Regulatory safeguards play a vital role in protecting us from hazards and ensuring that companies that pollute, make unsafe products, and create workplace hazards bear the cost of cleaning up their messes and preventing injuries and deaths. Still, the regulatory system is far from perfect: Rules take too long to develop; enforcement is often feeble; and political pressure from regulated industries has led to weak safeguards.
These systemic problems are made all the more severe by the determination of the Trump administration to undercut sensible safeguards across virtually all aspects of federal regulation. Moreover, the President and his team have taken aim at the the process by which such safeguards are developed, aiming to take a system already slanted in favor of industry profit at the expense of health, safety and the environment, and make it even less protective. For example, where critics of the use of cost-benefit analysis see a system that understates the value of safeguards and overstates the cost of implementing them -- making it difficult to adopt needed protections -- the Trump administration seeks simply to ignore benefits of safeguards, pretending they do not exist. The result is a regulatory system that fails to enforce landmark laws like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and more.
CPR exposes and opposes efforts by opponents of sensible safeguards to undermine the regulatory system, fighting back against knee-jerk opposition to environmental, health, and safety protections. Below, see what CPR Members Scholars and staff have had to say in reports, testimony, op-eds and more. Use the search box to narrow the list.
The term, “Cost-benefit analysis,” is used so frequently that we rarely stop to think about it. But relying on it can lead to some dubious conclusions, as Frank Ackerman points out in this eye-opening book. Inventing dollar values for human life and health, endangered species, and fragile ecosystems does not guide us to better policies, he maintains. Cost-benefit analysis, as practiced today, could have led to damming the Grand Canyon for hydroelectric power, leaving lead in gasoline, and other absurd and harmful decisions. In Poisoned for Pennies, Ackerman uses clear, understandable language to describe an alternative, precautionary approach to making decisions under uncertainty.
For all the lip service paid to the notion that science has definitive answers, the moment that a group of scientists announce a discovery that has significant economic implications for industry or some other affected group, scientists in the spotlight soon learn that attacks are to be expected. Beset by scientific misconduct allegations or threatened with breach-of-contract lawsuits if research is published over a private sponsor's objections, growing numbers of scientists find themselves struggling to maintain their credibility in a climate designed to deconstruct the smallest details of their research. So severe are these problems in some settings that the most reputable scientists warn that legally-based harassment could deter the best and the brightest young scientists from entering the very disciplines that have the greatest potential to inform public affairs. Read Rena Steinzor and Wendy Wagner's entry in the CPR Perspectives series.
If you've never heard of the Information Quality Act (IQA), you're not alone. When it cleared Congress in 2000, most senators and representatives didn't even know they were voting for it; the two-paragraph provision had been quietly attached only hours before to a massive appropriations bill. But vote for it they did, and it became law without benefit of congressional hearing or debate. Despite its brevity and furtive entrance onto the legislative stage, the act has come to be a powerful weapon in the Bush administration's attack on environmental, health, and safety protections.
On the Center for American Progress website, Rena Steinzor writes that, when asked about his environmental record during the second presidential debate this fall, President Bush rattled off a series of well focus-grouped phrases – “clean coal,” “clear skies,” and “mak[ing] sure our forests aren’t vulnerable to forest fires” – and touted himself as a “good steward of the land.” The rhetoric ignored reality.
Writing on the Center for American Progress website, Sophisticated Sabotage authors Sidney Shapiro and Thomas McGarity observe that because landmark environmental, health and safety laws are broadly supported by the public, "polluting industries have sought to stymie regulation in ways that hide their efforts."