CPR Archive for Rena Steinzor

The Real

by Rena Steinzor | May 22, 2014

The federal regulatory system is in crisis. For the past several decades, a damaging set of mandates has continued to pile up on the books—mandates that threaten to stifle critical progress and undermine the nation’s ability to compete in the world economy. Even today, out-of-touch policymakers are attempting to add still more of these mandates, without regard to their direct, indirect, and cumulative costs to society. One might say that we are facing a tsunami, a flood, or even an avalanche of these mandates.

You’ve heard that sort of rhetoric before, I’m certain, deployed by opponents of various safeguards protecting consumers, workers, the environment, and more. But my diagnosis of the problem refers not to regulatory safeguards that agencies are, after all, obligated to issue as part of their statutory missions, but to the growing number of duplicative and utterly wasteful “lookback” or “retrospective review” requirements that opponents of regulation have sought to erect in their ceaseless bid to block effective implementation and enforcement of landmark protective statutes.

The right wing’s campaign against regulation is really nothing more than an extension of its original opposition to the underlying statutes—the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, food safety legislation, and more. They lost in Congress, but continue the fight in the less public realms of regulation and litigation. They’ve found that while there’s a political cost to be paid for opposing “clean water,” ...

The Age of Greed: Keeping the Public in the Dark About Dangerous Products

by Rena Steinzor | April 16, 2014
It’s basic common decency:  If you know people are about to stumble into a dangerous situation without realizing the risk, you should try to warn them before harm occurs.  For example, you might warn someone that a frying pan is hot before they pick it up or that a handrail is broken before they try to descend a staircase. For too many companies, though, concerns about profit margins and quarterly earnings reports leave little room for common decency.  These days, ...

What’s Good Enough for General Motors…

by Rena Steinzor | April 15, 2014
It’s hard to find someone who is not appalled at the news that General Motors knew the ignition switches on some 2.6 million of its automobiles were defective and yet did nothing to fix the problem, instead recommending that its customers stop using keychains.  It also lied repeatedly to its regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the media, and its customers. The company’s deliberate lies saved about 90 cents per car, but the defect, apparent for many years, ...

The Victims of EPA’s Retreat from Enforcement

by Rena Steinzor | April 14, 2014
Since the year began, the Environmental Protection Agency has resolved enforcement actions against 12 different companies in the Chesapeake region for failure to comply with environmental laws.  In one case, EPA found that the U.S. Army had failed to inspect more than a dozen underground tanks at one of its Virginia military bases containing hundreds of thousands of gallons of jet fuel, diesel fuel, and gasoline.  A D.C. hospital was not properly checking for carbon monoxide leaks.  A solvent processing ...

Timid Bay Agreement Falls Short

by Rena Steinzor | April 01, 2014
Maryland faces an important deadline in its long-running effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. By 2017, the state is required to implement specific measures to reduce the massive quantities of nutrient pollution that now flow into the Bay from agriculture, sewage treatment plants, power plants, factories, golf courses, and lawns. Gov. Martin O’Malley and the other Bay State governors know we’re going to have to make some demands on polluters to get the job done. But if the new ...

EPA Declares BP a 'Responsible Contractor' Makes It Eligible Again for Federal Contracts in the Gulf

by Rena Steinzor | March 13, 2014
A scant five days before the Department of Interior opens a new round of bids for oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the EPA has blinked, pronouncing BP, the incorrigible corporate scofflaw of the new millennium, once again fit to do business with the government. To get right to the point, the federal government’s decision that BP has somehow paid its debt and should once again be eligible for federal contracts is a disgrace. Not only does it let ...

North Carolina’s Coal Ash Spills: A Glimpse of the Future under OIRA’s Weak Option

by Rena Steinzor | February 20, 2014
Yesterday, we wrote about OIRA’s role in delaying and diluting the EPA’s long-awaited coal ash rule, in part by introducing and promoting a weak option that would rely on voluntary state implementation and citizen suits, instead of nationwide requirements and federal oversight, to protect the public from dangerous leaks and spills. Anyone who thinks the states can be entrusted with regulating toxic coal ash need only take a passing glance at North Carolina’s track record—a virtual “how to” guide for ...

Mounting Coal Ash Spills Will Be OIRA’s Legacy

by Rena Steinzor | February 19, 2014
Two and a half weeks ago, a Duke Energy ash pond in North Carolina spilled up to 39,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of contaminated water after a stormwater pipe underneath the pond broke. The spill coated the bottom of the Dan River for 70 miles with gray sludge—five feet thick in some places. Now, investigators have discovered a second pipe underneath the pond that appears to have been leaking contaminated water into the river for a ...

The Obama legacy: will West Virginia toxic spill join the queue of episodes showing that “government”—and whatever it means to the President—broke on his watch?

by Rena Steinzor | January 22, 2014
As people across the country and around the world watched the tableau of 300,000 West Virginians give up their drinking, cooking and bath water for days on end because an untested toxic chemical was spilled by a company that was co-founded by a twice-convicted felon, the ever-present John Boehner (R-Ohio) had pungent advice for President Barack Obama.  “We have enough regulations on the books.  And what the administration ought to be doing is actually doing their jobs.  Why wasn't this ...

The age of greed: Mitch McConnell goes to bat for Big Coal after West Virginia catastrophe

by Rena Steinzor | January 17, 2014
For the past week, 300,000 people in and around Charleston, West Virginia, have been unable to drink the water that came from their taps, because of the toxic byproduct of feeble regulation and non-existent enforcement. Thousands of gallons of a coal-cleaning agent seeped into the local water supply after it oozed out of an antiquated storage tank and then overflowed a surrounding containment area just a mile upriver from the local water plant. Significantly, inspectors had not visited the facility ...

ACUS’s final statement on OIRA Is weak tea and wide of the mark

by Rena Steinzor | December 17, 2013
Recently, the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) adopted a statement on how to improve the “timeliness” of rule reviews by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). As regular readers know, OIRA has time and again delayed the release of crucial health, safety, and environmental regulations, leaving the public exposed to unnecessary dangers while these rules gather dust on OIRA’s desk—like the proposed rule on silica exposure that was delayed for over two and a ...

Fiddling while rome burns: 64 dead, 741 sick, and Cass Sunstein’s dangerous love affair with cost-benefit analysis

by Rena Steinzor | December 10, 2013
Former (de)regulatory czar Cass Sunstein is back, full of advice on how to run the government from his perch as a Harvard law professor.  In a “View” column for Bloomberg News entitled “Left and Right Are Both Wrong About Regulation,” Sunstein urges his former allies and enemies to redouble their efforts to “look back” at old rules. He claims that forcing agencies to rummage through their closets in search of bad rules has already saved “billions of dollars,” although the ...

What’s for Thanksgiving? Hopefully not more crippling pain for poultry workers! Learn more at upcoming webinar

by Rena Steinzor | November 20, 2013
When we all sit down for Thanksgiving dinner next week, we hope that the food we are feeding our families is wholesome and that the workers who produce it are safe.  Thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), ever the mindless booster of corporate profits, that turkey at the center of the table already disappoints both expectations, and if USDA has its way, matters are about to get much worse.  Hiding behind disingenuous promises to “modernize” the food safety ...

The coal ash rule rises like the phoenix: Judge Reggie Walton orders EPA to get the rule back on track within 60 days, congratulations to Earthjustice and its clients

by Rena Steinzor | October 29, 2013
Congratulations to our friends at Earthjustice and their clients for a tremendous victory in federal district court today. Judge Reggie Walton (a George W. Bush appointee) ordered the Obama Administration to provide a schedule for regulating coal ash within the next 60 days.   This epic battle now shifts back to the White House and Congress where nearly hysterical electric utilities that depend on coal-fired power plants will sweep in, aided by some very twisted economics from strong regulation’s staunch nemesis, the ...

Cook That Chicken Because You’re on Your Own

by Rena Steinzor | October 17, 2013
Salmonella outbreak reveals we need more, not fewer, cops on the food safety beat.  Some 317 victims of salmonella poisoning from Foster Farms chicken sold in 20 states have learned firsthand why we need government.   Who knows how much faster the threat would have been contained if Centers for Disease Control (CDC) experts had been walking their usual beat, coordinating state investigators and working frantically to discover the origins of the virulent strain of salmonella that has already hospitalized 42 ...

The End of Centralized White House Regulatory Review: Don’t Tweak EO 12,866, Repeal It

by Rena Steinzor | October 04, 2013
A series of catastrophic regulatory failures have focused attention on the weakened condition of regulatory agencies assigned to protect public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment. The destructive convergence of funding shortfalls, political attacks, and outmoded legal authority have set the stage for ineffective enforcement, unsupervised industry self-regulation, and a slew of devastating and preventable catastrophes.  From the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico to the worst mining disaster in 40 years at the Upper Big ...

Energy Efficiency is Too Important for Political Stasis

by Rena Steinzor | September 12, 2013
Late last month, the Department of Energy proposed long overdue energy efficiency standards for commercial refrigeration units and published them for public comment yesterday. The rules, which had been held up at OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for almost two years will resultin savings of over $28 billion for businesses over the next 30 years and reductions in carbon emissions of 350 million tons over the same period. As we’ve discussed numerous times, rules are required by ...

Obama Deregulatory Proposal on Poultry Gets Slammed by GAO: Food Safety in Jeopardy and Workers Ignored

by Rena Steinzor | September 04, 2013
We’ve often written in this space about the Obama Administration’s very bad idea to take federal inspectors of the line at poultry processing plants, leaving the discovery of blood, guts, and feathers on the carcasses to overworked and underpaid line workers forced to process as many as 70 birds per minute at the average plant. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the architect of this proposal to “modernize” the food safety system without requiring a single additional test to make ...

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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