CPR Archive for Rena Steinzor

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 – one conservative Democrat, one potential Republican VP nominee, and a once-moderate Republican who has changed her stripes – boast how the bill seeks to bring the “independent agencies” under the purview of the White House.  Those agencies include the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, both of which have great potential to exasperate the big bankers and security brokers who bankroll elections at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Congress created independent agencies exactly so that they’d have some room to resist presidential political meddling. Subjecting these agencies to Executive Order requirements – especially oversight by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which is without question the most potent conduit for presidential influence over new rules – defeats the whole point of making the agencies independent at the outset. Congress wanted these agencies to be able to use their unique expertise on policy matters to develop the best solutions to ...

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 ...

New Executive Order Skewed Toward Placating Regulated Industries: Obama Administration Continues Retreat from Protection of Public Health, Worker and Consumer Safety, and the Environment

by Rena Steinzor | May 10, 2012
President Obama issued the latest salvo in the Administration's efforts to placate the business community this morning, in the form of a new Executive Order called “Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens.”   The Order would expand and enhance the unfunded mandate that would require agencies to scour through the rule books, finding “excessive” rules that would save regulated companies big money. As I have written elsewhere in this space, the latest example of such an effort would jeopardize food safety by ...

The Pander Games: Big Ag, Hispanic Workers, and the Rush to Deregulate

by Rena Steinzor | May 08, 2012
Electoral politics or public policy? Policy or politics? One ripe example of how the White House rides herd on health and safety agencies, thinking about politics, not policy to determine what they should do, is provided by the latest poster child for curbing allegedly “excessive rules”: a U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal to take federal inspectors off the lines at poultry processing plants and substitute inspections by workers who would simultaneously cope with a speed-up on the line from 90 ...

White House Letter Focusing Debate on Regulatory Costs -- and Not Benefits -- Frustrated EPA Officials, Emails Reveal

by Rena Steinzor | May 03, 2012
By CPR President Rena Steinzor and Media Manager Ben Somberg Internal EPA emails obtained by CPR through a FOIA request reveal EPA officials’ frustration regarding the White House’s efforts to triangulate House Republicans’ ferocious attacks on regulations. A White House letter last year emphasizing regulatory costs but barely describing the lives saved and injuries avoided by strong protections angered environmental and public health advocates.  The newly released emails show that top EPA officials – who were not even consulted – ...

The Pander Games: Obama Administration Sells Out Kids Doing Dangerous Agricultural Work, Breaks Pledge to Ensure Welfare of Youngest Workers

by Rena Steinzor | April 27, 2012
Yesterday evening, when press coverage had ebbed for the day, the Department of Labor issued a short, four-paragraph press release announcing it was withdrawing a rule on child labor on farms. The withdrawal came after energetic attacks by the American Farm Bureau, Republicans in Congress, Sarah Palin, and—shockingly—Al Franken (D-MN). Last year, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said: "Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America.” “Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, ...

BP Spill: Perp Walk for Underling Shouldn't Satisfy Anyone

by Rena Steinzor | April 26, 2012
With considerable media flourish, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday the first and so far only criminal charges related to the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that killed 11 workers, and did profound violence to the Gulf of Mexico and the local economies dependent up on it. One Kurt Mix, 50, an engineer involved in designing the failed “top kill” remedy, was indicted for obstruction of justice. More specifically, he's accused of deleting text messages from his phone that he ...

The Age of Greed: Regulatory Look-Back In Action -- Speeding Up the Line and Endangering Workers at Poultry Processing Plants

by Rena Steinzor | April 06, 2012
The White House’s Cass Sunstein has found another poster child for his crusade to eliminate costly regulation under President Obama's Executive Order 13563.  The order requires agencies and departments to “look back” at existing requirements in order to kill unnecessary health, safety, and environmental requirements.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), complying dutifully with the order, has dug deep into the garbage can where abandoned deregulatory proposals go to die, producing a despicable plan regarding  poultry processing plants, already among ...

Obama Administration's Latest Sop to the Anti-Regulatory Crowd: Buying the Cumulative Burden Pitch

by Rena Steinzor | March 20, 2012
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and CPR Policy Analyst James Goodwin. Earlier today, OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein released a new memorandum to agencies directing them to consider and account for the “cumulative” costs of their regulations.  Attacking the cumulative costs of regulation has been a favored tactic among regulated industries and their allies in Congress (it's a feature in many anti-regulatory bills, such as the Regulatory Accountability Act).  Rather than responding forcefully to the faulty cumulative ...

CPR Issue Alert: Administration's Failure to Adopt Needed Safeguards in a Timely Way is Costing Lives and Money

by Rena Steinzor | March 02, 2012
The toll:  An estimated 6,500 to 17,967 premature deaths, 9,867 non-fatal heart attacks, 3,947 cases of chronic bronchitis, and more than 2.3 million lost work and school days. That's just a partial tally of the costs Americans will bear because of unjustified delays in two critical health and safety regulations.  More broadly, the Administration’s Fall 2011 Regulatory Agenda—released late, at the end of January of 2012—shows how many of the most important rules currently in the regulatory pipeline are being ...

The Age of Greed: What the Chemical Industry Doesn't Want You to Know

by Rena Steinzor | February 22, 2012
Imagine for a moment that you’rethe chief executive of a company that manufactures chemicals used in plastics that become consumer products, especially plastic picnic ware.  The head of your product development lab reports that she has just gotten some troubling results regarding one of your biggest sellers—a chemical agent that makes it possible for plastic utensils to maintains their decorator colors.  The study shows that this agent causes severe neurological damage in rats.  The Toxic Substances Control Act, commonly referred ...

The Economist Recycles Old Right-Wing Ideas to Gut Public Protections

by Rena Steinzor | February 17, 2012
The Economist’s February 18 edition offers a cover package of five articles on “Over-regulated America” (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Our British friends want you to know there’s a problem here in the States that needs fixing: A study for the Small Business Administration, a government body, found that regulations in general add $10,585 in costs per employee. It’s a wonder the jobless rate isn’t even higher than it is. You can almost feel The Economist’s pain: the jobless rate ...

Bureaucracy Bashing, Obama Style

by Rena Steinzor | February 09, 2012
Political scientists have coined the term “bureaucracy bashing” to connote the temptation now rife among national politicians to beat up on the civil service for reasons that have nothing to do with reality.  Ronald Reagan pioneered this art form of disrespecting bureaucrats in the name of downsizing government, even as federal deficit spending on government programs he favored grew to epic proportions.  Ironically, President Obama has lifted the same hammer in an altogether unsuccessful effort to placate the conservative critics ...

The Age of Greed: Children on Motorcycles Chasing Goats

by Rena Steinzor | February 07, 2012
The debate over whether the government protects people exposed to industrial hazards enough—or whether it engages in ruinous “overregulation”—is only occasionally coherent. Sometimes it’s downright bizarre, and never is it for the faint of heart. Consider the case of kids working on farms. Following a series of gruesome accidents involving teenagers as young as 14 who were smothered in grain elevators or lost legs to giant augers used to shovel crops into storage silos, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a ...

White House Declines to Put Anti-Regulation Measures in "Startup America" Legislative Agenda

by Rena Steinzor | February 03, 2012
The White House announced Tuesday a legislative agenda it is sending Congress as part of its Startup America initiative to foster the growth of new businesses. The White House was under some pressure to do wrong here: the President’s “Jobs Council” – a group mostly of CEOs – issued a report last month that included a perhaps unsurprising pile of old anti-regulatory proposals. And Senators Mark Warner and Jerry Moran were pushing the White House to endorse their bill, the ...

The Age of Greed: Science Drowned by Politics

by Rena Steinzor | January 25, 2012
Last week, a reporter asked me, “How’s science doing these days?,” “Science” is an impossibly big category, of course, but the answer was easy: “Badly,” I said. Exhibit number one is climate change. The frightening truth is that no fewer than 84 percent of scientists in this country surveyed by Pew say that the earth is warming because of human activity; 70 percent describe the problem as “very serious.” Although much is made of the supposed “dissenters” on the issue, no ...

Jobs Council's Shortsighted Report Calls for Gumming up Public Protections

by Rena Steinzor | January 17, 2012
A panel of business leaders comprising President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness today published a “Road Map to Renewal,” including proposals for expanded oil and gas drilling, and, of particular interest, five pages of policy recommendations related to regulation. Among them were procedural proposals aimed at further hamstringing regulatory agencies in their effort to promulgate badly needed safeguards for health, safety, and the environment.  For example, the Council proposes: lengthening the regulatory process by adding in an additional public-comment ...

The Age of Greed: Chemical Industry Fights to Suppress Dioxin Assessment

by Rena Steinzor | January 09, 2012
With a reverential nod to maverick economist Jeff Madrick, who wrote a popular book of the same name, I begin today a series of blog posts entitled “The Age of Greed” that is designed to shine a bright spotlight into the dark corners where Washington lobbyists are busy looting the protection of public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment.  Business-as-usual efforts to stall or derail regulation won’t make it into this space.  Rather, behavior has to be demonstrably ...

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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