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Sept. 9, 2014 by Erin Kesler

CPR's Robert Fischman Testifies for the House Committee on Natural Resources on the Endangered Species Act

Today CPR Member Scholar and Indiana University School of Law professor Robert Fischman is testifying today for the House Committee on Natural Resources on potential amendments to the Endangered Species Act.

According to the testimony:

I. THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT SHOULD BE A LAST RESORT FOR CONSERVATION, NOT THE PRINCIPAL TOOL.

Though Congress intended the ESA to conserve “the ecosystems upon which” imperiled species depend,1 the act almost exclusively focuses on preventing species from going extinct. By the time species are listed for protection under the ESA, populations are already so depleted that there remains little flexibility for further declines. The famous inflexibility of the Act, to “halt and reverse the trend toward species extinction, whatever the cost,”2 is borne of the emergency situation facing a species when it declines to the very brink of extinction. Isolated fragments of habitat, low genetic diversity, and precious few populations raise the costs of conservation and heighten the consequences of failure.

To read the testimony in full click here.

July 31, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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Today, Roll Call published a piece by CPR President Rena Steinzor in support of the "Hide no Harm" bill.

According to the piece:

The “Hide No Harm Act” includes a definition of the “responsible corporate officer” against whom such cases could be brought, clarifying an existing legal doctrine by saying higher-level executives have the “responsibility and authority, by reason of his or her position in the business entity  . . .  to acquire knowledge of any serious danger.” The key is that the person could or should have known, not that he or she admits to having known.

It concludes:

The Department of Justice is undoubtedly negotiating fervently with company lawyers to reach a corporate settlement. But the prospect of allowing GM to buy its way out of having caused at least 13 deaths without even admitting criminal liability, casts a shadow over the proceedings. Why should the responsible parties …

July 31, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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In a press call today, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the poultry slaughter “modernization” rule is final and effective immediately.  

CPR President Rena Steinzor reacted to the rule's finalization:

The rule is a travesty from the perspective of every child who has chicken nuggets for lunch and every low-wage worker who stands in a fetid, overcrowded room cutting chicken carcasses thousands of times a day.

The new inspection system will allow plants to operate their slaughtering and evisceration lines at speeds that have proven hazardous for workers.  It will pull federal inspectors off the processing line, ensuring that carcasses caked in blood, guts, and feathers whir by at the rate of 2.3 bird per second.

The Government Accountability Office has written two scathing reports on the scant data used in promulgating the rule and the Southern Poverty Law Center has released reports documenting the …

July 15, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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New legislation introduced by Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) and co-sponsored by Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) would ensure that corporate executives who knowingly market life-threatening products or continue unsafe business practices are held criminally responsible when people die or are injured.  

Under the Hide No Harm Act, key corporate managers will be required by law to report serious dangers to relevant government agencies, employees and affected members of the public.

CPR Member Scholars wrote in support of the bill to Senators in a letter last month.

According to the letter:

The recent General Motors (GM) ignition switch scandal vividly illustrates the catastrophic consequences that can result when corporations fail to disclose the known dangers associated with their harmful business activities.   The now highly profitable auto manufacturer—$3.8 billion last year alone—determined that the estimated $2.3-million-fix for the problem ($0.90 fix for …

July 11, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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Today, CPR President Rena Steinzor testifes at a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment and the Economy Hearing entitled, "Constitutional Considerations: States vs. Federal Environmental Implementation Policy."

According to her testimony:

As I understand the situation, the Subcommittee’s leadership called this hearing in part to explore the contradiction between the notion that legislation to reauthorize the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) should preempt any state authority to regulate chemical products with the notion that the federal government should depend on the states to regulate coal ash and has no role to play in protecting the public from such threats. 

These positions are a dichotomy if there ever was one. The contradictory ideas that the federal government must dominate the field in one area but that the state government should be exclusively in control in another seems irreconcilable as a matter of principle. 

Of course …

June 30, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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June 2, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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Today, Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Robert Verchick published an op-ed in New Orleans' Times-Picayune entitled, "Gov. Jindal, don't sign away our legal claims against BP."

The piece notes:

Governor Jindal will probably sign SB469, a bill designed to neutralize the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East's lawsuit against oil and gas companies. But does our governor realize that, if he signs this bill, he may also be killing scores of claims that his own his own state and associated local governments have brought against  BP for the Macondo oil spill?                                                                                       

For, whatever the governor or state lawmakers may believe, that is precisely what SB469 might do.

SB469 clearly lists not only who can bring claims in Louisiana's coastal zone, but what kind of claims they can bring. Notably missing from its list are claims for economic losses and claims for natural resource …

May 29, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and Professor of Law and Emory University School of Law William Buzbee will be testifying today at a House Committee on Small Business Administration Hearing entitled, “Will the EPA’s ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule Drown Small Businesses?”

According to Buzbee’s testimony:

The purpose and logic of the new “waters” proposed regulations, in brief:       

These proposed regulations and a massive accompanying science report referenced and summarized in the Federal Register notice are an attempt to reduce uncertainties created by three Supreme Court decisions bearing on what sorts of "waters" can be federally protected under the Clean Water Act.  The two most important recent cases are the Supreme Court’s decisions in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S. 159 (2001) (SWANCC) and United States v. Rapanos, 547 U.S …

May 19, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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Today, the Seattle Times published an op-ed by CPR scholar and University of Seattle law professor Catherine O'Neill with University of Washington professor and public health officer Frank James entitled, "Protect water and health by updating state’s fish-consumption rate."

According to the piece:

GOV. Jay Inslee is currently considering how much fish Washingtonians may safely consume — a question that will, in turn, determine how protective our state’s water-quality standards should be.

As professionals who have worked for two decades with people impacted by contamination in our fish, we see this as a serious question.

Washington’s current water-quality standards permit people to safely eat just one fish meal a month. Those of us who eat more fish than this do so at our own peril.

Eating fish is the primary way that humans are exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (better known as PCBs), mercury and …

May 16, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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Center for Progressive Reform Scholar Sidney Shapiro and Asbestos Disease Awareness Association President Linda Reinstein published a piece in Mint Press News on toxic chemical reform legislation.

They note:

Imagine a chemical that every public health organization in the United States and around the world knows to cause cancer and a host of other illnesses. You might think that such a chemical would probably be banned from commercial use in the United States, or at least not allowed to be used in a host of commercial products that people use every day. But think again.

According to the U.S. surgeon general, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to asbestos is unsafe at any level, but the substance still used in the U.S. in automobile brake pads, vinyl floor tiles and many other commercial goods. Despite its dangers, the EPA …

CPR HOMEPAGE
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