Jan. 14, 2010 by Rena Steinzor

Obama's Regulators Earn a B- for Year One in New CPR Report

Over the weekend, the Associated Press ran a story on the results of its enterprising investigation into the toxic content of children’s jewelry imported from China. Pressed to abandon the use of toxic lead in toys and jewelry, manufacturers have apparently begun using an even more dangerous metal, cadmium, which can cause neurological damage – brain damage – to children and give them cancer. AP tested 103 pieces of jewelry bought in American stores within the last few months, and found that 12 percent contained at least 10 percent cadmium. One item, a cute little Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer trinket, was 91 percent cadmium.

Addressing the question that leaps to mind – How did these extraordinarily dangerous trinkets get onto store shelves in the first place? – reporter Justin Pritchard writes these utterly terrifying and completely truthful words:

A patchwork of federal consumer protection regulations does nothing to keep these nuggets of cadmium from U.S. store shelves. If the products were painted toys, they would face a recall. If they were industrial garbage, they could qualify as hazardous waste. But since there are no cadmium restrictions on jewelry, such items are sold legally.

Of course, this is just the latest in a …

Jan. 13, 2010 by Rena Steinzor

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced Monday that the agency will propose new rules to reduce pollution from runoff from urban and suburban areas and from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). This announcement goes far in demonstrating that the EPA under President Obama is serious about its commitments to improve the quality of the nation’s waters, especially those waters that continue to be plagued by pollution from nonpoint and other unregulated sources.

The new rules would apply nationwide, but Administrator Jackson noted that more stringent requirements may apply to the states of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the District of Columbia as part of the new federal efforts to restore the Bay. The proposed rules would expand stormwater regulations to rapidly urbanizing areas and would apply regulations to existing, large impervious surfaces like parking lots. In addition, the proposed rules would designate more animal feeding operations as …

Jan. 13, 2010 by Sandra Zellmer

My family has gotten a lot smaller lately. My mother died in 2004, my father in 2007, and my uncle in 2008.

I’ve done the five stages of grief, as introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, but not exactly as she described. It’s true that I initially felt denial: “I’m a lucky person; this can't be happening.” Then I was angry and felt sorry for myself. Then, at least during my mother’s struggle with pancreatic cancer, I hit the bargaining table. Mom was a Sunday school teacher when I was little, so I pleaded with God: “Please let the diagnosis be wrong, please let the chemo work, please don’t let the good die young.” To hedge my bets, I occasionally promised, “if she can beat the odds, I’ll volunteer at the local cancer center and I’ll donate my life …

Jan. 12, 2010 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

Last Monday, EPA signed off on the Corps of Engineers’ issuance of a Clean Water Act § 404 permit to Hobet Mining for a mountaintop removal coal mining project in West Virginia. The decision is important because it’s the first product of the process announced last fall for joint EPA / Corps review of a large number of pending permit applications. It’s troubling for several reasons. First and most simply, it allows a major mountaintop mining project to go ahead, and suggests that more will follow. Second, despite EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s repeated public statements about bringing clarity to the process, this decision offers essentially no window into the principles EPA thinks should guide these decisions. Third, it promises an environmental outcome that can’t be assured through the adaptive management provisions included in the approval.

NRDC’s Rob Perks makes a …

Jan. 11, 2010 by Sidney Shapiro

As reported in a post Saturday, OMB has become the epicenter for industry efforts to head off an EPA regulation concerning coal ash. There have been 17 meetings between industry interests and OMB officials. When questioned about the large number of meetings, an OMB spokesman said, "This has been a very regular, very normal deliberative process on a very complex rule.” For progressives who had hoped that OMB in the Obama administration would not replicate OMB in the Bush administration, this is disappointing news.

Industry swarmed to OMB after EPA had submitted a draft rule on coal ash to OMB for its approval. Under a presidential order, agencies like EPA must submit significant new regulations, like the coal-ash rule, to the White House for review prior to the time that they are officially proposed. Unhappy that their efforts to persuade EPA to propose a different rule had …

Jan. 9, 2010 by James Goodwin

"White House, EPA at Odds Over Coal-Waste Rules" reads a headline in Saturday's Wall Street Journal. It's worth a look.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has in fact continued to host meetings with outside groups regarding EPA’s work on a rule for controlling the disposal of hazardous coal ash waste. Since my last post on this topic, OIRA has hosted 10 more meetings on this topic. (These latest meetings were held between December 9 and January 4.) This brings the grand total of OIRA coal ash meetings to 21—all in a time span of less than 3 months!

The meetings are particularly significant since the industry is lobbying OIRA before EPA has even issued a proposed rule. By law, a proposed agency rule is followed by a public comment phase, where industry would have the full opportunity to …

Jan. 7, 2010 by Ben Somberg

A few months ago Rena Steinzor wrote skeptically here about state (as opposed to federal) regulation of hydraulic fracturing:

... the idea that after doing all this research, EPA should stand back and let the gas-producing states take the lead, stepping in only after much more delay, would amount to a rollback of environmental protection to the dark days of the 1950s and 1960s, before modern environmentalism and federal regulation began.

Last week ProPublica had a useful article on a key aspect of this ("State Oil and Gas Regulators Are Spread Too Thin to Do Their Jobs"). Reporter Abrahm Lustgarten put together the numbers and found:

While the number of new oil and gas wells being drilled in the 22 states each year has jumped 45 percent since 2004, most of the states have added only a few regulators.

It's a troubling read.

Jan. 5, 2010 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

As I pointed out three months ago, the federal government has awakened from its 8-year Bush administration slumber to notice that the SF Bay-Delta is an important environmental and economic resource whose management requires federal input. On December 22, the Obama administration issued an Interim Federal Action Plan for the California Bay-Delta.

The best news about the plan is simply that it was issued. It’s one more sign that the feds are serious about joining in the task of dealing with the Bay-Delta’s collapsing ecosystem and navigating the tricky intersections of water supply and environmental protection. That’s essential to any progress. Federal agencies are key players both on the water management side (the Bureau of Reclamation operates the Central Valley Project) and on the regulatory side (the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service implement the federal Endangered …

Jan. 4, 2010 by Ben Somberg

A group of organizations who work to eliminate health hazards in housing have sent a letter to OMB chief Peter Orszag expressing concern over the "detailing" of Randall Lutter to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The letter focuses on Lutter's writings on the economics of lead poisoning:

Mr. Lutter's statement, "...the children who would benefit from reduced lead hazards are living in the care of their parents, and their parents have control of such hazards" profoundly ignores the realities of the housing market and the extent to which families are able to identify and select housing that is free from hazards.


Although Mr. Lutter's contributions to the literature appropriately belong in an academic discussion of cost-benefit and regulatory analysis, we cannot understand why the Administration, given its public commitment to pursuing many of the very goals and policies viewed as ill-advised …

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