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Nov. 26, 2013 by David Hunter

Making private companies pay their share for climate change: a new study could revive climate change litigation

Efforts to hold private companies responsible for their contribution to climate change just took a big step forward, thanks to researcher Rick Heede.  For the past eight years, Heede has painstakingly compiled the historical contribution of fossil fuel companies to today’s concentrations of greenhouse gases.  According to Heede’s study ”Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010,” which was published in Climatic Change, just 90 enterprises have accounted for over sixty percent of total industrial carbon dioxide and methane emissions.  And just five private oil companies-- ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips—have accounted for more than 12 percent of such emissions.

This data is a potential game-changer in how we think of responsibility for climate change.  The fossil fuel industry would like us to believe that we are all equally culpable every time we turn on an ignition or a light bulb.  But we are not all equally responsible for decisions that have led to climate change—and we certainly have not all benefited from climate change the same way that the five oil companies have.  In addition, several of the top emissions contributors actively promoted climate change denial campaigns …

Nov. 26, 2013 by Daniel Farber
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I’ve spent a lot of time and energy talking about the need to adapt to climate change, but I’ve also become increasingly uneasy about “adaptation” as a way to think about the situation.  One of the things I don’t like about the term “adaptation” is that it suggests that we actually can, at some expense, restore ourselves to the same position we would have been in without climate change.  For any given amount of climate change, we can do things that decrease the resulting harms (at a cost), but we can’t eliminate those harms.  Adapting to climate change is like “adapting” to a serious chronic disease — you can get by, with luck, but it’s still not like being healthy.

But there’s also an important conceptual issue.  The idea of adaptation assumes that the world will go along more or less as …

Nov. 26, 2013 by Robert Verchick
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It’s not easy to stare into the eyes of a dying man. But that is what David Michaels, the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), wants you to do.

A video called, “Deadly Dust,” featured on OSHA’s website, introduces Bill Ellis, a retired painter and sandblaster. After years of exposure to fine particles of blasted rock, he developed a respiratory disease called silicosis and died, leaving behind his wife, children, and grandchildren. Ellis’s final months were painful. For a silicosis patient, just drawing breath is an ordeal—like sucking air through a straw.

Thousands of laborers are exposed to the tiny stone particles, called silica, that killed Ellis. Any time workers blast sandstone, saw concrete, or cut brick, that dust is in the air. Because of the broad danger and the availability of relatively inexpensive protective gear, OSHA has released proposed …

Nov. 21, 2013 by James Goodwin
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When it comes to OIRA’s antiregulatory meddling, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) pilot fatigue rule provides as textbook an example as you could ask for.  Following Congress’s instruction that the rule be based on the best available science regarding human sleep patterns, the agency drafted a rule that set minimum rest standards for all commercial pilots.  But, the rule couldn’t take effect without the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) review and final approval.  After more than four months, the rule that emerged from the OIRA review gauntlet had been significantly weakened.  The minimum rest standards now applied only to commercial passengerpilots, while commercial cargo pilots were completely exempted.  The change was based not on sleep science, as Congress mandated.  What’s the justification?  Fatigue generally affects all pilots the same, no matter what they happen to be …

Nov. 21, 2013 by Anne Havemann
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Lately, press releases from the Maryland Department of Agriculture read like a broken record:

MDA Withdraws Phosphorus Management Tool Regulations; Department to Meet with Stakeholders and Resubmit Regulations 

-- August 26, 2013  

MDA Withdraws Phosphorus Management Tool Regulations; Department to Consider Comments and Resubmit Regulations

--November 15, 2013

The second headline is from this past Friday when MDA withdrew a proposed regulation aimed at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay by restricting the use of manure to fertilize crops.

Manure is full of phosphorus, one of the nutrients choking the Bay. Indeed, manure runoff accounts for 26 percent of the phosphorus in the estuary. The proposed “phosphorus management tool,” developed at the University of Maryland, would have helped determine which fields were over-saturated with the nutrient. If the soil contained too much phosphorus, the farmer could not apply manure to fertilize that field.

As the agency’s press releases …

Nov. 20, 2013 by Rena Steinzor
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When we all sit down for Thanksgiving dinner next week, we hope that the food we are feeding our families is wholesome and that the workers who produce it are safe.  Thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), ever the mindless booster of corporate profits, that turkey at the center of the table already disappoints both expectations, and if USDA has its way, matters are about to get much worse.  Hiding behind disingenuous promises to “modernize” the food safety system, USDA has decided to pull federal food inspectors off the line at poultry processing plants across the nation.  No new preventative measures to ensure that poultry is free of salmonella would happen.  And already crowded, bloody, stinking lines would speed up dramatically—to as many as 175 birds per minute, or three birds/second. Workers who suffer grave ergonomic injuries from the repetitive motions of …

Nov. 20, 2013 by Matthew Freeman
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Yesterday, Catherine Jones, CPR's Operations and Finance Manager, received Public Citizen's 11th annual Phyllis McCarthy Public Service Award, in recognition of her contributions to the organization and the nonprofit community.

Catherine's been with CPR for eight of our eleven years, and she's been a lynchpin of the organization for most of that time. CPR began small — first as an idea shared by a group of scholars around a restaurant table — then morphed into a somewhat more formal gathering of scholars, and then over the course of a few years grew out of its "garage band" phase into the full-fledged organization that's now making a reCatherine Jonesal difference.

Anyone who's ever built an organization of any type — a nonprofit, a small business, a theater company, you name it — will recognize the challenges inherent in organizational evolution of that sort. Catherine made …

Nov. 20, 2013 by Anne Havemann
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Maryland’s effort to limit pollution from massive industrial animal farms in the state is falling behind. A new CPR Issue Alert finds that the state has not registered 26 percent of Maryland’s concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and Maryland animal feeding operations (MAFOs), missing out on tens of thousands of pounds of pollution reduction in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay is in trouble. Years of half-hearted interstate efforts to check polluting emissions and restore the nation's largest estuary have failed. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan for the Bay represents the Chesapeake's last, best chance of recovery. The TMDL requires all major polluting sectors—including massive industrial farms—to reduce their discharges into the Bay.

Maryland is home to at least 588 of these massive animal farms, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and state-regulated Maryland …

Nov. 18, 2013 by Lisa Heinzerling
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The Food and Drug Administration recently announced its tentative determination that most of the trans fatty acids in our diets – specifically, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) – are not “generally recognized as safe” within the meaning of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and thus must be regulated as food additives. If the FDA finalizes this determination, then food manufacturers would need to obtain the approval of the FDA before selling PHOs in any food or as food ingredients. Approval would then depend, in turn, on a determination by the FDA that PHOs were safe after all. In this way, a final determination by the FDA that PHOs are not “generally recognized as safe” would effectively amount to a ban on their use in food.

The FDA’s proposed finding is a huge deal for public health. The agency estimates that eliminating PHOs from the food supply could prevent …

Nov. 14, 2013 by Lisa Heinzerling
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One of the healthiest things a person can do is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Unless they’re contaminated with dangerous pathogens, that is. Contaminated produce has been responsible for an alarming number of deaths and illnesses in recent years, from Listeria-tainted cantaloupes that killed up to 43 people in 2011 to a Cyclospora outbreak linked to salad mix and cilantro that sickened 631 people in 25 states this past summer. 

For this reason, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) directed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set standards to ensure the safety of the fruits and vegetables in our food supply.   The FDA’s proposed rule on produce safety would address some of the most likely sources of contamination on farms, including tools and equipment, water used in agricultural activities, and worker health and hygiene. At the Center for Progressive Reform we …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Nov. 26, 2013

Making private companies pay their share for climate change: a new study could revive climate change litigation

Nov. 26, 2013

Dangerous dust and deadly delay: OSHA's proposed silica rule

Nov. 26, 2013

Rethinking 'adaptation'

Nov. 21, 2013

Maryland yanks rule limiting the use of manure as fertilizer…again

Nov. 21, 2013

Should Congress have to pass a bill twice? OIRA's interference endangers pilots

Nov. 20, 2013

The Award-Winning Catherine Jones

Nov. 20, 2013

Falling Behind: The Effort to Reduce Pollution from Industrial Animal Farms in Maryland is Lagging