Jan. 26, 2012 by Aimee Simpson

New CPR White Paper: What FDA, EPA, and OSHA Should do about BPA

Today CPR releases Protecting the Public from BPA: An Action Plan for Federal Agencies (press release), outlining steps the FDA, EPA, and OSHA can take to use existing authorities to warn the public about the dangers of the chemical, and prepare longer-term regulatory controls. The paper was written by CPR Member Scholars Tom McGarity, Noah Sachs, and Rena Steinzor, and Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz and myself.

Bisphenol A (BPA) makes me want to cry.  Not in the sad or mournful way, but in the “I want to kick and scream on the floor and throw a tantrum like my toddler” kind of way.   I didn’t always feel this way.  These feelings concerning BPA (an endocrine-disrupting chemical added to plastics to increase clarity and durability, and used in myriad other sources such as can linings, kitchen appliances, and water bottles) began to arise when I started working with CPR Member Scholars and fellow staff on BPA policy. The more I learned about BPA, the more I felt like its presence in my life was like mosquitoes in D.C.—a summer BBQ killjoy.

Then I became a parent, and the frustration and concern escalated, because the more I found …

Jan. 25, 2012 by Rena Steinzor

Last week, a reporter asked me, “How’s science doing these days?,” “Science” is an impossibly big category, of course, but the answer was easy: “Badly,” I said.

Exhibit number one is climate change. The frightening truth is that no fewer than 84 percent of scientists in this country surveyed by Pew say that the earth is warming because of human activity; 70 percent describe the problem as “very serious.” Although much is made of the supposed “dissenters” on the issue, no one with any educated familiarity with the subject doubts that the vast—and I mean virtually all—scientists with meaningful credentials to understand the subject agree that precipitous climate change is happening and that curbing human-generated carbon emissions must be done to avert disasters so grave we can barely imagine them. Human beings have a hard time making sacrifices today to avert problems that seem …

Jan. 24, 2012 by Catherine O'Neill

A new study underscores the wisdom of reducing the risks of mercury and other pollutants rather than relying on risk avoidance measures such as fish consumption advisories.  Mercury’s adverse effects are not limited to human health; its harms are felt throughout our ecosystems.  According to this most recent study, released today by the Biodiversity Research Institute, mercury harms a broader swath of wildlife than previously recognized, including many bird species that are not piscivorous.  This finding echoes those of studies in the Great Lakes published this fall, which concluded that a larger number of species were adversely affected by mercury contamination than previously understood by scientists.

From a regulatory perspective, the harms of mercury contamination might be addressed by risk reduction – measures that require the sources of mercury pollution to reduce or prevent mercury releases into the environment – or by risk avoidance – measures that leave it …

Jan. 20, 2012 by

For more than a century, the United States took the lead in organizing responses to international environmental problems.  The long list of environmental agreements spearheaded by the United States extends from early treaties with Canada and Mexico on boundary waters and migratory birds to global agreements restricting trade in endangered species and protecting against ozone depletion.  In the last two decades, however, U.S. environmental leadership has faltered. 

The best-known example is the lack of an effective response to climate change, underscored by the U.S. decision not to join the Kyoto Protocol.  But the attention climate change receives should not obscure the fact that the United States has also failed to join a large and growing number of treaties directed at other environmental threats, including marine pollution, the loss of biological diversity, persistent organic pollutants, and trade in toxic substances. 

Today CPR publishes Reclaiming Global Environmental …

Jan. 19, 2012 by Alice Kaswan

The Clean Air Act’s potential to address the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions is slowly being unveiled.  EPA’s expected announcement of highly-anticipated new source performance standards for power plants by the end of January will reveal whether the agency has the political will to use its existing authority to re-shape the United States’ dependence upon high-carbon power.  Section 111 of the Clean Air Act is a potentially potent tool. It arguably allows EPA to re-direct new investment away from heavily-polluting coal-fired power and toward less polluting alternatives. It also gives the agency the authority to address on-going emissions from existing power plants.  Weaning the nation from its dependence on coal-fired power is essential to a new energy future.  While EPA may fear the political storm generated by the prospect of change, it has the opportunity to begin a positive transformation to a more sustainable energy …

Jan. 17, 2012 by Rena Steinzor

A panel of business leaders comprising President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness today published a “Road Map to Renewal,” including proposals for expanded oil and gas drilling, and, of particular interest, five pages of policy recommendations related to regulation. Among them were procedural proposals aimed at further hamstringing regulatory agencies in their effort to promulgate badly needed safeguards for health, safety, and the environment. 

For example, the Council proposes:

  • lengthening the regulatory process by adding in an additional public-comment period so that commenters can comment on other commenters’ comments,
  • requiring independent regulatory agencies be required by statute to conduct cost-benefit analyses of their regulations, presumably so that regulations that do not sufficiently benefit industry’s bottom line would be rejected, and
  • creating a group of economists within regulatory agencies, separated in some fashion from the legal and scientific issue experts, who would pass judgment on …

Jan. 14, 2012 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

Clearly I need to slow down Rick’s internet connection to get him to stop scooping me.

Rick reported earlier that the President has floated a proposal to reorganize the Commerce Department and related agencies which would apparently include moving NOAA (all of NOAA, according to OMB’s Jeffrey Zeints, not just its ESA functions) into the Department of Interior.

Actually, although that’s the way the story is being spun out in the media, it’s not exactly what’s going on. What the President has really proposed is that Congress give him the authority that presidents routinely enjoyed before 1984 to reorganize and streamline government agencies. That proposal makes all kinds of sense, both substantively and politically. Substantively, of course as circumstances and societal priorities shift, government agencies should not permanently remain static. But the current Congress is so shameless and …

Jan. 11, 2012 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

As usual, I’m behind Rick on commenting on the latest Supreme Court development. (In my defense, it is the first day of classes, although I know that’s not much of an excuse.)

Unlike Rick, I didn’t attend the oral argument (see lame excuse above), but having read the transcript I agree with the general consensus that EPA is going to lose this case.

However, I don’t agree with Rick’s conclusion that “the Sacketts will wind up winning their long legal battle with federal regulators.” That remains to be seen. Remember, this is all a preliminary skirmish. EPA has said at this point that it believes the Sacketts are in violation of the Clean Water Act. Sacketts disagree, and think they should be able to challenge EPA’s view without waiting for EPA to bring an enforcement action against …

Jan. 10, 2012 by Matt Shudtz

On Monday, GAO released its latest installment in what has become a somewhat regular series of reports on EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program.  In 2008, GAO warned that “the IRIS database was at serious risk of becoming obsolete because the agency had not been able to keep its existing assessments current, decrease its ongoing assessments workload to a manageable level, or complete assessments of the most important chemicals of concern.”  Although IRIS didn’t get a clean bill of health, this new report highlights some important improvements in the last few years. 

To begin, GAO praised EPA for its decision to start publishing comments that other agencies submit during interagency review of draft IRIS documents.  The interagency review process was first instituted during the Bush Administration and because it was originally run by OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), often resulted …

Jan. 9, 2012 by Rena Steinzor

With a reverential nod to maverick economist Jeff Madrick, who wrote a popular book of the same name, I begin today a series of blog posts entitled “The Age of Greed” that is designed to shine a bright spotlight into the dark corners where Washington lobbyists are busy looting the protection of public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment.  Business-as-usual efforts to stall or derail regulation won’t make it into this space.  Rather, behavior has to be demonstrably and extraordinarily egregious to qualify for ridicule here.  My first candidate:  The largely successful efforts by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA) to derail the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) study of the devastating health effects of dioxin—you read that right, dioxin!—for more than two decades, capped last week by its letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Jan. 26, 2012

New CPR White Paper: What FDA, EPA, and OSHA Should do about BPA

Jan. 25, 2012

The Age of Greed: Science Drowned by Politics

Jan. 24, 2012

Three Chirps for Risk Reduction

Jan. 20, 2012

Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership

Jan. 19, 2012

Waiting for the GHG New Source Performance Standards: A Good Start, But Will EPA's Power Plant Controls Make a Difference?

Jan. 17, 2012

Jobs Council's Shortsighted Report Calls for Gumming up Public Protections

Jan. 14, 2012

Where Does NOAA Belong?