CPR Archive for Rena Steinzor

What the White House Taketh Away, It Can Also Giveth: An Agenda for 'Regulatory Czar' Howard Shelanski's First 30 Days

by Rena Steinzor | May 23, 2013

As the scandal du jour over the pure lug-headedness of some IRS staffers reminds us, any screw-up, anywhere in the government, will make its way to the White House press briefing room in about a nanosecond of Internet real time. Suspicion is deeply bred into the press corps, and appropriately so. For that reason, the 2,000 or so people who directly serve on the President's White House staff, but who remain faceless to the rest of us, insist on maintaining control over anything that could embarrass him, including dozens of health, worker safety, and environmental rules that might engender so much as a whiff of controversy or attract a smidgen of opposition from powerful special interests.

In this vein, we look forward to the confirmation hearings of one of the few White House politicos actually subject to the Senate's advice and consent—Howard Shelanski, President Obama’s nominee for the powerful position of “regulatory czar,” a.k.a. Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), located within the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Dr. Shelanski, a lawyer (Berkeley ’92) and Ph.D. economist (Berkeley ’93), was most recently the chief number-cruncher at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), giving rise to speculation that he will spearhead an effort to bring independent agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under Executive Order 12,866, which is read to require elaborate cost-benefit analyses before the issuance of any rule or guidance that upsets powerful industries. 

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Senate Republicans' Boycott of McCarthy Vote: More Shameless Obstructionism

by Rena Steinzor | May 09, 2013
Today's move by Senate Republicans to boycott a committee confirmation vote on Gina McCarthy to lead the EPA is just another in a series of shameless tactics aimed at hampering the Environmental Protection Agency and preventing it from doing the people's business. The list includes endless filibusters; sequester cuts that make it harder to enforce existing laws; a host of attacks on specific environmental regulations under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and other statutes addressing critical environmental issues; ...

OIRA Nominee's Disappearing Affiliation with Industry Think Tank

by Rena Steinzor | April 30, 2013
See the UPDATE at the bottom of the page. Last Thursday, President Obama named Howard Shelanski as his new nominee for Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). As of that evening, Shelanski was listed on the website of the industry-funded, fiercely anti-regulatory Mercatus Center as an "expert" in its Technology Policy Program. OIRA has long operated as a regulatory chokepoint, stalling and weakening health and environmental safeguards at the behest of industry groups, and as I've written, ...

Obama's Next Regulatory Czar

by Rena Steinzor | April 26, 2013
A few months ago, I urged the Obama Administration to view the nomination of a second-term Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) as an opportunity to fundamentally change the role that the office plays in the regulatory system. Dozens of important rules got stuck at OIRA in the year before the presidential elections and are still languishing. House Republicans continue their blistering and unsubstantiated attacks on the agencies, doing everything they can to cut their budgets ...

Refinery Rule Returned to EPA for Additional 'Analysis': How Big Oil, OIRA, and the SBA Office of Advocacy Teamed Up to Delay Progress

by Rena Steinzor | March 19, 2013
On Friday, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) returned a proposed rule on air pollution standards for oil refineries to EPA, insisting that the agency complete “additional analysis” before moving forward. EPA’s efforts to reduce hazardous pollutants from these facilities will be delayed for months or likely years.  And that additional analysis?  OIRA won’t even say what it’s for.  “Trust us” is not the most reassuring government transparency. EPA was proposing to revise the emissions standards for ...

It's Past Time to Appoint an OIRA Administrator

by Rena Steinzor | March 04, 2013
It has now been nearly seven months since Cass Sunstein left his job as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Much has happened in that time, most significantly an election that returned President Obama to the White House, but also a growing recognition that whatever second-term accomplishments the President is able to register on climate change and a number of other issues are likely to be brought about through regulation, not legislation. That's precisely ...

Administration Warns of Food Inspectors Being Furloughed From Budget Sequester -- But Moving Forward Separate Plan to Unilaterally Take Poultry Inspectors Off the Job

by Rena Steinzor | February 12, 2013
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Media Manager Ben Somberg. The White House issued a fact sheet last Friday presenting “Examples of How the Sequester Would Impact Middle Class Families, Jobs and Economic Security.” The consequences of the impending budget cuts from the “sequester” are not some abstract problem; they’re serious dangers, like this one: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could conduct 2,100 fewer inspections at domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture food products while ...

Moving Forward on Public Health and Safety with Just the Stroke of the Pen? Yes, Obama Can

by Rena Steinzor | December 10, 2012
After the last of the applause lines has been delivered, and while the crowd that gathered for his historic second inauguration is still filing out of town, President Obama will once again sit at his desk in the Oval Office and begin the tough policy work that will define his second term in office and shape the legacy he will leave behind. Among the many challenges he'll face over the next four years will be an urgent agenda of addressing ...

Too Big to Obey: Whether BP Is De-barred Up to DOD and (Hopefully) the White House

by Rena Steinzor | November 28, 2012
For a potentially earth-shattering move against one of the most notorious corporate environmental scofflaws in history, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sure hid its light under a bushel this morning. The agency’s scant three-paragraph press release announced simply: “BP Temporarily Suspended from New Contracts with the Federal Government,” adding that “EPA is taking this action due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, oil spill and response.” As ...

The Nuclear Option: Debar BP, End $2 Billion Fuel Sales Now

by Rena Steinzor | November 15, 2012
This post is based on an article I wrote with Anne Havemann entitled “Too Big to Obey: Why BP Should Be Debarred,” published in the William & Mary Environmental Law & Policy Review. Attorney General Eric Holder and his lead prosecutor, Lanny Breuer, are deservedly running a victory lap in the immediate aftermath of their criminal settlement with BP.  The amount of money paid to settle the charges, $4.5 billion—is considerably larger than anything paid by past bad actors, although ...

Help Wanted: Regulatory Czar with Commitment to Protecting Public Health, Worker and Consumer Safety, and the Environment

by Rena Steinzor | November 14, 2012
Judging from President Obama’s first term, the job of White House “regulatory czar” could prove of out-sized importance these next four years, with the head of an office few know exists ending up with the power to trump the authority of Cabinet members throughout the government.  Cass Sunstein, the former occupant of the position, was perhaps the most influential overseer of the regulatory process ever, and it's not hard to imagine that his replacement will be equally powerful.  But I'd ...

Obama 2.0: Looking Forward, Mindful of the Past

by Rena Steinzor | November 07, 2012
President Obama’s reelection holds the possibility of great progress for public health, safety, and the environment — if, and only if, he recognizes the importance of these issues and stops trying to placate his most implacable opponents. The weeks leading up to the election brought powerful reminders of two of the challenges at hand:  rising sea levels and more severe storms that scientists say we should expect as a result of unchecked climate change, and a meningitis outbreak that sickened ...

Obama Event Monday Honoring Farmworkers Comes Just Months After Administration Jettisoned Key Farmworker Safety Rule

by Rena Steinzor | October 07, 2012
President Obama travels to Keene, California, on Monday to designate the home of César E. Chávez as a national monument—a worthy honor for a key figure in the ongoing push for safe working conditions and fair pay. One thing the President is unlikely to raise in his remarks is that just a few months ago, his administration took the side of big agriculture against the safety of farmworkers. In April, White House staff jettisoned a key Department of Labor (DOL) proposal ...

New Paper: How Chemicals Manufacturers Seek to Co-opt Their Regulators

by Rena Steinzor | September 27, 2012
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst Wayland Radin. Today CPR releases Cozying Up: How the Manufacturers of Toxic Chemicals Seek to Co-opt Their Regulators, exposing the work of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), two industry advocacy groups that have undue influence on the regulation of toxic chemicals.  The two firms specialize in a particularly insidious brand of “dirty” science by recruiting EPA experts to co-author papers and ...

The Unpopularity of Cost-Benefit Analysis

by Rena Steinzor | September 14, 2012
If cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is really part of the furniture, you wouldn’t think recently departed OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein would need to dedicate a column to convincing us it’s so. But there it is, and though Sunstein is now but a private citizen like the rest of us, the claims merit a response. We’re told “cost-benefit analysis has become part of the informal constitution of the U.S. regulatory state,” but that’s some odd constitution – not approved by any legislative ...

Cass Sunstein's Departure

by Rena Steinzor | August 03, 2012
The White House today announced the departure of Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. CPR President Rena Steinzor issued the following statement:   Cass Sunstein brought impressive credentials and a personal relationship with the President to his job as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. But in the final analysis, Sunstein has continued the Bush Administration’s tradition of using the office to block needed health and safety protections disliked by big ...

The Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act, as Critiqued by Co-Sponsor Susan Collins and Me

by Rena Steinzor | August 01, 2012
Talk about trying to fix the wrong problem: Senators Mark Warner, Rob Portman, and Susan Collins have introduced a bill today that seeks to move the rulemaking process further away from agency experts and transparency and more toward hidden corners of the White House, where well-heeled industries can buy access and push political operatives to block rules. The bill at hand is the Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act. In a press release and accompanying fact sheet today, the senatorial trio ...

Member Scholar John Knox Appointed to United Nations Post on Human Rights and the Environment

by Rena Steinzor | July 25, 2012
CPR Member Scholar John Knox has been appointed the U.N. Human Rights Council’s first Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment. The position was created in March with a mandate to study the relationship of human rights and the environment, and prepare a series of reports to the Human Rights Council over the next three years. The mission will be to “identify, promote and exchange views on best practices relating to the use of human rights obligations and commitments ...

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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