White House Letter Focusing Debate on Regulatory Costs -- and Not Benefits -- Frustrated EPA Officials, Emails Reveal

by Rena Steinzor | May 03, 2012

By CPR President Rena Steinzor and Media Manager Ben Somberg

Internal EPA emails obtained by CPR through a FOIA request reveal EPA officials’ frustration regarding the White House’s efforts to triangulate House Republicans’ ferocious attacks on regulations. A White House letter last year emphasizing regulatory costs but barely describing the lives saved and injuries avoided by strong protections angered environmental and public health advocates.  The newly released emails show that top EPA officials – who were not even consulted – were also not pleased.

On August 26 of last year, Speaker of the House John Boehner sent President Obama a letter requesting that the Administration provide a list of “planned new rules that would have an estimated economic impact of more than $1 billion.” The goal, of course, was to continue the GOP’s focus on the costs of regulations (the headline of Boehner’s press release: “Citing Spike in Red Tape, Speaker Boehner Seeks Info from White House on Job-Threatening Regulations”). The information Boehner was requesting was already publicly available, but that wasn’t the point; the point was to drive an anti-regulatory message. And it worked: The Washington Post ran a story under the headline “Boehner asks Obama to detail $1 billion regulations.”

And so it was disappointing when the White House took the bait – hook, line, and sinker. President Obama responded to Boehner four days later with a two-page letter that attempted to ...

Executive Order Embraces International Regulatory Race to the Bottom as Official Administration Policy

by David Hunter | May 02, 2012
On one level, President Obama’s Executive Order issued Tuesday, “Promoting International Regulatory Cooperation,” seems benign enough.  After all, who would be against international cooperation and a desire to “reduce, eliminate or prevent unnecessary differences in regulatory requirements”?  Moreover, the Order on its face does little more than set out priorities and procedures for enhancing international regulatory cooperation. Unfortunately, this Order is a one-way regulatory ratchet that leads only to deregulatory changes in the United States that at best will provide ...

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Ratifying the Basel Convention on Transboundary Waste

by Noah M Sachs | May 01, 2012
a(broad) perspective Today’s post is third in a series on a recent CPR white paper, Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership: Why the United States Should Ratify Ten Pending Environmental Treaties.  Each month, this series will discuss one of these ten treaties.  Previous posts are here. Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal Adopted and Opened for Signature on March 22, 1989 Entered into Force on May 5, 1992 Signed by the United States on ...

Administrative Conference of the United States Teams Up with Chamber of Commerce on Regulations

by Ben Somberg | April 30, 2012
In its own words, the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) is “an independent federal agency dedicated to improving the administrative process through consensus-driven applied research, providing nonpartisan expert advice and recommendations for improvement of federal agency procedures.” On Tuesday afternoon, ACUS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are jointly sponsoring an event at the Chamber, “Next Steps & Implementation of ACUS Recommendations on: Incorporation by Reference & International Regulatory Cooperation.” That’s over the line, particularly given the agenda ...

Bloomberg News Serves up an Echo-Chamber-Ready Take on Regulation

by Matthew Freeman | April 30, 2012
Last week, Bloomberg News ran a curious story conflating a range of issues under the banner of regulatory rollbacks. The piece keys off of the ongoing GOP push to deregulate America. That effort has been going on for decades, of course, but in the wake of the recession (made possible, not coincidentally, by deregulation in the economic sector), GOP leaders and their business allies and funders have rebranded it, and now argue that that "burdensome" economic, health, safety and environmental regulations ...

The Pander Games: Obama Administration Sells Out Kids Doing Dangerous Agricultural Work, Breaks Pledge to Ensure Welfare of Youngest Workers

by Rena Steinzor | April 27, 2012
Yesterday evening, when press coverage had ebbed for the day, the Department of Labor issued a short, four-paragraph press release announcing it was withdrawing a rule on child labor on farms. The withdrawal came after energetic attacks by the American Farm Bureau, Republicans in Congress, Sarah Palin, and—shockingly—Al Franken (D-MN). Last year, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said: "Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America.” “Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, ...

A Bill to Steamroll the NEPA Process

by Robert Glicksman | April 27, 2012
The irony is palpable, though clearly intentional.  More than forty years ago, Congress kicked off the “environmental decade” by adopting the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  NEPA’s goals are to ensure that federal agencies whose developmental missions often incline them to ignore or place a low priority on environmental protection to consider the possible adverse environmental consequences of major actions before committing to them, and to make the results of that evaluation publicly available.  NEPA sought to assure balanced consideration ...

BP Spill: Perp Walk for Underling Shouldn't Satisfy Anyone

by Rena Steinzor | April 26, 2012
With considerable media flourish, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday the first and so far only criminal charges related to the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that killed 11 workers, and did profound violence to the Gulf of Mexico and the local economies dependent up on it. One Kurt Mix, 50, an engineer involved in designing the failed “top kill” remedy, was indicted for obstruction of justice. More specifically, he's accused of deleting text messages from his phone that he ...

Applying the Clean Air Act to Greenhouse Gases: What Does It Mean for Traditional Pollutants?

by Alice Kaswan | April 24, 2012
EPA’s March 27 release of a proposed rule to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new fossil-fuel power plants has reignited the long-standing debate over whether the Clean Air Act is an appropriate mechanism for controlling industrial sources. Congressional bills to repeal EPA’s CAA authority have been repeatedly (though unsuccessfully) introduced. Many environmentalists, while welcoming EPA’s initiative in the absence of any alternative, have suggested that new federal climate legislation would be preferable to applying the CAA. In a recently ...

The Good and the Bad in the BP Settlement, and the Main Course Still Ahead

by Robert Verchick | April 23, 2012
I spent last Friday – the second anniversary of the BP Blowout – in the vast basement of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court building, shifting in my metal chair, ignoring the talk-show chatter from the flat screens, and keeping an eye on the red digit counter to know when my number was up. I'd been called for jury duty. Whether I will eventually be deployed is up to the gods, but until then I had resolved to study (with ...

What Progress Looks Like: Washington State's Climate Change Preparedness Strategy

by Catherine O'Neill | April 20, 2012
Earlier this month Washington State’s Department of Ecology released its integrated climate response strategy, Preparing for a Changing Climate.  The strategy again demonstrates that the state is a leader when it comes to preparing for climate change impacts (see also NRDC’s recent report examining climate preparedness in all 50 states). What makes Washington a leader?  Well, the political leadership is willing to address climate change impacts, and the scientific community is active and engaged and generates the information and data ...

Why OSHA Can't Regulate

by Thomas McGarity | April 19, 2012
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report today detailing the challenges that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) faces in writing regulations to protect America’s workers from unsafe and unhealthful workplaces.  The report was released at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), on “Delays in OSHA’s Standard-Setting Process and the Impact on Worker Safety.”  Both the GAO report and testimony presented at the hearing tell a depressing ...

Mitt Romney Struggles to Find an Actual Example of Obama Administration Regulatory Overreach

by Ben Somberg | April 19, 2012
On March 19, in a major economic policy address, Mitt Romney painted a portrait of a real-life "victim" of the Obama Administration’s supposed overregulation: This administration’s burdensome regulations are even invading the freedom of everyday Americans.  Mike and Chantell Sackett run a small business in Idaho.  They saved enough money to buy a piece of property and build a modest home on it. But days after they broke ground, an EPA regulator told them to stop digging. The EPA said ...

To Protect the Public, FDA Should Go Beyond Industry's Petition on BPA

by Aimee Simpson | April 18, 2012
CPR Member Scholar Noah Sachs and I submitted comments yesterday to FDA regarding the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) petition to the agency on BPA. In September, the ACC petitioned FDA to remove approval for the use of BPA in “infant feeding bottles and certain spill-proof cups” (Rena Steinzor and I explained at the time the story behind the seemingly counter-intuitive move). In our comments this week, we advocate for FDA to utilize its full rulemaking authority and take broader regulatory ...

Cutting EPA's Enforcement Budget: What It Might Mean

by Joel Mintz | April 12, 2012
Last week, members of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union at EPA released an internal Agency memo describing the Agency’s proposed plan to cut back on specific areas of enforcement in response to looming budget cuts in FY 2013.  The memo, by Larry Starfield, EPA's Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance lists “Areas of Proposed Budget Adjustment for FY13.”  Federal agencies have an unenviable task: they must plan for budgets that are unpredictable; ...

Preserving the Pristine: Why the United States Should Ratify the Antarctic Liability Annex

by John Knox | April 11, 2012
a(broad) perspective Today’s post is second in a series on a recent CPR white paper, Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership: Why the United States Should Ratify Ten Pending Environmental Treaties.  Each month, this series will discuss one of these ten treaties.  Previous posts are here. Annex VI on Liability Arising from Environmental Emergencies to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty Adopted and Opened for Signature on June 14, 2005 Entry into Force Pending Signed by the United States ...

Regulatory Opponents Take Note: The Media May Be Catching On!

by Matthew Freeman | April 09, 2012
One of the many ways that the slow and agonizing contraction of the newspaper industry is felt is in the depth of coverage that papers provide their readers. It’s a matter of simple math, really. As newsrooms shrink, reporters are stretched ever thinner. So a newspaper that 15 years ago had separate reporters covering elementary and secondary education is now likely to have just one covering both. Similarly, newspapers have fewer reporters dedicated to the environmental beat, let alone beats ...

The Age of Greed: Regulatory Look-Back In Action -- Speeding Up the Line and Endangering Workers at Poultry Processing Plants

by Rena Steinzor | April 06, 2012
The White House’s Cass Sunstein has found another poster child for his crusade to eliminate costly regulation under President Obama's Executive Order 13563.  The order requires agencies and departments to “look back” at existing requirements in order to kill unnecessary health, safety, and environmental requirements.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), complying dutifully with the order, has dug deep into the garbage can where abandoned deregulatory proposals go to die, producing a despicable plan regarding  poultry processing plants, already among ...

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