The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power holds a hearing today on “EPA Enforcement Priorities and Practices.” CPR Member Scholar Joel Mintz, Professor at Nova Southeastern University Law Center, will be testifying. From his testimony:
.. during the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, the civil penalties assessed against environmental law violators averaged $117 million per year. In contrast, during the first three years of the Obama administration, EPA enforcement resulted in the assessment of a lower amount of civil penalties: $115 million per year. ... Although there may well be good explanations for these declines, they do support the overall conclusions of my historical research: EPA’s enforcement work during the Obama period has been similar in nature to its work in nearly every administration since the Agency was established, regardless of the party affiliation of the president.
Mintz is the author of Enforcement at the EPA: High Stakes and Hard Choices.
When the Administration withdrew a rule last month prohibiting young agricultural workers from performing some particularly dangerous tasks, the Department of Labor’s statement didnt't just say it was tabling the proposal, or reconsidering it, or even starting over from scratch. It went an extra step, adding: “To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.”
Given that farm accidents are a very real concern, it's hard to read such an unusually vocal commitment to inaction as anything other than a political gesture. Indeed, the Administration won plaudits from big ag and its supporters. But if the White House actually thought that throwing young agricultural workers under the bus would truly satisfy the appetite of the opposition – and change the politics of the issue – it was wrong.
Here was Janet Fisher, West Virginia’s Deputy Agriculture Commissioner, speaking …
In its own words, the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) is “an independent federal agency dedicated to improving the administrative process through consensus-driven applied research, providing nonpartisan expert advice and recommendations for improvement of federal agency procedures.”
On Tuesday afternoon, ACUS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are jointly sponsoring an event at the Chamber, “Next Steps & Implementation of ACUS Recommendations on: Incorporation by Reference & International Regulatory Cooperation.”
That’s over the line, particularly given the agenda of the event, argue CPR President Rena Steinzor and Member Scholar Thomas McGarity, in a letter to Paul Verkuil, ACUS’s Chairman. Steinzor and McGarity write:
Especially in this early period of its rebirth, the organization cannot afford to be perceived as taking sides in the enormously destructive crusade against regulation that the Chamber and other powerful industry groups are leading.
The letter is here.
On March 19, in a major economic policy address, Mitt Romney painted a portrait of a real-life "victim" of the Obama Administration’s supposed overregulation:
This administration’s burdensome regulations are even invading the freedom of everyday Americans. Mike and Chantell Sackett run a small business in Idaho. They saved enough money to buy a piece of property and build a modest home on it. But days after they broke ground, an EPA regulator told them to stop digging. The EPA said they were building on a wetland. But the Sacketts’ property isn’t on the wetlands register. It sits in a residential area.
Nevertheless, the EPA wouldn’t let them appeal the decision. It told the Sacketts they weren’t allowed to go to court. An unelected government bureaucrat robbed them of their freedom.
They were given no recourse, no remedy. They could do what the …
When the United States signed NAFTA, it also signed the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), which allows, among other things, for citizens to submit complaints to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) with claims that their own governments are failing to enforce environmental laws.
That key provision is in danger, a group of CPR Member Scholars say in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The letter was signed by CPR Member Scholars Rebecca Bratspies, Carmen G. Gonzalez, David Hunter, John H. Knox, Noah Sachs, Dan Tarlock, and Chris Wold.
The citizen submissions can result in investigative reports by the CEC Secretariat, which have in some cases led to real improvements in policy, particularly in Mexico, the Member Scholars write. The NAFTA governments, through the EPA Administrator and her counterparts, must approve, through a 2/3 vote, CEC Secretariat recommendations for reports. From 1996 to …
On November 7 of last year, EPA sent the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) a rather important proposed rule – one that will, in some way, limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. The Greenhouse Gas New Source Performance Standard for Electric Generating Units for New Sources has now been at OIRA for 120 days – the maximum allowed by Executive Order.
Executive Order 12866 is pretty clear on the deadline for OIRA to return rules to the agencies:
“… within 90 calendar days after the date of submission … The review process may be extended (1) once by no more than 30 calendar days upon the written approval of the Director and (2) at the request of the agency head.”
With this rule, as with many rules that go beyond 90 days, neither OIRA nor the agency has issued any public notification announcing that a …
Three years ago today, an earthen wall holding back a giant coal ash impoundment failed in Kingston, Tennessee, sending more than a billion gallons of coal ash slurry over nearby land and into the Emory River. The ash had chemicals including arsenic, lead, and mercury. Clean up costs could be as much as $1.2 billion.
Public policy progress often comes in the wake of disasters. But three years after Kingston, it very much remains to be seen whether that disaster will at least lead to the needed regulations to stop the next one. Can EPA get the train back on the track? I hope so.
EPA had pledged that it would publish a proposed rule on coal ash by the end of 2009. But because OMB all but hijacked the process, the proposed rule didn't come until May 2010, and it was actually multiple proposals …
On Tuesday, the American Chemistry Council sent EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a letter about the provisions regarding IRIS toxic chemical assessments in the omnibus spending bill. The ACC said:
H.R. 2055 also directs EPA to include documentation describing how the NAS Chapter 7 recommendations have been implemented or addressed in all IRIS assessments released in Fiscal Year 2012. The documentation is to include an explanation for why certain recommendations were not incorporated. Thus, it is incumbent on EPA to fully explain how the IRIS assessment of dioxin comports with the NAS recommendations. To comply with Congress's direction, EPA should withdraw the dioxin assessment from interagency review and take the necessary steps to implement the NAS recommendations.
Withdrawing the dioxin assessment would be a huge deal, setting back progress on protecting the public from the chemical. But is this what Congress directed in the omnibus? Luckily …
The CPR white paper on OIRA earlier this week looked at how this little office within OMB facilitates an industry-dominated process that serves to weaken regulations proposed by federal agencies. Appearances by industry representatives have outnumbered those by public interest lobbyists more than 5-to-1 in meetings at OIRA in the last ten years, the paper found (3,763 to 708, for the record).
Does it have to be this way?
The Obama Administration has said on numerous occasions that it has an “open door” policy at OIRA. But while “open door” sounds good in theory, the hard evidence shows that this very policy facilitates industry’s domination of the process.
The Administration has actually defended the open door policy by going one step further, such as with these words from then-OMB spokesman Tom Gavin:
Gavin said the White House office is required by executive order to meet …
The “Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act” (RFIA) and the “Regulatory Accountability Act” (RAA) are headed for votes on the House floor shortly (today and/or tomorrow). The “Gum Up Public Health and Safety Protections Act” apparently wasn’t going to sell as well.
A quick recap of the Regulatory Accountability Act, via CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro’s Congressional testimony on the bill in October: