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April 30, 2012 by Ben Somberg

Administrative Conference of the United States Teams Up with Chamber of Commerce on Regulations

In its own words, the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) is “an independent federal agency dedicated to improving the administrative process through consensus-driven applied research, providing nonpartisan expert advice and recommendations for improvement of federal agency procedures.”

On Tuesday afternoon, ACUS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are jointly sponsoring an event at the Chamber, “Next Steps & Implementation of ACUS Recommendations on: Incorporation by Reference & International Regulatory Cooperation.”

That’s over the line, particularly given the agenda of the event, argue CPR President Rena Steinzor and Member Scholar Thomas McGarity, in a letter to Paul Verkuil, ACUS’s Chairman. Steinzor and McGarity write:

Especially in this early period of its rebirth, the organization cannot afford to be perceived as taking sides in the enormously destructive crusade against regulation that the Chamber and other powerful industry groups are leading.

The letter is here.

April 30, 2012 by Matthew Freeman
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Last week, Bloomberg News ran a curious story conflating a range of issues under the banner of regulatory rollbacks. The piece keys off of the ongoing GOP push to deregulate America. That effort has been going on for decades, of course, but in the wake of the recession (made possible, not coincidentally, by deregulation in the economic sector), GOP leaders and their business allies and funders have rebranded it, and now argue that that "burdensome" economic, health, safety and environmental regulations are in fact the cause of economic distress.

Most of the GOP rhetoric has been aimed at federal regulation. But the Bloomberg piece breaks some new ground, sweeping together a hodgepodge of state regulations and laws, overlaying it with an uncritical reference to some shoddy right-wing research, and presenting the resulting brew as the state and local expression of the GOP's anti-regulatory campaign.

In the …

April 27, 2012 by Rena Steinzor
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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, and this proposal is another element of our comprehensive approach."

The Administration pledged to protect young workers in dangerous jobs, and now they’ve thrown that pledge out the window.

Yesterday, the Administration said this:

“The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those …

April 27, 2012 by Robert Glicksman
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The irony is palpable, though clearly intentional.  More than forty years ago, Congress kicked off the “environmental decade” by adopting the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  NEPA’s goals are to ensure that federal agencies whose developmental missions often incline them to ignore or place a low priority on environmental protection to consider the possible adverse environmental consequences of major actions before committing to them, and to make the results of that evaluation publicly available.  NEPA sought to assure balanced consideration of the economic and social benefits of proposed agency actions that tended to be the focus of private proponents and the agencies themselves, and the environmental costs that previously had received short shrift.  Assessments of NEPA differ, but many environmental policy experts agree that the law has effectively forced agencies to look at possible adverse environmental consequences before they leap into project approval and implementation.  NEPA …

April 26, 2012 by Rena Steinzor
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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 knew were to be collected as evidence in the case.. 

Prosecutors made Mix do a perp walk for reporters, with the New York Times reporting that he “surrendered” in Houston, “wearing a light purple shirt and pair of khakis without a belt.”  Several legal experts, including Professors  Richard Lazarus (former executive director of the Oil Spill Commission) and David Uhlmann (former chief DOJ environmental crimes prosecutor …

April 24, 2012 by Alice Kaswan
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EPA’s March 27 release of a proposed rule to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new fossil-fuel power plants has reignited the long-standing debate over whether the Clean Air Act is an appropriate mechanism for controlling industrial sources. Congressional bills to repeal EPA’s CAA authority have been repeatedly (though unsuccessfully) introduced. Many environmentalists, while welcoming EPA’s initiative in the absence of any alternative, have suggested that new federal climate legislation would be preferable to applying the CAA.

In a recently published article, Climate Change, the Clean Air Act, and Industrial Pollution, published in a UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy symposium on the Clean Air Act and GHG regulation, I take up a slice of the complex debate about the value of the CAA.  I explore how using the Clean Air Act to reduce GHGs from stationary sources, including industrial and fossil-fuel electrical …

April 23, 2012 by Robert Verchick
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I spent last Friday – the second anniversary of the BP Blowout – in the vast basement of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court building, shifting in my metal chair, ignoring the talk-show chatter from the flat screens, and keeping an eye on the red digit counter to know when my number was up.

I'd been called for jury duty.

Whether I will eventually be deployed is up to the gods, but until then I had resolved to study (with the help of this building's creaking Wi-Fi system) all 2,000 pages of the proposed multibillion-dollar settlement in the Deepwater Horizon case – the settlement made public last week by BP and thousands of Gulf Coast residents and businesses. (I blogged earlier when the broad outline of this settlement was first announced here.)

Now some of you may wish to savor the details, poring over the documents page-by-page …

April 20, 2012 by Catherine O'Neill
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Earlier this month Washington State’s Department of Ecology released its integrated climate response strategy, Preparing for a Changing Climate.  The strategy again demonstrates that the state is a leader when it comes to preparing for climate change impacts (see also NRDC’s recent report examining climate preparedness in all 50 states).

What makes Washington a leader?  Well, the political leadership is willing to address climate change impacts, and the scientific community is active and engaged and generates the information and data needed to make decisions on climate change adaptation actions.  (None of this discussion, of course, should mean giving any less urgency to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the first place).  Remarkably, the state has made rough economic calculations for the cost of inaction—$10 billion by 2020 as a result of increased health costs, flooding and coastal destruction, forest fires, drought, and other impacts—and …

April 19, 2012 by Ben Somberg
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On March 19, in a major economic policy address, Mitt Romney painted a portrait of a real-life "victim" of the Obama Administration’s supposed overregulation:

This administration’s burdensome regulations are even invading the freedom of everyday Americans.  Mike and Chantell Sackett run a small business in Idaho.  They saved enough money to buy a piece of property and build a modest home on it. But days after they broke ground, an EPA regulator told them to stop digging. The EPA said they were building on a wetland. But the Sacketts’ property isn’t on the wetlands register.  It sits in a residential area.

Nevertheless, the EPA wouldn’t let them appeal the decision.  It told the Sacketts they weren’t allowed to go to court.  An unelected government bureaucrat robbed them of their freedom.

They were given no recourse, no remedy.  They could do what the …

April 19, 2012 by Thomas McGarity
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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report today detailing the challenges that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) faces in writing regulations to protect America’s workers from unsafe and unhealthful workplaces.  The report was released at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), on “Delays in OSHA’s Standard-Setting Process and the Impact on Worker Safety.”  Both the GAO report and testimony presented at the hearing tell a depressing tale of an agency that, after 30 years of constant attacks from the business community, conservative think tanks, and reactionary members of Congress, has very nearly folded its rulemaking tent.

The GAO found that between 1981 and 2010, the time that it took for the agency to develop and promulgate occupational safety and health standards ranged from 15 months (for an easily promulgated safety standard …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 30, 2012

Bloomberg News Serves up an Echo-Chamber-Ready Take on Regulation

April 30, 2012

Administrative Conference of the United States Teams Up with Chamber of Commerce on Regulations

April 27, 2012

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

April 27, 2012

A Bill to Steamroll the NEPA Process

April 26, 2012

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

April 24, 2012

Applying the Clean Air Act to Greenhouse Gases: What Does It Mean for Traditional Pollutants?

April 23, 2012

The Good and the Bad in the BP Settlement, and the Main Course Still Ahead