This past Sunday, the Houston Chronicle published an opinion piece by CPR Scholar and University of Maryland Carey School of Law professor Rena Steinzor entitled, "With Dupont, OSHA's Tough Talk Falls Faint."
She takes OSHA to account for the small penalties the agency levied against Dupont and notes, "Despite ample evidence that gross and reckless neglect of fundamental safety protocols caused the tragedy, OSHA could only muster alleged violations totaling $99,000 in civil penalties, an amount that DuPont could pay out of petty cash. Penalties this small relative to a company's size and revenues do not deter future misconduct by DuPont or its competitors. Instead, they are written off as a mere cost of doing business."
Steinzor acknowledges that OSHA is left with a statute that is far too weak when enforcing stiffer penalties, but lays out a potential path to holding Dupont leadership accountable:
As the poisonous vapor spilled from the valve, the worker standing nearby radioed for help and others ran to assist her. But the …
The Center for Progressive Reform is excited to welcome its new policy analyst, Evan Isaacson who will focus on the Chesapeake Bay. Isaacson succeeds Anne Havemann, and will continue her sterling work on the intersection of state and federal environmental regulations and the Bay.
Mr. Isaacson joins CPR after eight years on staff at the Maryland General Assembly, where he served as an analyst in the Natural Resources, Environment, and Transportation workgroup, as well as counsel to the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review. According to CPR Executive Director Matt Shudtz, “Evan has been involved in practically every important legislative effort affecting the Bay in Maryland for the past 7 years. We are looking forward to tapping into his expertise to continue Anne Havemann’s great work in watchdogging federal and state agencies tasked with protecting the Bay.”
Before his work at the state legislature …
CPR Scholar and Georgetown University Law School professor William Buzbee testified at a House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans Oversight hearing today entitled, “Proposed Federal Water Grabs and Their Potential Impacts on States, Water, and Power Users, and Landowners.”
The Hearing concerned the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers' proposed "Waters of The US," rule related to water pollution and agriculture.
According to his testimony:
The legal uncertainty of recent years about what are protected federal waters has benefitted no one. For those concerned about protection of America’s waters, regulatory uncertainty has led to regulatory forbearance, problematic or erroneous regulatory and judicial decisions, and increased regulatory costs. By now linking the “waters of the United States” question to peer reviewed science and clarifying which waters are subject to categorical or case-by-case protection and revealing the reasons for such judgments, the Corps and EPA have …
Today, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Michigan v. EPA.
CPR Member Scholar and University of Texas School of Law professor Thomas O. McGarity responded to the debate with the following statement:
Following today’s oral arguments, the Supreme Court must decide whether EPA misinterpreted a section in the Clean Air Act requiring it to regulate hazardous emissions from power plants when such regulation is “appropriate and necessary.” EPA interpreted those words to require the agency to focus on the harm that emissions of hazardous pollutants, like Mercury, can cause to human health and the environment, and not on how much it would cost industry to reduce those emissions.
EPA’s interpretation is fully consistent with the Clean Air Act’s precautionary approach to protecting public health and the environment from toxic emissions.
History has proved time and again that if EPA must consider costs in …
In the United States, a handful of large corporations including Perdue and Tyson direct and oversee nearly every step in the poultry production process, essentially serving as overlords to the tens of thousands of small farmers with whom they contract to raise their chickens for slaughter. While deriving the lion’s share of the profit, these corporations have so far managed to avoid all responsibility for the pollution their chickens produce. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state agencies have been largely afraid to tackle the issue because of the well-heeled and politically powerful farm lobby. A new CPR Issue Alert urges government to hold these bad actors accountable and explains how to do so under existing law.
These companies, known as “integrators,” own virtually all aspects of poultry production—from hatching the chicks, to processing and retailing them, even transporting poultry products to grocery stores and …
Last Friday marked the 10 year anniversary of the BP Texas City Refinery explosion that killed 15 people and injured 170 others.
In an opinion piece for the Houston Chronicle, CPR President Rena Steinzor describes the systemic failures which led to the explosion and the regulatory gaps that remain. She calls for criminal investigations, "everytime refinery operations kill, maim, or threaten public health."
BP executive Ross Pillari blamed low-level workers for not "doing their jobs." Yet some of the men stationed at the tower had worked 12-hour shifts for 29 consecutive days, as required by BP policy. The company fired six of them, in effect reinforcing the perception that human error, as opposed to systemic mismanagement, was to blame. This spin was refuted by the evidence.
Several weeks before the explosion, Texas City plant manager Don Parus prepared a PowerPoint containing pictures of men killed …
Today, CPR Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin will testify as an expert witness on the regulatory process for a House Committee on Small Business Hearing, "Tangled in Red Tape: New Challenges for Small Manufacturers."
Goodwin's testimony highlights the economic as well as public health and safety benefits of regulations in relation to small businesses. He notes:
Over the past four decades, U.S. regulatory agencies have achieved remarkable success in establishing safeguards that protect people and the environment against unreasonable risks. During the 1960s and 1970s, rivers caught fire, cars exploded on rear impact, workers breathing benzene contracted liver cancer, and chemical haze settled over the industrial zones of the nation's cities and towns. But today, the most visible manifestations of these threats are under control, millions of people have been protected from death and debilitating injury, and environmental degradation has been slowed and even …
The Texas Public Utility Commission, which sets electricity rates for the state and allows adjustments for fuel costs, has recently proposed amendments to its procedural rules that would limit consumer advocate input into potentially abusive rate changes.
Prior to any rate changes, the Commission holds public hearings where experts for the utility companies present highly technical reports drawn from their own data. Representatives of consumer groups can participate in these hearings, but they typically advance consumer interests by challenging the data and assumptions presented by the industry's experts.
The Commission has proposed to limit the amount of demands for information that consumer advocates can make of utility companies and the number of written question they can submit at public hearings.
In an op-ed for yesterday's Austin-American Statesman, CPR Scholar and University of Texas School of Law professor Tom McGarity lays out the potential problems for …
This week, House Republicans re-introduced the “Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015,” (H.R. 185).
Proponents of the bill are claiming that it would “modernize” the rule-making process and streamline government inefficiencies.
In fact, the RAA would bog down attempts by federal agencies to protect our health, safety and environment in red tape by adding over 74 new requirements to the rule-making process, including over 29 new “documentation” requirements.
Center for Progressive Reform Senior Analyst James Goodwin compiled a list of all the potential requirements for agency rule-making included in the bill. Goodwin notes that, “most of the requirements are nonsensical that at best add nothing to the rulemaking process—and at worst distract agencies from those considerations that would lead to better quality rules.”
The full, damning list is copied below. Adding extensive paperwork and bureaucratic burdens to the rule-making process would threaten the President’s initiative …
Today, the EPA announced national standards governing coal waste from coal-fired power plants, also known as coal ash. The rule does not treat coal ash as a hazardous material, but as household garbage.
CPR President and University of Maryland law professor Rena Steinzor reacted to the classification:
It's bitterly disappointing that the electric utility industry, which earns profits hand over fist, has succeeded in bamboozling the White House to gut this rule. Originally designed by EPA to prevent fatalities, injuries, and grave long-term damage to the public's health, the rule was caught in the cross hairs of naysaying economists on the President's staff, who invented the misguided and subversive notion that if coal ash dumps were cleaned up, coal ash could not be recycled. In fact, a strong rule that makes it more expensive to dispose of coal ash could only result in more …