Jan. 22, 2010 by Matt Shudtz

Next Up on BPA: EPA's Chemical Action Plan?

FDA scientists have had a chance to develop an assessment of the risks of BPA in food contact applications using a fuller body of low-dose studies and concluded last week that there’s some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children (for a helpful analysis of the context of FDA’s decision, see Sarah Vogel’s post at The Pump Handle). Now, it’s time to look at what EPA is doing with respect to the ubiquitous endocrine-disrupting chemical.

In late September, Lisa Jackson announced that EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics would develop “action plans” for four chemicals or groups of chemicals, outlining potential future regulatory actions aimed at protecting the public and the environment from unreasonable risk. BPA was one of the candidates for an action plan, but when EPA released its four plans on December 30, BPA’s was not among them. EPA’s reason for delaying the BPA action plan was that it was waiting on FDA’s newest analysis and the results of $30 million worth of new studies being conducted under various grants from NIEHS.

But there might be more …

Jan. 22, 2010 by Alice Kaswan

Senator Murkowski’s proposal to disapprove EPA’s scientifically and legally justified finding that greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare would strip the federal government of its primary legal mechanism for addressing catastrophic climate change. If Congress does not think the Clean Air Act (CAA) is the best mechanism for regulating greenhouse gases, it should pass legislation providing a better alternative, not gut the only law that currently applies to still-uncontrolled emissions.

As the Supreme Court found in Massachusetts v. EPA in 2007, greenhouse gases are clearly “air pollutants” as defined by the Clean Air Act. The CAA purposefully crafted a broad definition in order to empower EPA to respond to new threats as they emerge. EPA’s recent endangerment finding was the logical, legally required, and inevitable next step. The science is unassailable: greenhouse gas emissions pose a profound danger to the public health …

Jan. 21, 2010 by Daniel Farber

Today’s decision in Citizens United was something of a foregone conclusion. Still, it was a bit breathtaking. The Court was obviously poised to strike down the latest Congressional restrictions on corporate political expenditures. But the Court went further and struck down even restrictions that had been upheld thirty years ago. Seldom has a majority been so eager to reach out, address a question that wasn’t presented by the parties and overrule a bevy of prior decisions. The term “judicial activism” is overused but seems entirely appropriate here.

In the end, the Court just doesn’t see any real reason for campaign finance restrictions. It may be willing to tolerate some token restrictions in the name of precedent, but basically, it views economic influence over the political process as altogether natural and appropriate.

The decision was a foregone conclusion because the key supporter for the prior …

Jan. 21, 2010 by James Goodwin

This post is the third in a series on the new CPR report Obama’s Regulators: A First-Year Report Card.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the biggest and most powerful of the protector agencies. Consequently, it has also become the agency that was most decimated by regulatory opponents in recent decades. Thus, when President Obama assumed office in January of 2009, he inherited an EPA with its confidence severely dented, but otherwise eager to get back to the important work of protecting people and the environment. As CPR found in its new report, EPA’s performance this past year reflected this disposition: the agency steamed ahead on many important issues, but approached certain controversial issues with visible trepidation.

Looking back, it’s hard not to be impressed by the breadth of EPA’s accomplishments this past year. The agency took protective actions in several areas including …

Jan. 21, 2010 by Ben Somberg

The EPA announced yesterday that they’re changing the way they treat manufacturers’ claims that certain information about toxic chemicals should be kept secret.

Richard Denison of EDF has a useful explanation and analysis of this good news.

Rena Steinzor and Matt Shudtz explored the dangers of secrecy in chemical science in a 2007 CPR white paper, Sequestered Science: Secrets Threatening Public Health.

Jan. 20, 2010 by Ben Somberg

The New York Times editorial page weighed in on coal ash today, saying:

The EPA’s recommendations, which have not been made public, are now the focus of a huge dispute inside the Obama administration, with industry lobbying hard for changes that would essentially preserve the status quo. The dispute should be resolved in favor of the environment and public safety.


This debate is being conducted behind closed doors, mainly at the Office of Management and Budget, where industry usually takes its complaints and horror stories. A better course would be to let the E.P.A. draft a proposal, get it out in the open and offer it for comment from all sides. The Obama administration promised that transparency and good science would govern decisions like these.

Jan. 20, 2010 by Rena Steinzor

A critical test of the Obama Administration’s commitment to reviving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is teeing up behind closed doors at the White House. Once again, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is cast in the role of regulation killer, supported by a slew of state and other federal agencies that are polluters in this scenario. Other players include a nearly hysterical segment of the electric utility industry, which argues that labeling coal ash as a hazardous waste will prove prohibitively expensive, as well as a coalition of public interest activists that includes Robert Bullard, the father of the environmental justice movement. The story has ample drama: a provable case of racial discrimination, companies as haughty as any on Wall Street, and an appealing heroine, Lisa Jackson, the embattled EPA Administrator, who is the public face of this Administration on the environment but, in …

Jan. 19, 2010 by Ben Somberg

Two developments to note on coal ash from recent days:

  • OIRA extended its review of EPA's not-yet-publicly-proposed regulation on coal ash. That gives it an additional 30-days from the previous Jan 14 deadline. Matthew Madia explains at The Fine Print.
  • EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson mentioned coal ash in an appearance Thursday, saying, "There has been a lot of hullabaloo over coal ash, and I'm disappointed that some of the folks, especially on the industry side, haven't taken the time to wait and let us try to craft rulemaking."

Jan. 19, 2010 by Frank Ackerman

Bjorn Lomborg has seen the future of climate policy, and it doesn’t work. In his opinion, featured Friday in the Washington Post, a binding treaty to reduce carbon emissions – the goal that was pursued unsuccessfully at the Copenhagen conference in December – would have done more harm than good. Reducing emissions enough to stabilize the temperature would have astronomical costs, according to Lomborg, while the benefits would be small.

This is par for the course for Lomborg, a Danish political scientist who has gained international notoriety for his repeated attacks on environmental protection. His source for his climate policy skepticism is a very selective reading of economics, described grandly and inaccurately as what all economists think. For instance, do “all the major climate economic models” agree on a specific, extreme forecast of carbon taxes, as asserted by Lomborg? Not a chance; major models tend to disagree somewhat …

Jan. 15, 2010 by James Goodwin

This post is second in a series on the new CPR report Obama’s Regulators: A First-Year Report Card.

It’s only fair to note that when President Obama assumed office in January of 2009, he inherited a slate of dysfunctional protector agencies. Perhaps none were more dysfunctional than the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)—the tiny agency charged with protecting all Americans from literally tens of thousands of different kinds of dangerous products, everything from backyard barbecues and electric drills to swimming pool slides and baby dolls. The Obama Administration had a lot of work to do if it was to make good on the president's promise of whipping agencies like CPSC into shape so that they could effectively protect public health and safety. As CPR found in its new report, CPSC’s performance fell short of achieving this goal, however.

Given the difficult challenges …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Jan. 29, 2010

OIRA's First Year Under Obama: Deregulatory Stronghold Still Intact

Jan. 29, 2010

EPA's New NO2 Rule: A Tale of OMB Interference

Jan. 28, 2010

Where is NHTSA? Toyota Recall and the Missing Regulator

Jan. 27, 2010

The Human Costs of Pander

Jan. 27, 2010

Congress and Coal Ash: Who are the Constituents?

Jan. 26, 2010

OSHA's First Year Under Obama: Shaking Off the Cobwebs

Jan. 25, 2010

NHTSA's First Year Under Obama: Stuck in Neutral