Feb. 7, 2014 by Sidney Shapiro

Chemical Industry takes Aim at Citizen Suits with 'Reform' Bill

The recent chemical spill disaster in West Virginia has brought into sharp focus the weak measures we have in place for safeguarding people and the environment against exposures to harmful chemicals.  State and civil justice systems have helped to fill the resulting void by providing individuals who have suffered harmful exposures with an opportunity to hold accountable any people or corporations responsible for the chemical by seeking reasonable compensation for their injuries.  It’s often difficult to win these cases, and even victory won’t undo the pain and fear that comes with suffering from cancer or other illnesses that can result from harmful exposures to toxic chemicals, but the process does hold out the possibility that victims can obtain some measure of justice for the harm they have endured.

Recently, industrial chemical manufacturers and users have supported a new and subtle method for undermining legal responsibility.  They are using efforts in the U.S. Senate to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)—the primary law governing federal regulation of hazardous chemicals—to enact “evidentiary preemption.”  Specifically, the chemical industry is supporting the Chemical Safety Improvements Act (CSIA), which contains a provision that would fundamentally change how civil courts …

Feb. 4, 2014 by Matt Shudtz

Today, separate House committees will hold hearings that address two federal agencies’ efforts to regulate toxic chemicals.  The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold its fifth hearing on issues arising out of ongoing efforts to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Simultaneously, the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections will hold a hearing addressing, among other things, OSHA’s recent attempts to spur better protections for workers who face chemical hazards.  The two hearings have been framed differently and will feature different witnesses, but they share a common thread: each committee’s Republican majority is championing a worldview in which federal agencies should be restricted from engaging in the most basic form of protective action – gathering and sharing information about toxic chemicals’ risks.

The Energy and Commerce hearing, which has a rather conspicuous absence …

Feb. 4, 2014 by Anne Havemann

Every day, we are presented with more evidence of the need to inspect for environmental violations and enforce the nation’s laws.  The evidence is stark in the Chesapeake Bay region where, in 2012 alone, just 17 large point sources reported illegal discharges of nitrogen totaling nearly 700,000 pounds.  These violations put the watershed states behind in their efforts to restore the estuary and meet the 2025 goals of the Bay pollution diet. 

The problem cries out for stronger enforcement of environmental laws, and yet EPA recently released a draft FY 2014–2018 Strategic Plan that signals that the agency will retreat significantly from traditional enforcement in the coming years.  Specifically, EPA aims to conduct 30 percent fewer inspections and file 40 percent fewer civil cases over the next five years as compared to the last five.

CPR’s newest Issue Alert, which I co-authored with …

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