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March 31, 2016 by Thomas Cluderay, Melanie Benesh

Legal Experts: Supreme Court Decision on Mercury Pollution Could Undercut Chemical Reform

Originally published on EnviroBlog by Thomas Cluderay, general counsel, and Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney, for the Environmental Working Group.

You might think you can’t put a price on protecting public health and the environment. But you’d be wrong – especially if we’re talking about the nation's broken and outdated chemicals law, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA.

We’ve written a lot about how the House and Senate are working to amend this defective law (here, here and here) through negotiations to reconcile language in their respective TSCA reform bills.

A critically important issue still under discussion is to what extent the Environmental Protection Agency must consider economic costs as part of its decisions on regulating chemicals. In practice the requirement that EPA balance costs and benefits translates into serious delays – if action at all – when it comes to protecting people and the environment from toxic chemicals. This onerous requirement most notoriously blocked the EPA's efforts to ban asbestos, even in the face of abundant evidence that it is a deadly carcinogen.

Although both the House and Senate bills attempt to minimize considerations of regulatory costs, those efforts could be undermined by the 2015 Supreme Court …

March 31, 2016 by Brian Gumm
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When it comes to public health, the environment, and social justice, Americans are facing a host of challenges that call out for comprehensive, national solutions. Whether it's climate change, threats to water resources like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, or serious injuries and deaths in the workplace, how we respond as a nation has direct impacts on our everyday lives.

Strong standards and effective enforcement of our laws and regulations are key to protecting our health and environment, and the next presidential administration and Congress will determine if and how agencies like EPA and OSHA rise to the occasion. The University of Pennsylvania Law School will examine these issues and more when it hosts a panel discussion in Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 5 titled, "The Next Five Years in Regulation: An Election Year Conversation."

Rena Steinzor, a Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and …

March 29, 2016 by Matthew Freeman
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NEWS RELEASE: CPR Welcomes New Communications Director

Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) announced that Brian Gumm has joined the organization as its communications director. Gumm will serve alongside the group’s staff and Member Scholars in their efforts to protect our health, safety, and environment.

“I’m excited to welcome Brian Gumm to our team,” said Matthew Shudtz, executive director of CPR. “CPR’s network of legal experts has incredible insights into the heated national conversations about environmental health, climate change, and social justice. Brian has a keen sense of how CPR can contribute to those conversations. His background and experience will help us increase the impact of our work and continue to be strong advocates for progressive solutions.”

“The secret to CPR’s success is the way it combines the most trustworthy academic analysis with clear and actionable prose,” said Robert Verchick, president of …

March 28, 2016 by Daniel Farber
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The Texas AG’s office seems to do little else besides battle against EPA, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in the vanguard of anti-environmentalism. Yet even in Texas there are some rays of hope. While Texas is attacking the Clean Power Plan, the city of Houston is leading a coalition of cities defending it.

Other cities are taking action for non-environmental reasons. The city of Georgetown, Texas, for instance, has announced plans to become 100 percent renewable. Lest there be any misunderstanding, the major hastens to explain that “environmental zealots have not taken over our city council. . . Our move to wind and solar is chiefly a business decision based on cost and price stability.”

A similar move is taking place in Denton, Texas, while El Paso and San Antonio are phasing out coal. (See here for more details.) Energy efficiency is another area where Texas does …

March 25, 2016 by Katrina Miller
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As spring rains approach, the need for more stringent stormwater controls comes into sharper focus. Rain is a life-giver, of course, but in our ever more paved environment, it’s also a conveyance for water pollution. Stormwater runoff in urban areas travels across rooftops, roads, sidewalks and eventually into a municipal storm sewer system, all the while accumulating a cocktail of various pollutants that includes oil residue from roads, pesticides and excess fertilizer from lawns and farms, and more. These pollutants flow into in local streams and have a direct — and sometimes severe — impact on the water quality and local aquatic ecosystems.

Regulation of Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) is critical to improving water quality as envisioned by the Clean Water Act (CWA). Unfortunately, management of stormwater is not a “one size fits all” problem. Controlling runoff of sewage and trash, which are major pollutants in …

March 24, 2016 by Matthew Freeman
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NEWS RELEASE: New Manual Helps Workplace-Safety Activists Push for Criminal Charges in On-the-Job Tragedies

Washington, DC ----- Every year, thousands of workers across the United States are killed on the job — 4,679 in 2014 alone. Thousands more are seriously injured. Many of these deaths and injuries are entirely preventable when employers put in place basic safety measures. Some even result from company policies and practices that encourage and reward behavior that creates unacceptably risky conditions.

Ignoring workplace safety requirements is against the law, but a new manual from the Center for Progressive Reform notes that employers rarely face criminal penalties for endangering workers’ health and safety. Instead, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and state labor agencies typically impose only small civil fines for regulatory violations. CPR’s manual, Preventing Death and Injury on the Job: The Criminal Justice Alternative in State Law, urges action at the …

March 24, 2016 by Matt Shudtz
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Decades in the making, OSHA’s new silica rule will better protect millions of workers from a highly toxic, cancer-causing substance that has killed thousands while the rule slowly worked its way through the regulatory gauntlet, administration after administration. Today, in quarries, foundries, building sites, and kitchen rehab jobs across the country, workers can look forward to breathing cleaner air.

But today’s announcement is far from the end of the story. Next comes the inevitable litigation. Following their tired playbook, special interest groups will beg a court to put a hold on the rule, hoping to delay or undo it. Workers have waited long enough for this rule. It is high time industry made an investment in the future by establishing the protections this rule requires. Investing now in tools and policies to better protect workers will save hundreds of lives every year. That’s not …

March 23, 2016 by Robert Verchick
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Earlier this week in Havana’s Gran Teatro, President Obama urged Cubans in this new century to keep their eyes on the prize of “sustainable prosperity.” His remarks focused on the foundational role of political freedom, but not before underlining the importance of environmental protection too. That’s no surprise. Economic growth in Cuba will depend heavily on the natural systems that keep the island’s 11 million people fed, sheltered, and buffered from storms. Indeed, the U.S. State Department’s negotiations with Cuba stressed this very point: two of four agreements reached since the re-opening of diplomatic relations involved resource protection and preparing for the impacts of climate change. The expected influx of U.S. tourists, businesses, and developers—another key to economic success—promises to add a corresponding layer of environmental stress.

Last spring I traveled to Cuba as part of a New Orleans …

March 22, 2016 by Matt Shudtz
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Partisan efforts in Congress to roll back health and safety rules are common fodder on this blog. But last week, we saw a new twist, with a high-level Obama Administration official giving cover to a right-wing attempt to weaken protections for hundreds of thousands of workers in the poultry industry.

The workers in question are at the center of the highly industrialized process of turning live chickens into shrink-wrapped skinless parts. That puts them at a critical juncture in the vertically integrated industry, where major conglomerates like Perdue, Tyson, and JBS control the entire production chain from fertilized egg to boneless breast. More than 200,000 farms, producing 8.5 billion birds a year, all feed into about 300 federally inspected slaughter facilities. These facilities are a potential choke point in poultry companies’ distribution networks, which profit on speed and efficiency. And right at the front end …

March 21, 2016 by Daniel Farber
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There was a surprise question about climate change at the last Republican debate. What was surprising wasn’t the question itself. Instead, it was the source of the question: Tomás Regalado, the Republican mayor of Miami. It turns out that this wasn’t a fluke.

Regalado and the Republican mayor of Miami Beach have spoken out in an op-ed about climate change:

“The overwhelming scientific consensus is that the rising sea levels are caused by the planet warming, that the burning of fossil fuels is driving this warming, and that we need to act quickly to avoid the worst impacts ahead. These are the facts. We shouldn’t waste time debating them.”

Or consider this, from a Republican Member of Congress:

“Rising sea levels and the erosion of our coastal communities have made it abundantly clear that South Florida is at the frontline of climate change. . . . If …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
March 31, 2016

Legal Experts: Supreme Court Decision on Mercury Pollution Could Undercut Chemical Reform

March 31, 2016

Steinzor, Panel to Explore What Next Administration Will Mean for Public Protections

March 29, 2016

Center for Progressive Reform Welcomes New Communications Director

March 28, 2016

Green Patches Deep in the Heart of Texas

March 25, 2016

Ensuring Accountability and Public Participation in Stormwater Permitting

March 24, 2016

OSHA's New Silica Rule: CPR's Matt Shudtz Reacts

March 24, 2016

When On-the-Job Deaths & Injuries Warrant Prosecution