on air pollution standards for oil refineries to EPA, insisting that the agency complete “additional analysis” before moving forward. EPA’s efforts to reduce hazardous pollutants from these facilities will be delayed for months or likely years.  And that additional analysis?  OIRA won’t even say what it’s for.  “Trust us” is not the most reassuring government transparency. EPA was proposing to revise the emissions standards for ...

Power Plant Regulation and the Rhetoric of Reliability

by Emily Hammond | March 15, 2013
The coal-fired power plant industry has always fought air-emissions standards enacted pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA).  But the industry has increasingly raised the specter of reliability problems, arguing that EPA’s recent “tsunami” of regulations will cause a “train wreck,” forcing companies to retire aging plants so rapidly that lost capacity will outpace the development of new sources.  The result, they maintain, will be such an unmanageable strain on the regional grids that they will have to impose brownouts ...

Steinzor Testifies this Morning on Benefits of Regulation, Role of SBA's Office of Advocacy

by Matthew Freeman | March 14, 2013
This morning, CPR President Rena Steinzor testifies before the House Committee on Small Business's Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations. From the witness list, it would appear that this'll be another in a series of hearings structured by House Republicans to inveigh against the regulations that protect Americans from a variety of hazards in the air we breathe, water we drink, places we work, products we buy, food we eat, and more. If history is any guide, most of the testimony ...

Mancini "Leads" OIRA as Deputy Administrator

by Ben Somberg | March 13, 2013
A quick update on the OIRA leadership front: Dominic Mancini has been named the Deputy Administrator of OIRA, and now “leads” the office from this position, an OMB spokesperson says via email (The Hill was up with this news a bit earlier today). Boris Bershteyn’s appointment as Acting Administrator has ended, the spokesperson said. Bershteyn had reached a time limit under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which puts restrictions on acting officers performing in Senate-confirmed positions. By the letter of ...

In Horne v. Department of Agriculture, SCOTUS to Wade into Complicated Nest of Takings Issues

by John Echeverria | March 13, 2013
Next Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case of Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture – a complicated and relatively little-noticed case that could have important implications for the direction of “takings” doctrine and, in turn, for how far judges wielding this doctrine may intrude upon the policy-making functions of the elected branches.  To understand the case, it is useful to analogize the issues in the case to a set of Russian nested dolls. The issue representing ...

Another Skirmish in the Preemption War: Does FDA Approval Trump Strict Liability?

by Thomas McGarity | March 12, 2013
Next Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett, a case that raises once again the troubling question of whether federal regulatory agencies should trump local juries in common law tort actions.  The precise question at issue is whether the fact that the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a name-brand drug many years ago precludes a state court jury from holding the manufacturer of the generic version of that drug strictly liable ...

There is Now No OIRA Administrator

by Ben Somberg | March 11, 2013
Last week Rena Steinzor wrote here that  the Acting Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Boris Bershteyn, was approaching a time limit under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. That law stipulates that a temporary appointee in a Senate-confirmed position can generally serve for no more than 210 days, unless a nomination is pending, which in this case it is not. Where Bershteyn was previously listed as the OIRA Administrator, the White House has now removed his ...

New Report Reveals Human Toll of Relentless Line Speeds in Poultry Plants, as USDA Prepares to Crank Them Up Even Further

by Michael Patoka | March 08, 2013
A report released yesterday by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice offers a devastating glimpse into the world of Alabama poultry workers.  Forced to hang, fold, gut, or slice more than 100 carcasses each minute, these workers suffer injuries at astounding rates:  of the 302 workers interviewed, almost three-quarters have experienced a significant work-related injury or illness, from deep cuts and debilitating hand pain to chemical burns and respiratory problems.  More ...

It's Past Time to Appoint an OIRA Administrator

by Rena Steinzor | March 04, 2013
It has now been nearly seven months since Cass Sunstein left his job as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Much has happened in that time, most significantly an election that returned President Obama to the White House, but also a growing recognition that whatever second-term accomplishments the President is able to register on climate change and a number of other issues are likely to be brought about through regulation, not legislation. That's precisely ...

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