Two Years Later, OSHA's Rule to Protect Workers from Deadly Silica Still in White House Review

by Thomas McGarity | February 14, 2013

[[Ed. Note: This post is a reprint, with minor updates, of McGarity’s post one year ago on the first anniversary of the proposed silica rule arriving at OMB. Little has happened on the issue in the past year – except more people have been sickened or killed by silica exposure.]]

Today marks the second anniversary of an event that received little media attention, but marked a major milestone in the progression of a regulation that is of great importance to thousands of Americans whose jobs bring them into contact with dust particles containing the common mineral silica. Exactly two years ago today the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) completed a proposed rule requiring employers in the mining, manufacturing and construction industries to protect their employees from silica dust particles as they engage in such activities as sandblasting, cutting rocks and concrete, and jackhammering.

Silica dust is no newcomer to the growing list of workplace hazards. Public health professionals have known for more than one hundred years that exposure to airborne silica dust can cause a debilitating disease caused silicosis.

In 1929, as the nation entered the Great Depression, hundreds of workers made their way to Gauley Bridge, West Virginia to work on the Hawk’s Nest diversion project, a massive digging operation that created a three-mile long tunnel through Gauley Mountain to divert the flow of the New River for a Union Carbide power generation facility. Before the project was ...

Phasing out Fossil Fuels

by David Driesen | February 13, 2013
We will phase out fossil fuels.  We have no choice. They are a finite resource and at some point they will run out.  Admittedly, coal will not run out nearly as quickly as oil, but sooner or later all fossil fuel resources will run out.  The only question we face is whether we phase out fossil fuels before we have set in motion climate disruption’s worst effects or instead just allow a phase-out to occur through price shocks and shortages ...

Administration Warns of Food Inspectors Being Furloughed From Budget Sequester -- But Moving Forward Separate Plan to Unilaterally Take Poultry Inspectors Off the Job

by Rena Steinzor | February 12, 2013
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Media Manager Ben Somberg. The White House issued a fact sheet last Friday presenting “Examples of How the Sequester Would Impact Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security.” The consequences of the impending budget cuts from the “sequester” are not some abstract problem; they’re serious dangers, like this one: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could conduct 2,100 fewer inspections at domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture food products while ...

Subsidizing in Spurts: Our Production Tax Credit Policy, or Lack Thereof

by Lesley McAllister | February 12, 2013
Taxes and energy are subject to constant partisan debate. Both are at play in politically-charged discussions about the government’s role in promoting renewable energy, particularly wind energy. Since 1992, the federal government has granted a production tax credit (PTC) (currently 2.2¢ per kilowatt/hour (kWh)) for production of certain renewable energy. The credit initially focused on wind, closed-loop biomass, and poultry-waste energy resources; in 2004 Congress expanded the program to include open-loop biomass, geothermal, and several other renewable energy sources. With ...

The Legacy of Subsidizing Fossil Fuels

by Alexandra Klass | February 08, 2013
Often lost in today’s debates over whether to continue tax benefits for renewable energy is a historical perspective on the significant support the federal government has provided and continues to provide the fossil fuel industry. Tax benefits for the energy industry as a whole totaled over $20 billion in 2011, which is, and historically has been, about 2% of total U.S. tax expenditures. In general, the United States has used tax benefits to first support development of domestic fossil fuel ...

Antibiotic Resistance and Agency Recalcitrance

by Lisa Heinzerling | February 06, 2013
Eighty percent of the antibiotics used in this country are given not to humans, but to animals destined for the human food supply.  Most of these antibiotics are given to the animals not for the purpose of treating active infections, but for the purposes of promoting growth and preventing infection in the microbe-rich environment of the modern factory farm.  For over 40 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been collecting evidence that this agricultural practice contributes to the ...

The Precarious Legality of Cost-Benefit Analysis

by Daniel Farber | February 05, 2013
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Cost-benefit analysis has become a ubiquitous part of regulation, enforced by the Office of Management and Budget. A weak cost-benefit analysis means that the regulation gets kicked back to the agency. Yet there is no statute that provides for this; it’s entirely a matter of Presidential dictate. And reliance on cost-benefit analysis often flies in the face of specific directions from Congress about how to write regulations. There are a few exceptions, such as regulations involving ...

Climate Progress Possible With Energy Efficiency Standards for Appliances -- Under Laws Congress Already Passed

by Alexandra Klass | February 04, 2013
President Obama's focus in his second inaugural address on the need to address climate change was welcome after many months of near silence on this critical issue. While tackling climate change will require significant efforts limiting emissions from power plants, automobiles, and other sources, the President has recognized in the past that improving energy efficiency in general, and setting stricter energy efficiency standards for appliances specifically, can have a major impact on reducing both U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and consumer ...

CPR Report: Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy Dances to Big Business's Tune

by Sidney Shapiro | January 29, 2013
Congress created the Office of Advocacy (Office) of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to represent the interests of small business before regulatory agencies.   It recognized that, unlike larger firms, many, if not most, small businesses can’t afford to lobby regulators and file rulemaking comments because of the expense involved.  The Office was supposed to fill this gap by ensuring that agencies account for the unique concerns of small businesses when developing new regulations.  Instead, as new reports from the Center ...

Executive Review of Regulation in Obama's Second Term

by Matthew Freeman | January 28, 2013
CPR Member Scholar David Driesen of Syracuse University has an op-ed in the January 28 Syracuse Post-Standard making the case that the President should reinvigorate his regulatory agenda, in part by diminishing the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs' power to stifle regulations. He puts the argument in the context of the pressing need for action on climate change, writing: Obama should put an end to obstructionist OIRA review in light of the urgency of climate disruption and the failures this review ...

Exempting Climate Mitigation from OIRA Review

by David Driesen | January 24, 2013
Cross-posted from RegBlog. Nobody seems to have noticed, but the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) recently recommended abolition of review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) based on cost-benefit analysis (CBA). Its report on recommendations for the second Obama Administration made this proposal the sixth item in a list of seven executive orders that Obama could issue with a "Stroke of the Pen" (from the report’s title). In place of CBA-based review, which has often stymied or delayed needed environmental ...

Climate Economics: The State of the Art

by Frank Ackerman | January 23, 2013
Cross-posted from Triple Crisis. Climate science paints an ever-more-detailed picture: irreversible, catastrophic events are becoming increasingly likely as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Climate economics, particularly in its policy applications, lags behind: leading models and analyses frequently ignore the extreme risks and the intergenerational aspect of the problem – and rely on simplistic and dated interpretations of the underlying science. Yet the state of the art has progressed rapidly, in the research literature on climate economics as well as ...

NEPA Section 102(1): A Useful (Yet Rarely Used) Tool for Public Interest Environmental Lawyers

by Joel Mintz | January 22, 2013
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) was one of the first environmental statutes of the modern era. Best known for its environmental impact statement (EIS) requirement, and for establishing the Council on Environmental Quality, NEPA has been the basis for numerous lawsuits challenging federal government projects that will or may have an adverse impact on the human environment. Despite that fact, however, one brief, yet potentially crucial, portion of the statute has been all but overlooked by environmental ...

A Victory for American Coal Miners; A Small Measure of Justice for the Victims of the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster

by James Goodwin | January 18, 2013
Yesterday, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) finalized the long overdue Pattern of Violations rule, a measure that will enhance the agency’s enforcement authority by making it easier for the agency to hold scofflaw mines strictly accountable for repeatedly and needlessly putting their workers at risk of chronic illness, severe injury, or even death.  The deterrent effect of this enhanced enforcement authority will discourage delinquent mine operators from cutting corners on health and safety, a development that will produce ...

Ken Salazar's Mixed Legacy

by Dan Rohlf | January 17, 2013
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar will leave a decidedly mixed legacy from his four years at the helm of the federal department responsible for protecting many of America’s vast open spaces, treasured parks, and disappearing wildlife.  Salazar’s Interior Department enjoyed some high-profile successes and on occasion took action to better protect important resources. It reached a multi-billion dollar settlement in the long-running and contentious Cobell litigation, a massive class action suit by Indian tribal members over government mismanagement of revenue ...

FDA's New Produce Safety Rules: Somewhat Less Than Meets the Eye

by Thomas McGarity | January 14, 2013
When I teach my environmental law and food safety law students how to go about ascertaining the meaning of implementing regulations, I tell them to start with the sections of the regulations devoted to definitions and exemptions.  Quite frequently the most hard-fought controversies during the rulemaking process through which the agency promulgated the regulations were over the definitions and exemptions.  That certainly seems to be true in the case of the long-awaited Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed “Standards for ...

CPR Report: Rise in Contract Labor Brings New Worker Safety Threats, Demands New Government Policies in Several Dangerous Industries

by Ben Somberg | January 11, 2013
Just how accountable is an employer to an employee if the employee is only working for one day? In areas from construction to farm work, warehouse labor to hotel housekeeping, contingent work is growing or already common. Rather than hire permanent, full-time employees directly, many employers hire workers indirectly through 3rd party agencies, or on contracts as short as a day. Too often, workers in these fields see little job security, low wages, minimal opportunities for advancement, and, all too ...

An Important Stormwater Case -- and It's Not the One You're Thinking of

by Dave Owen | January 10, 2013
Cross-posted from Environmental Law Prof Blog. Last week, a federal district court in Virginia decided an urban stormwater case that may ultimately have far more significance than the Supreme Court’s more widely-watched decision in Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council.  The case is Virginia Department of Transportation v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and it involves a challenge to a proxy TMDL for Accotink Creek, a Potomac River tributary in northern Virginia.  On its face, that statement may not sound ...

'National Security' Coal Bailout Collapses

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The Major Rules Doctrine -- A 'Judge-Empowering Proposition'

Steinzor | Oct 11, 2018 | Regulatory Policy

Taming White House Review of Federal Agency Regulations

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