CPR Archive for Rena Steinzor

Rescuing the Chesapeake by Anchoring the Goal Posts and Making Rules for the Game

by Rena Steinzor | September 24, 2010

With more than 7,000 miles of coastline and thousands of stream and river miles and lake acres, the Chesapeake Bay is the crown jewel of the region’s natural resource heritage. And its value to the region's economy is immense--$1 trillion according to one frequently cited estimate.  But the ecological health of the Bay is tenuous.  Primary pollutants are nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment. These nutrients have accumulated in the Bay to unsustainable levels, contributing to algal blooms and dead zones during the summer months.

For 20 years, a moveable feast of bureaucratic in-fighting known as the Chesapeake Bay Program* has bobbed and weaved, making pretend promises to the public and, for as long as they could get away with it, posing the Bay State governors at annual photo ops with their hair blowing in the wind and their eyes misting in response to their own Bay-Love rhetoric. So long as that love does not involve commitments to pollution reduction that would cost real money, the scam was viable. But after missing two highly publicized deadlines for reducing the nutrients that render large areas unfit for fishing and recreation, Congress wheeled around and started withdrawing funding for this PR fest. And we wonder why people hate government.

With the election of Barack Obama and the appointment of “eco-warrior” Lisa Jackson as EPA administrator, Bay cleanup efforts may be getting a big stick to go with its many baby carrots. Sometime later today, EPA will ...

OMB Nominee Jacob Lew, Meet Broken Regulatory State

by Rena Steinzor | September 16, 2010
Today Jacob Lew heads to the hill for two Senate hearings on his nomination to be the new director of the White House's Office of Management and Budget. He is expected to be confirmed. The hearings will likely focus on budgetary issues, but no less important is another division of OMB: the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the office charged with coordinating regulatory policy. The policy context is this: from salmonella-laced eggs to the BP oil spill, we ...

At Coal Ash Hearing, Poisoned Waters and the "Stigma Effect" on the Agenda

by Rena Steinzor | August 30, 2010
The below is testimony (PDF) given today by CPR President Rena Steinzor at the EPA's public hearing on coal ash regulation. The hearing, in Arlington, VA, is the first of seven; the public comment period has been extended to November 19. See CPR on Twitter for updates from the hearing. We are all familiar with the psychological studies that have become a cottage industry at American universities. Consider this one. A presumably dead cockroach is “medically sterilized”—and I honestly do not know ...

OIRA's Fuzzy Math on Coal Ash: A Billion Here, a Billion There

by Rena Steinzor | July 13, 2010
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Michael Patoka, a student at the University of Maryland School of Law and research assistant to Steinzor. Last October, the EPA proposed to regulate, for the first time, the toxic coal ash that sits in massive landfills and ponds next to coal-fired power plants across the nation. The 140 million tons of ash generated every year threaten to contaminate groundwater and cause catastrophic spills, like the 1-billion-gallon release that devastated ...

Out of the Scrum, a Bad Deal for the Chesapeake Bay

by Rena Steinzor | July 06, 2010
Desperate to move a funding bill for Chesapeake Bay restoration out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, progressive Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) went into the scrum with one of the body’s most conservative members, James Inhofe (R-OK). After a struggle of uncertain intensity and duration, the two emerged, with Inhofe, who openly ridicules the idea of global climate change, firmly in control of the ball.  Cardin agreed to put his name on a dispiriting proposal that misses a crucial ...

Eye on OIRA: Regulation Goes Opaque

by Rena Steinzor | June 22, 2010
Across the full spectrum of outside cognoscenti who are focused on the reality that a small office at the White House has final authority over the agencies charged with preventing catastrophes like the BP oil spill and the Big Branch mine disaster, one threshold assumption is sacrosanct. This tiny Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, now headed by former Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein, ought to operate in bright sunshine, disclosing fully its communications with the agencies so the public can ...

Sending Don Blankenship to Jail: A Legal Argument

by Rena Steinzor | May 20, 2010
Today, the Senate appropriations subcommittee chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will discuss "Investing in Mine Safety: Preventing Another Disaster" and hear testimony from the notorious Don Blankenship, chief executive officer of Massey Energy, owner of the Upper Big Branch disaster where 29 miners lost their lives on April 5.  Workers safety and health advocates have posted calls over the past months to “send Blankenship to jail,” perhaps under federal racketeering laws, and the FBI opened an inquiry into potential ...

Eye on OIRA: Government Releases Before-and-After Docs on Coal Ash Rule; Lisa Jackson, Public Face of Environmental Protection, Meet Nameless White House Economist

by Rena Steinzor | May 07, 2010
This post is written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and CPR Policy Analyst James Goodwin. President Obama appointed Lisa Jackson to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 15, 2008. Confirmed by the Senate on January 22, 2009, she is a Cabinet-rank member of the Administration and the first African American to serve as the public face of environmental protection for any administration. Whether she wears an EPA baseball cap and windbreaker to tour the waterfront of her native ...

Wishful Thinking on the Right: Reviving the Information Quality Act?

by Rena Steinzor | May 07, 2010
Our loyal opposition at the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness has engaged in some very creative reading of legal opinions in order to breathe new life into a discredited anti-regulatory tool of the George W. Bush era: the Information Quality Act. This pesky little statute instructs the Office of Management and Budget to “provide policy and procedural guidance to Federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal Agencies.”  Enacted as ...

Eye on OIRA, Coal Ash Edition: Putting Lipstick on a Not-so-cute Little Pig

by Rena Steinzor | May 04, 2010
  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was in a tough position on coal ash. If you are African American and low-income, you have a 30 percent greater chance of living near a big pit of this toxic brew than a white American, so Jackson correctly decided that such an important environmental justice issue should be at the forefront of the Obama Administration’s agenda. But Jackson was also taking on Big Coal, a special interest historically near and dear to swing voters in Ohio ...

Eye on OIRA: President Defied by President's Men; Sunstein and Orszag Violate Obama's Own Directive

by Rena Steinzor | April 07, 2010
The system of checks and balances devised by the Framers of the Constitution 220 years ago was all about the sharing of power. In practice, it makes for a messy flow chart, and lends itself to lots of inside-the-Beltway conversation about who’s in, who’s out, who’s winning and who’s losing. But as messy as the how-a-bill-really-becomes-a-law flow chart is, the structure within the White House itself usually features one constant: When the President says jump, staffers ask how high. Every ...

Eye on OIRA: Sunstein Says Ambitious Efforts to Revamp Regulatory Review Tabled for the Time Being. What Does It Mean? Not Much. Just Ask Oscar the Grouch.

by Rena Steinzor | March 12, 2010
In a rare public appearance at the Brookings Institute Wednesday, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein is quoted by BNA’s Daily Report for Executives saying that his ambitious plans for revamping Executive Order 12,866 – the document that governs much of the process of regulating, and particularly OIRA’s role in it –have been tabled for the time being as he and his staff study the lengthy comments presented by a broad range of industry and public ...

Toyota: Should Someone Go to Jail?

by Rena Steinzor | March 01, 2010
The congressional hearings so far on “sudden unintended acceleration” (SUA) in Toyota cars should have made two truths obvious to Washington policymakers. First, the strategy of counting on major manufacturers to voluntarily ensure that their consumer products are safe is unworkable in a competitive market, and second, safety agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) need to walk softly but carry a very large stick. Gone are the days when we could reasonably expect government technical experts to ...

Eye on OIRA: King Coal

by Rena Steinzor | February 26, 2010
Thirty-eight years ago today, the dam holding back a massive coal-slurry impoundment (government-speak for a big pit filled with sludge) located in the middle of Buffalo Creek gave way, spilling 131 million gallons of black wastewater down the steep hills of West Virginia. The black waters eventually crested at 30 feet, washing away people, their houses, and their possessions. By the end of the catastrophe, 125 people were dead, 1,121 were injured, and more than 4,000 were left homeless. Interviewed ...

The Toyota Fiasco: Where Were the Regulators?

by Rena Steinzor | February 22, 2010
Saturday’s Washington Post crystallized a trend of reporting in recent days showing that neither misaligned floor mats nor defective pedals are to blame for all acceleration problems in Toyota cars, at least not in the 2005 model Camry. The car, which has neither piece of offending equipment, does have electronic acceleration controls that are beginning to emerge as a potential cause of the problem. If those computerized systems are at the heart of even a small universe of Toyota’s problems, ...

Eye on OIRA: The 121st Day and Coal Ash Still Going to Pits in the Ground

by Rena Steinzor | February 12, 2010
Tomorrow will be the 120th day since the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) began its review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) star-crossed proposal to declare coal ash that is not safely recycled to be a hazardous waste. The number is significant because it marks the end of OIRA’s allotted review period for the proposal, under the Executive Order that governs OIRA. The date will likely come and go without fanfare. By rights, OIRA ought to ...

Eye on OIRA: Coal Ash Visits by Regulation Foes Up to 28; OIRA’s Open Door Policy Creates Double Standard for Special Interests, Flouting Obama Ethics Initiatives

by Rena Steinzor | February 10, 2010
According to recent statements from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) press office, Administrator Cass Sunstein and staff are adamantly committed to granting an audience with OIRA senior staff to anyone who asks to see them about anything, and most especially pending health and safety rules. So not only are special interests granted second, third, fourth, and fifth audiences with OIRA staff after far more qualified political appointees and technical experts at agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency ...

The Human Costs of Pander, Take 3: Parents Beware the Incredibly Shrunken Consumer Product Safety Commission

by Rena Steinzor | February 02, 2010
Eighty percent of the toys sold in the United States are manufactured abroad, the vast majority in China. Because China has no effective regulatory structure, these imports are notoriously dangerous for children. The most prominent example is toys coated with lead paint, made that way because in China, lead paint is actually cheaper than the safe variety because the Chinese have increased the mining of lead ore by 50 percent since 2001. (Let’s not even imagine what Chinese manufacturers are ...

Also from Rena Steinzor

Rena Steinzor is a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, and a past president of the Center for Progressive Reform. She is the author of Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction.

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