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Feb. 8, 2010 by Wendy Wagner

EPA's Lax Confidential Business Information Policy and the Importance of the Hampshire Associates Study

After laying dormant for decades, industries’ abuse of EPA’s permissive confidential business information program (CBI) is finally getting some serious attention. An investigation in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and more recently articles in the Washington Post and Risk Policy Report; a report by the Environmental Working Group; and posts by Richard Denison at EDF, are turning the tide. Those of us at CPR who have spilled ink on various CBI problems over the years (i.e., Mary Lyndon, Tom McGarity, Sid Shapiro, Rena Steinzor, and myself) are thrilled to witness how these journalists and environmental watchdogs have finally managed to budge EPA on its contemptible program.

One document that has been referenced in several recent reports, but that I think deserves further attention, is an extensive empirical study of EPA’s CBI program by a consultant, Hampshire Associates. EPA commissioned this study in 1992 to evaluate whether EPA’s CBI program was in need of reform. Hampshire Associates documented extensive abuse of the CBI program by regulated industry, particularly in regulatory programs in which EPA does not require any justification for a CBI claim. The report is particularly relevant to current debates because virtually nothing has changed in EPA …

Feb. 5, 2010 by Douglas Kysar
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This week the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its annual report to Congress on the costs and benefits of federal regulatory programs. For the policy wonks among us, the most intriguing part was a section on recommendations for reform of the OMB regulatory review process. Here we find hints of what might result from President Obama’s long-awaited overhaul of the executive order on regulatory impact analysis. Cass Sunstein – an eminent legal scholar and now head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within OMB – has written prolifically and powerfully on this subject and observers expect that the new executive order will bear his unmistakable imprint, shaking up what has been a long-calcified debate on the role of cost-benefit analysis in federal policymaking. If OMB’s annual report is any indication, they won’t be disappointed.

From Nudges to Shoves

OMB …

Feb. 3, 2010 by Holly Doremus
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Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has existed since 1970, but it has never had the direct imprimatur of Congress. According to Congressional Daily, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology has announced that an organic act for NOAA is one of his committee’s priorities for this year. NOAA authorization has been proposed many times over the past 40 years. Its time to finally get it done.

Why does it matter? NOAA’s existence does not depend on Congressional authorization, nor would an organic act necessarily change its substantive authority. But it could strengthen NOAA’s hand within the Department of Commerce, reinforce its environmental protection and science mission, and help attract and retain employees dedicated to that mission.

NOAA was created in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, through a document known as Reorganization Plan No …

Feb. 2, 2010 by Rena Steinzor
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Eighty percent of the toys sold in the United States are manufactured abroad, the vast majority in China. Because China has no effective regulatory structure, these imports are notoriously dangerous for children. The most prominent example is toys coated with lead paint, made that way because in China, lead paint is actually cheaper than the safe variety because the Chinese have increased the mining of lead ore by 50 percent since 2001. (Let’s not even imagine what Chinese manufacturers are selling to their own people). But it’s not just lead-laden toys. Independent investigations also discovered that Chinese manufacturers were using a chemical coating on tiny glue dots sold as part of a craft set for young kids that metabolized into the date rape drug gamma hydroxyl butyrate by kids who ate them. Some did, and ended up in the hospital. And just this Christmas, scientists …

Feb. 1, 2010 by Rena Steinzor
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As we feared, in an effort to save pitiably small amounts of money in the discretionary (non-military) portion of the budget, President Obama’s FY 2011 budget, announced today, shortchanges very real threats to public health. Case in point: the Food and Drug Administration’s ongoing struggle to improve the safety of the American food supply. (FDA regulates 80 percent of it; USDA regulates the 20 percent that is meat and poultry, and that is, if you’ll pardon, its own kettle of fish) Each year in the United States, food-borne illnesses cause 5,000 deaths, hospitalize 325,000, and sicken 1 million, and no realistic observer of the FDA’s efforts thinks they are remotely adequate. Yet the Obama budget increases total spending for the FDA’s food and drug missions by a paltry $80 million, barely a rounding error in the funds dispersed for the …

Feb. 1, 2010 by Ben Somberg
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Toyota is on the media offensive this morning, announcing that it has found the problem (sticking pedals, it says) and is fixing it. Some articles indicated NHTSA has signed off or given "clearance" for the plan, but Toyota specifically noted that while NHTSA had reviewed its plan, it has not "signed off" on it, as it doesn't have the power to do so.

Two articles in particular have raised further questions.

The LATimes published its investigation over the weekend, questioning whether sticky gas pedals are the whole problem:

Federal vehicle safety records reviewed by The Times also cast doubt on Toyota's claims that sticky gas pedals were a significant factor in the growing reports of runaway vehicles. Of more than 2,000 motorist complaints of sudden acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles over the last decade, just 5% blamed a sticking gas pedal, the analysis …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Feb. 26, 2010

Eye on OIRA: King Coal

Feb. 25, 2010

Eye on OIRA: Meddling with IRIS Again, Now on Arsenic

Feb. 24, 2010

Saving Our Fisheries

Feb. 23, 2010

CPR Eye on OIRA: Transparency and Scrutiny for OIRA

Feb. 22, 2010

Waxman and Stupak Release Documents on Eve of Toyota / NHTSA Hearing

Feb. 22, 2010

Congress Says Ask, but Toyota and Fellow Automakers Say Don't Tell: The Story of NHTSA and Industry Secrecy

Feb. 22, 2010

The Toyota Fiasco: Where Were the Regulators?