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U.S. Capitol at night

Allison Stevens, Dave Owen, Michael C. Duff, Noah Sachs | November 18, 2022

How Will the Midterm Elections Affect Environmental Health, Clean Air, and Workers’ Rights? Member Scholars Offer Expert Insights

We asked several of our Member Scholars how the election outcomes will affect policy going forward in our three priority policy areas. Today’s post covers the implications for public protections such as environmental health, clean air and water, and workers’ rights.

A construction worker wipes sweat from his forehead

M. Isabelle Chaudry, Sidney A. Shapiro | September 26, 2022

Congress Must Protect Workers from Extreme Heat — Now

As Cole Porter crooned in 1948, “It’s too darn hot.”  California and other parts of the American West are heading into another week of excessive heat that not only threatens public health and safety but also power shortages, which would cut millions off from the energy they need to fuel their lives. Workers, particularly those […]

A construction worker wipes sweat from his forehead

Grace DuBois | August 31, 2022

Center Considers Worker Safety Amid Climate Change Ahead of Labor Day

Climate change poses a serious threat to occupational health and safety. Workers — especially low-income workers and those who work outdoors — are particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures and increasingly frequent extreme weather and other climate-related disasters.

Michael C. Duff | June 23, 2022

Justices Overturn Washington Workers’ Compensation Law on a Strict Reading of Intergovernmental Immunity

The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously struck down a Washington state law that was aimed at helping federal contract employees get workers' compensation for diseases arising from cleaning up nuclear waste. The case, United States v. Washington, concerned the federally controlled Hanford nuclear reservation, a decommissioned facility that spans 586 square miles near the Columbia River. The reservation, formerly used by the federal government in the production of nuclear weapons, presents unique hazards to cleanup workers.

Jake Moore | May 19, 2022

Worker Safety Means Environmental Regulation

In 2001, an explosion at the Motiva Enterprises Delaware City Refinery caused a 1 million gallon sulfuric acid spill, killing one worker and severely injuring eight others. In 2008, an aboveground storage tank containing 2 million gallons of liquid fertilizer collapsed at the Allied Terminals facility in Chesapeake, Virginia, critically injuring two workers exposed to hazardous vapors. In 2021, the release of over 100,000 gallons of chemicals at a Texas plant killed two contractors and hospitalized 30 others. In addition to injury and death, workplace chemical spills and exposures contribute to an estimated 50,000 work-related diseases such as asthma and chronic lung disease each year, as well as nearly 200,000 hospitalizations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created to reduce risks and hazards to workers, and to prevent incidents like these. However, following through on this promise has been another matter.

M. Isabelle Chaudry | April 26, 2022

HBO Max Series Highlights Need for Stronger Regulation of Cosmetics Industry

Earlier this month, HBO Max aired an important series about toxic ingredients in cosmetic products. The series also examined the professional beauty industry and the health effects to workers exposed to toxic ingredients. Toxic ingredients are found in cosmetics and other personal care products. The toxic chemicals used in them have been linked to a wide range of health problems, including ovarian cancer, breast cancer, early-onset puberty, fibroids and endometriosis, miscarriage, poor maternal and infant health outcomes, diabetes and obesity, and more. As I noted in Not So Pretty, "There is a loophole in federal regulation that allows industry to use almost any ingredient and label it as 'fragrance.'"

Minor Sinclair | April 21, 2022

Protecting Future Generations, Just as Earlier Ones Sought to Protect Us

I'm hopeful the recent disco revival won't last but that other resurging movements of the 1960s and '70s will. That era saw the birth and explosive growth of the modern environmental movement alongside other sweeping actions for peace and equality. Public pressure led to critical environmental laws that continue to protect our natural resources and our health and safety. In 1970, Congress created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and enacted the Clean Air Act, which authorizes the federal government to limit air pollution, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which established the first nationwide program to protect workers from on-the-job harm. Two years later came passage of the Clean Water Act, a landmark amendment to existing anti-pollution law that requires our government to restore and maintain clean and healthy waterways across the land. That was some era -- the last great upsurge of government protections.

Michael C. Duff | April 21, 2022

Justices Wrestle with Mootness and Intergovernmental Immunity in Hanford Workers’ Comp Case

It might not be easy to get to the merits of United States v. Washington. A funny thing happened on the way to oral argument: The state of Washington modified the 2018 workers' compensation law at the center of the case, raising the prospect that there is no longer a live dispute for the justices to resolve.

Michael C. Duff | April 15, 2022

At a Vestige of the Manhattan Project, a Fight over Workers’ Compensation and Intergovernmental Immunity

Under established constitutional law, states may generally not tax or regulate property or operations of the federal government. This principle is known as intergovernmental immunity. Congress may waive this federal immunity, however, and the scope of that principle is the major issue in Monday’s oral argument in United States v. Washington.