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April 30, 2009 by Matthew Freeman

CPR's Steinzor Testfies on Regulatory Process

This morning, the Center for Progressive Reform's Rena Steinzor testifies before the House Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.  In her remarks, she calls on the White House to reshape the role of the director of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs -- the so-called regulatory czar.  All too frequently OIRA has been the place where protective regulations go to get weakened or killed, and Steinzor argues forcefully that there's a better role for the OIRA director:  a defender of federal regulatory agencies and their missions, rather than an impediment to regulation.  She says:

The Obama Administration and Congress should define a new mission for the regulatory czar.  The American people need more, not less regulation on every front, from mortgage lending to workplace hazards. The regulatory czar’s mission should be to rescue struggling regulatory agencies by helping them to obtain more resources and stronger legal authority.

Her testimony is online, here.  And the news release is here.

A few related documents: 

April 29, 2009 by A. Dan Tarlock
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This post is written by CPR Member Scholars Dan Tarlock and Holly Doremus

How has the Department of Interior fared during the first 100 days? If history is any guide, the issue may be more important than many people assume. With one major and one minor exception, Secretaries of the Interior stay put in Democratic administrations. Franklin Lane served from 1913 until the last year of the Wilson Administration. Harold Ickes was FDR's only Secretary and he served until his 1945 registration in the Truman Administration. Stuart Udall served during the entire Kennedy and Johnson Administrations; Cecil Andrus did so under President Carter, and Bruce Babbitt lasted for the full two terms of Bill Clinton's tenure in office. Harry Truman is the exception, but he had only two secretaries during his nearly 8 years in office.

The short answer to the question is the record …

April 29, 2009 by David Driesen
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A coalition of conservative and moderate Democrats has recommended deleting section 336 of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill because of “concern among industry about potential new liability for any emitter” under that provision (see the proposed amendments). Some polluters' objective, apparently, is to avoid liability for violating the law, and they recommend this deletion as a step toward accomplishing that goal.

But section 336 does not create any liability, new or old. Section 723 of the Waxman-Markey bill does that, quite appropriately, by establishing penalties for failure to meet targets or purchase sufficient allowances. And the liability in this other section does not apply to “any emitter,” but only to emitters that violate the law by failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The whole notion that new obligations should create no new liability for violators, if accepted, would convert this bill from a mandatory cap and trade …

April 29, 2009 by Matthew Freeman
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This morning, the Center for Progressive Reform's Rena Steinzor testifies before the House Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.  In her remarks, she calls on the White House to reshape the role of the director of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs -- the so-called regulatory czar.  All too frequently OIRA has been the place where protective regulations go to get weakened or killed, and Steinzor argues forcefully that there's a better role for the OIRA director:  a defender of federal regulatory agencies and their missions, rather than an impediment to regulation.  She says:

The Obama Administration and Congress should define a new mission for the regulatory czar.  The American people need more, not less regulation on every front, from mortgage lending to workplace hazards. The regulatory czar’s mission should be to rescue struggling regulatory agencies by helping them …

April 28, 2009 by Bill Funk
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There are few areas where the difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is more stark than that of the Freedom of Information Act. The FOIA, of course, requires agencies to provide copies of their records to any person upon request unless the record fits within one of nine specific exemptions. Among the most important of these are the exemption for classified information, inter-agency or intra-agency communications containing advice or recommendations, information compiled for law enforcement purposes, and private commercial information. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the FOIA is a disclosure statute; nothing in the FOIA requires an agency to withhold records even if they fall within an exemption, although it is possible that some other statute might.

In 1977, the Attorney General under President Jimmy Carter issued a memorandum to heads of departments and agencies announcing that henceforth the Justice Department would …

April 28, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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Inside the Washington Beltway, we are awash in stories about President Obama’s first 100 days. Some are comparative—how is Obama doing in relationship to Franklin Roosevelt at the same point in his first term? Some are pure spin—“we’re competent and we love each other!" opines Rahm Emanuel, the obviously biased Obama chief of staff. And some are substantive—has he kept his campaign promises and, if not, how many more miles does he have to go before he sleeps?

On the issues in our bailiwick, the President gets an “A” for effort, a “B” for execution, and an “incomplete” for the course as a whole.

First, the big picture. Just hearing a President talk about environmental protection again as if it were a very important item on the national agenda is enormously exciting, especially because the President has targeted climate change, the toughest …

April 27, 2009 by Victor Flatt
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Two weeks ago, Representatives Waxman and Markey put forth a 648-page legislative draft for dealing with climate change. That draft had proposals for the use of offsets, some good and some not so good (see my earlier post). Moderate and conservative Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee have now put forward suggested changes (as reported by ClimateWire) that they say are necessary to make the proposed bill less onerous. In general, these provisions would more or less weaken the targets and enforcement mechanism in the proposed bill, and that is not a positive thing. We already know that climate change is serious and that the U.S. is going to have to take a leading role in addressing it, or we will never reach the international consensus necessary to address the problem. Yes, it will be hard, but instead of shirking our responsibility to ourselves and …

April 24, 2009 by Yee Huang
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Never mind the unusual wave of intersex fish or the mutant frogs appearing in a waterway near you.

Earlier this week the Associated Press published the results of an investigation of pharmaceuticals in the nation’s waters.  The reporters found that U.S. drug companies have legally released at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways, including compounds such as: lithium, used to treat bipolar disorder; warfarin, a blood thinner also used as a rodenticide and pesticide; and tetracycline hydrochloride, an antibiotic.  This investigation follows an equally disquieting finding published last year that trace amounts of pharmaceuticals were found in the drinking water of 24 major metropolitan areas.

Pharmaceuticals enter the nation’s waters primarily from health care facilities or consumers, who either excrete unabsorbed drugs or who adhere to the old (and debunked) advice to flush drugs down the toilet.  However, pharmaceuticals can also enter …

April 23, 2009 by Frank Ackerman
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It must be worthwhile; at least, I keep doing it. Wednesday was the third time in the last eight months that I’ve testified before a House committee about the costs of inaction on climate change, a topic I study at the Stockholm Environment Institute-US Center, a research institute affiliated with Tufts University in Boston.

The Energy and Commerce Committee launched a week of hearings on the Waxman-Markey bill, the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” by one account, they have invited 67 witnesses to testify.

Wednesday was a staggeringly long day, beginning with Cabinet secretaries at 9:30 in the morning, then a panel of USCAP members (an alliance of major corporations and environmental groups, in support of climate legislation), then a panel that was half conservatives and skeptics (guess which party insisted on inviting them), and finally, starting just before 6:00 PM …

April 22, 2009 by Holly Doremus
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This item is cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet.

Quite a bit, and most of the news is bad.

American Rivers has declared the Sacramento-San Joaquin the most endangered river in the United States.

The longfin smelt has been listed as threatened by the state, but it is not going to be federally listed, at least not yet.

Commercial salmon fishing off the California coast is one step closer to being formally closed for 2009.

And while late rains have increased water supplies, some farmers are still slated to get little or no water this summer.

* The American Rivers report listing the Sacramento-San Joaquin as the nation’s “most endangered” river has garnered substantial media attention. The report cites the need to overhaul both water and flood management systems. As Matt Weiser pointed out in the Sacramento Bee, that’s no surprise to locals, but there is …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 30, 2009

CPR's Steinzor Testfies on Regulatory Process

April 29, 2009

The First 100 Days: At Interior, Several Positive Developments, but the Jury is Still Out

April 29, 2009

CPR's Steinzor Testfies on Regulatory Process

April 29, 2009

In Debate on Waxman-Markey, a Question on Avoiding Liability for Violating the Law

April 28, 2009

The First 100 Days: On the Environment, a President to be Proud of; An Agenda Just Beyond Reach

April 28, 2009

The First 100 Days: A Positive Beginning on the Freedom of Information Act

April 27, 2009

Proposed Amendments to Waxman-Markey Could Diminish Integrity of Offset Provisions