CPR Archive for Rena Steinzor

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 either release the proposal for public comment or return it to EPA for rewriting. You’d think OIRA would be eager to get the thing off its plate, since its staff have been compelled to sit through no fewer than 33 separate meetings on the subject in recent months, no fewer than 28 with industry lobbyists opposed to the rule. But I harbor no expectation of an announcement. It’s more likely that OIRA will just keep working to browbeat EPA staff into rewriting it to the point that the coal industry calms down.

Readers of CPRBlog may recall that coal-fired power plants, while providing half of the nation’s electric power, generate an astounding 136 million tons of toxic coal ash annually. They dump much of it into what are euphemistically called “surface impoundments,” but in fact are no more or less than big holes in the ground that remain open to rainfall from above and water seepage from below—hence the equally ...

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 ...

The Human Costs of Pander, Take 2: Obama Budget Shortchanges FDA and Food Safety

by Rena Steinzor | February 01, 2010
As we feared, in an effort to save pitiably small amounts of money in the discretionary (non-military) portion of the budget, President Obama’s FY 2011 budget, announced today, shortchanges very real threats to public health. Case in point: the Food and Drug Administration’s ongoing struggle to improve the safety of the American food supply. (FDA regulates 80 percent of it; USDA regulates the 20 percent that is meat and poultry, and that is, if you’ll pardon, its own kettle of ...

EPA's New NO2 Rule: A Tale of OMB Interference

by Rena Steinzor | January 29, 2010
The EPA issued a new rule recently on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) -- but not before it was weakened by OMB. The consequences for the public health are real. The possibility of OMB interference in the rule was first raised by Matt Madia of OMB Watch. He noted that EPA's draft final rule -- sent to OIRA for review on December 18 -- required all metropolitan areas with a population of 350,000 people or more to install a monitoring station for ...

The Human Costs of Pander

by Rena Steinzor | January 27, 2010
President Obama’s expected State of the Union announcement that he plans to seek a freeze on non-security discretionary spending is an early warning sign that he and his team have decided to play small ball, abandoning the promise of his newly minted transformative presidency. The President’s decision to borrow this shopworn pander from the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations almost certainly means continued, fatal dysfunction for the five agencies that ensure the quality of the air we breathe and the ...

Coal Ash First Real Test of Obama Commitment to Health and Safety Regulation

by Rena Steinzor | January 20, 2010
A critical test of the Obama Administration’s commitment to reviving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is teeing up behind closed doors at the White House. Once again, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is cast in the role of regulation killer, supported by a slew of state and other federal agencies that are polluters in this scenario. Other players include a nearly hysterical segment of the electric utility industry, which argues that labeling coal ash as a hazardous waste ...

Obama's Regulators Earn a B- for Year One in New CPR Report

by Rena Steinzor | January 14, 2010
Over the weekend, the Associated Press ran a story on the results of its enterprising investigation into the toxic content of children’s jewelry imported from China. Pressed to abandon the use of toxic lead in toys and jewelry, manufacturers have apparently begun using an even more dangerous metal, cadmium, which can cause neurological damage – brain damage – to children and give them cancer. AP tested 103 pieces of jewelry bought in American stores within the last few months, and ...

EPA's Proposed Rulemaking on Runoff and CAFOs Good News for the Chesapeake Bay

by Rena Steinzor | January 13, 2010
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced Monday that the agency will propose new rules to reduce pollution from runoff from urban and suburban areas and from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). This announcement goes far in demonstrating that the EPA under President Obama is serious about its commitments to improve the quality of the nation’s waters, especially those waters that continue to be plagued by pollution from nonpoint and other unregulated sources. The new rules would apply nationwide, but Administrator Jackson ...

Regulatory Highs and Lows of 2009: 'The Adults Are Back in Charge'

by Rena Steinzor | December 29, 2009
  CPRBlog asked some of our regular bloggers to give us some suggestions for the high and low points of the regulatory year. We began by taking the Bush Administration’s “midnight regulations” off the table, so that we could focus in on the Obama Administration’s impact to date. CPR President Rena Steinzor begins. The high point of the year on the regulatory front was EPA’s endangerment finding on climate change, issued December 7, 2009, finally giving the seventh day of December a ...

Sunstein Watch: What Progressives Expect from OIRA: An Open Letter to Cass Sunstein

by Rena Steinzor | December 11, 2009
Dear Cass: As you know, we picked a spat with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) last week over Randy Lutter’s supposedly temporary detail appointment to your office. It’s not the first time we’ve criticized the workings of OIRA, and almost certainly won’t be the last.  I’ve spoken to a number of people in the media and elsewhere who have expressed surprise that progressive organizations like CPR are such relentless critics of a progressive Administration. I’m sure Administration officials ...

Sunstein Watch: Randall Lutter on Loan, Says OMB -- Yet WashPost Reports He's Actively Involved

by Rena Steinzor | December 03, 2009
As reporters dug deeper on our post yesterday about the return of Randy Lutter, chief economist at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the George W. Bush Administration, to “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein’s office, OMB spokesman Tom Gavin worked to downplay the significance of Lutter’s reappearance. Gavin confirmed that Lutter was in fact ensconced in OIRA, as reported by Inside EPA this morning, but said he was merely “on detail” from the FDA as a career civil servant who ...

Sunstein Watch: Randall Lutter to OIRA?

by Rena Steinzor | December 02, 2009
For a number of days now, we’ve been hearing rumors that Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s “regulatory czar,” was on the verge of hiring conservative economist Randall Lutter to join him at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Few personnel developments could be more discouraging to those hopeful that the Obama Administration will fulfill its many commitments to revitalize the agencies responsible for protecting public health, worker safety, and natural resources. The best thing that can be said about ...

Sunstein Watch: OMB Says it Will Leave EDSP to the EPA Experts

by Rena Steinzor | November 19, 2009
On Monday, OMB Director Peter Orszag sent a letter to Rep. Ed Markey, responding to Congressman Markey’s concerns about OMB’s involvement in EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. Orszag’s letter -- released by Markey's office Wednesday -- explains, in no uncertain terms, that OMB is done meddling in EPA’s scientific determinations about endocrine-disrupting chemicals. It’s a step in the right direction for Orszag and OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein, who have their work cut out for them if they are going to ...

Sunstein Watch: Old Habits Die Hard on the Regulatory Killing Ground; Don't OMB Economists Have Better Things to Do Than Channel Industry Opposition to EPA Science?

by Rena Steinzor | October 19, 2009
Before Cass Sunstein had spent much more than a week as the official director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), he invited us over to the White House to talk about how he wanted to shape his small office of economists and statisticians into a strong force for progressive policy within the White House. Followers of the Center for Progressive Reform know that we put out a report in the run-up to his confirmation that was critical ...

Newly Confirmed Regulatory Czar Needs to Close OIRA’s Backdoor for Special Interests

by Rena Steinzor | September 10, 2009
After weeks of sustained attack from the right-wing on issues that are marginal to the job the President asked him to do, Cass Sunstein has emerged from the nomination process bloody but apparently unbowed (here's this afternoon's roll call). He is now the nation’s “regulatory czar,” Director of the White House OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.  Although Professor Sunstein has been sitting in the Old Executive Office Building for months, he has undoubtedly been preoccupied with his nomination battle. Having ...

Climate Change Schizophrenia: Cash For Coal Clunkers, Anthems for Natural Gas, and Delaying Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing Won't Win this Epic Battle

by Rena Steinzor | September 02, 2009
Those of us worried sick over climate change confronted a depressing piece of excellent reporting in Monday's Washington Post. Environment reporter David Fahrenthold wrote that environmental organizations are getting their proverbial clocks cleaned by a well-organized and pervasive campaign mounted by affected industries in small and mid-size communities throughout America. “It seems that environmentalists are struggling in a fight they have spent years setting up,” Fahrenthold wrote. “Even now, these groups differ on whether to scare the public with predictions ...

Obama EPA Takes Strike One on Atrazine

by Rena Steinzor | August 25, 2009
The publication of in-depth investigative reporting on complex regulatory issues is a phenomenon that has become as rare as hen’s teeth, and I greeted the front-page story in Sunday's New York Times on the perils posed by atrazine with a big cheer. Unfortunately, despite reporter Charles Duhigg’s best efforts, the response of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokespeople and other commentators garbled the issue substantially. What the story revealed is that even on this mammoth and controversial environmental problem, Obama’s EPA ...

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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