Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone pursuant to the federal Clean Air Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 7409. The new regulation reduces both the primary and secondary NAAQS for ozone from 0.075 to 0.070 parts per million (ppm) (or from 75 to 70 parts per billion) averaged over eight hours in order to better protect human health, welfare, and the environment. The new regulation has not yet been published in the Federal Register, but it is available from the EPA.
NAAQS are one of the Clean Air Act’s primary mechanisms for protecting human health and the environment from air pollution. Such protections begin with the EPA Administrator designating criteria pollutants—pollutants that, when emitted into the air, “cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare,” that come from numerous or diverse sources, and for which the Administrator expects to issue air quality criteria. 42 U.S.C. § 7408(a)(1). Ozone has been a criteria pollutant under the Clean Air Act since the beginning of the 1970 Act’s implementation.Full text
The resignation of House Speaker John Boehner and the VW diesel car scandal -- two rather extraordinary events -- might not initially appear to be related, but there is a connection. The most conservative members of the Republican caucus celebrated Representative Boehner's resignation because they felt he did not fight hard enough to shrink the size of the federal government through more aggressive tactics, like government shutdowns. Although one of government's most important functions is to deter behavior such as that of VW, the radical Republicans would organize American society using only markets, not government. The difficulty with this stance is that corporations "cheating" consumers is an unavoidable aspect of capitalistic markets, making government regulation a necessity.Full text
Consistent with his ongoing efforts to distinguish himself among the Republican presidential candidates as a serious “policy wonk,” Jeb Bush, “rolled out” his “regulatory reform” plan last week. The sad truth, though, is that the plan contains little of what might be considered sober or intellectually rigorous. Rather, it is simply a mishmash of warmed over ideas from candidate Mitt Romney’s 2012 regulatory reform plan and from the various antiregulatory bills that have been festering in Congress the last several years, all served on a wilted bed of misleading data, astounding leaps of logic, and outright falsehoods.Full text
The new primary ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) is definitely a step in the right direction, but it has taken EPA far to long too make this much-needed change.
We should not forget, however, that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a proposed standard of 65 ppb to the White House in August 2011, but was told explicitly by President Obama to withdraw it because the White House economists thought it would be too costly for business, despite the fact that this delay came at the expense of the health of vulnerable Americans.Full text
Two of the most important aspects of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) are the flexibility afforded states as they design compliance strategies and the plan’s openness to all energy resources. A state can satisfy its emission-reduction targets through the use of cleaner or more efficient coal-fired generation, natural gas or nuclear power as well as through increased use of renewable resources and energy efficiency. Regardless of this flexibility and openness, investor-owned utilities (IOUs), which have dominated the electricity market for more than a century, tend to resist the imposition of additional environmental regulations. Some resistance is predictable as utilities have sunk trillions of dollars of investments into the construction of generation, transportation and distribution networks.
While this resistance may be understandable, there are two significant rebuttal arguments to it. First, utilities have demonstrated remarkable resilience, particularly over the last three or more decades, to dramatic challenges to the traditional electricity industry. Second, public policy and state regulation have, for almost as long, promoted a clean energy economy. The CPP continues developing that clean economy and utilities have a role to play in a cleaner energy future. Let’s look at both of these points more closely.Full text
Lawrence Daquan “Day” Davis, 21, died tragically on his first day of work at his first job, as a “temp worker” at a Bacardi bottling facility in Jacksonville, Florida. He began his shift within 15 minutes of arriving at the facility, after completing some paperwork and watching a very brief safety video. Although working in a bottling facility is a dangerous job, Davis and his coworkers received no real training about the potential hazards or proper safety procedures. Within hours, Davis was asked to help clean up some broken bottles caused by a machine malfunction. While he was under the machine picking up the glass, the equipment was turned back on, and he was crushed to death.
Davis’ story is a poignant example of an eager and hard-working individual killed on-the-job because no one cared to train him, despite legal requirements to do so, before placing him in harm’s way. This troubling reality is illustrated in a new, eye-opening documentary, A Day’s Work, which shares Davis’ story and the shocking practices of the temp industry that have caused his and so many others’ untimely deaths.Full text
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush released a plan meant to make it harder for federal agencies to make rules that protect public health and the environment. That might help some big corporations. But it makes everyday Americans much less safe.
The idea is to jam up the federal rule making process with so many requirements that hardly anything important would get done. Safeguards that keep the air clear, the water clean, and the workplace safe would be put on the back burner. Bush’s plan would empower congressional members who do not believe in climate change to stall rules crafted by scientific experts in response to statutes that Congress has already passed, like the Clean Water and Air Acts. New rules meant to prevent another Wall Street meltdown would also be at risk.Full text
Center for Progressive Reform President Robert R.M. Verchick issued the following statement today in response to the burgeoning Volkswagen emissions scandal:
With the Volkswagen emissions scandal, hard on the heels of the GM settlement, can anyone doubt the importance of strong regulation and tough enforcement? One automotive giant let a safety problem fester for a decade while more than 120 people died as a result. Another conspired to cheat on state emissions tests, pumping outrageous loads of pollution into the air we breathe so that they could make their cars peppier, and advertise them as such. We hear conservatives say all the time that regulation is unnecessary because the market is self-correcting. The scope of these scandals proves just the opposite: We need vigorous regulation and enforcement to keep Americans safe from companies that think they can increase their profits by endangering us all.Full text
Today, Stewart Parnell, former peanut company executive was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in a salmonella outbreak that resulted in the deaths of nine people and the illness of 174.
CPR Member Scholar and University of Maryland School of Law professor Rena Steinzor issued the following statement in response to the sentencing:
This sentence shows that the courts are willing to drop the boom on white collar criminal defendants whose elevation of profits over safety go so far as to kill people. Parnell ordered the shipment of peanut paste contaminated by salmonella that not only killed nine people, but also produced one of the biggest recalls in food safety history. His factory was a disgusting place, with broken equipment, a leaking roof, and rodent droppings throughout. Hopefully, this kind of prosecution will motivate the Congress to fully fund FDA efforts to prevent such tragedies.
Steinzor is the author of Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction.
CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor reacted to today's announcement of a settlement between General Motors and the Justice Department over charges stemming from the company's failure to disclose a deadly ignition defect it millions of its cars. Steinzor said:
This settlement is shamefully weak. GM and its executives knew for years that they had a big problem with the ignition switch, which caused cars to stall at high speeds, depriving drivers of power steering, brakes, and airbags. The company’s dysfunctional culture convened committees to palaver about it, while nothing was done, a culture described by Mary Barra, GM’s CEO, as “the GM nod.” But daunted by the company’s size and prestige, U.S. attorney Preet Bharara blinked, collecting $900 million as a cost of doing business, but excusing GM from admitting its criminal wrongdoing. This kind of sweetheart deal shows that justice in America is anything but blind.
Steinzor is the author of Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction.Full text