Beware efforts absolving companies of COVID-19 liability
Writing in the Waco Tribune, Thomas McGarity warns that Sen. Mitch McConnell's effort to extend a federal COVID-19 liability shield over businesses will endanger workers' lives. Such immunity from accountability would allow employers to force workers to choose between losing their jobs or returning to workplaces where they are not sufficiently protected from the coronavirus.
Author(s): Thomas McGarity
More Needs to Be Done to Protect Our Meat and Poultry Workers
In the Baltimore Sun: President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to order meat and poultry plants to continue operating despite COVID-19 outbreaks, exposing Maryland's poultry workers to enormous risks. Poultry processors haven't demonstrated they're able to keep workers safe and healthy, but they know that many of these low-wage workers will be forced to return. To top it all off, one of the president's goals with this order was to provide legal immunity to companies, so that they can't be sued by employees who are infected as a result of unsafe working conditions.
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Author(s): Matt Shudtz, Rachel Micah-Jones
As coronavirus infections peak, profit-driven hospital systems must be held accountable
In the Boston Globe, Shalanda Baker and colleagues write that "The announcement that Carney Hospital in Dorchester would become the country’s first dedicated COVID-19 hospital was largely hailed as a welcome expansion of hospital capacity in response to the outbreak. This hospital normally serves as a safety net for low-income residents in Dorchester.... Although it is unclear whether [this and similar hospital sitings] put the surrounding communities at greater risk of infection, they follow a broader pattern emerging in COVID-19 hot spots. As New York, Boston, and other jurisdictions decide where to erect makeshift hospitals, stakeholders must remain vigilant regarding this pattern of burdening low-income communities and communities of color. This oversight is especially needed in the case of for-profit entities.
Author(s): Shalanda H. Baker
Our Chemical Regulatory Program Is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It.
Writing in Undark, CPR Member Scholar Wendy Wagner and co-author Will Walker write that the existing framework for chemical regulation puts too much burden on EPA and too little on manufacturers.
Author(s): Wendy Wagner
Opinion analysis: The Justices' purpose-full reading of the Clean Water Act
Writing for SCOTUSBlog, CPR's Lisa Heinzerling discusses the Supreme Court's April 2020 ruling in a Clean Water Act case from Hawaii. The ruling requires a permit when a point source of pollution adds pollutants to navigable waters through groundwater, if the addition of pollutants is "the functional equivalent of a direct discharge" from the source into navigable waters. She writes that "Perhaps the most striking feature of Justice Stephen Breyer's opinion for the majority is its interpretive method. The opinion reads like something from a long-ago period of statutory interpretation, before statutory decisions regularly made the central meaning of complex laws turn on a single word or two and banished legislative purpose to the interpretive fringes."
Author(s): Lisa Heinzerling
Parole Hearings Should Be Resumed for Public Health
Writing for AL.com, Heather Elliott calls on the Alabama Director of the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to resume holding parole hearings amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and to do so electronically, in light of the governor's order waiving face-to-face hearing requirements. She notes that an outbreak of coronavirus in a prison setting could lead to many unnecessary deaths.
Author(s): Heather Elliott
Virus provides lessons on government, science and politics
The Pandemic and Industry Opportunism
Writing for The Regulatory Review, Rena Steinzor notes that in March 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, EPA enforcement chief Susan Bodine issued a memo offering businesses assurance that EPA would overlook certain regulatory violations for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Public interest groups roundly criticized the new policy, prompting EPA to cry "fake news."
Author(s): Rena Steinzor
Trump's EPA Uses Coronavirus Crisis to Mask Environmental Deregulation and Suspend Enforcement
Writing on ACSBlog, Joel Mintz describes the several ways that the Trump EPA has seized on the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to undercut a range of environmental protections.
Author(s): Joel Mintz
Incomprehensibility and the Law
Writing for the Regulatory Review, CPR's Wendy Wagner observes that "Meaningful communication is vital to most legal processes. So when sellers withhold key information from customers, such as high service fees on a cell phone contract, or when companies conceal key information about public health or financial risks from regulators, the law is generally swift to sanction them." So, what happens when sellers disclose information, but do it in a way that's incomprehensible to their customers, as in all those online "terms and conditions" we all click through mindlessly? Wagner has a proposal.
Author(s): Wendy Wagner