July 31, 2013 by Matt Shudtz

New CPR Issue Alert on TSCA Reform: Progressive Principles for Toxic Risk Regulation

Today, Senator Boxer’s Environment and Public Works committee will hold a hearing to discuss the best ways to fix the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the badly outdated law governing some 80,000 chemicals used in commerce in the United States. Communities across the country are not aware of the dangers present in chemicals in everything from baby bottles to face creams, with little to no regulation because of weak TSCA legislation passed over 40 years ago. Strong toxic chemical regulation is needed that protects the rights of consumers to go to court, that strengthens the ability of states to regulate toxics, and streamlines the EPA’s process for reviewing chemicals instead of bogging it down with repeated analysis and procedures that focus on the profitability of the chemical industry instead of the health and safety of the public. CPR Board Member Thomas McGarity will testify, and CPR Member Scholar Noah Sachs and I have put together a new Issue Alert that provides some context.

TSCA, as interpreted by the courts, puts huge hurdles in EPA’s path even when the agency has clear evidence that a chemical poses unreasonable risks to human health or the environment. Hundreds of …

July 31, 2013 by Thomas McGarity

This morning, CPR Member Scholar Tom McGarity testifies at the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works on "Strengthening Public Health Protections by Addressing Toxic Chemical Threats." His testimony can be found in full here. McGarity contributed the following blog post in advance of the hearing. 

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act: The Wrong Way to Fix a Broken Federal Statute

We live in an era in which human health and the environment are threatened by toxic chemicals that have not been adequately tested and that are subject to a federal regulatory regime that is badly broken.

The fact that we do not often read about disease outbreaks caused by toxic chemicals in the newspapers probably stems from the fact that we know so very little about the risks posed by the thousands of synthetic chemicals that we encounter on a daily basis.

We are only beginning to …

July 31, 2013 by James Goodwin

Tomorrow, a new panel in the Senate Judiciary Committee—the Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights, and Agency Action—will bring some much-need sanity to the discussion of federal regulatory policy when it holds a hearing entitled “Justice Delayed: The Human Cost of Regulatory Paralysis.” What’s so refreshing about this hearing is that it starts from the premise that blocked and delayed safeguards are a problem that needs to be solved. 

Crucially, this hearing will provide an opportunity to shine a light on the costs that are imposed on the public when regulations aimed at protecting people and the environment are unnecessarily delayed. These costs represent real harm to real people—and they are by definition preventable.

 Previously, in this space, I examined the costs to the public that would result from the new delays to three rules that were announced in the Spring 2013 Regulatory Agenda …

July 30, 2013 by Erin Kesler

Last week, The Hill published an opinion piece by Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Robert Verchick.

The piece entitled, "Politics and progress: Will the White House stall its own climate change plans?" can be read here.

According to Verchick:

Under its statutory authority, EPA has ample power to write rules limiting power plant emissions, for example. But since the Reagan administration, all “major” rules—those seen as important to national policy—have been funneled into a little-known process of review, conducted by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). It may be the most important government office you've never heard of —the depot through which all regulatory freight must pass, the ganglia of the president’s rulemaking.

By executive order, OIRA is required to review submitted agency proposals within 90 days. For the most part, past administrations have kept up the pace …

July 26, 2013 by James Goodwin

Earlier this week, Regulatory Czar Howard Shelanski testified before the House Small Business committee to update committee members on the progress the Obama Administration has made with the regulatory look-back process established by Executive Orders 13563 and 13610. In one interesting exchange with Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), Shelanski offered the following perspective on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) approach to regulatory review:

The interpretation of an agency’s statute and the choice of policy—to the extent there is discretion under that statute—is in the first instance in the province of the department or agency that is issuing the regulations. OIRA doesn’t set policy priorities or do the initial legal interpretations for the agencies. They do that.

(Skip ahead the 20:00-minute mark of the hearing.)

If true, this statement from Shelanski would represent a dramatic shift in how OIRA sees its …

July 25, 2013 by Matt Shudtz

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, better known as CSB, is held a meeting today to discuss several recommendations and a newly created “Most Wanted Program.” CSB has invited public input, so CPR President Rena Steinzor and I submitted comments to CSB yesterday, urging the agency to target the White House in its advocacy efforts related to the Most Wanted Program.

CSB has numerous recommendations that it considers “open” because the target of those recommendations, be it OSHA, another federal agency, a private standards organization like the NFPA, or another target, has yet to implement the recommendation.

The recommendations aimed at federal agencies are an especially tricky group, given the realities of the regulatory system. As we’ve discussed in this space before, OSHA’s regulatory efforts have been running up against significant resistance from the White House. A prime example is the proposal …

July 24, 2013 by Michael Patoka

Three years after the EPA proposed a rule to protect communities from coal ash—a byproduct of coal-power generation that’s filled with toxic chemicals like arsenic, lead, and mercury—a final rule is still nowhere in sight. Meanwhile, power plants are dumping an additional 94 million tons of it every year into wet-ash ponds and dry landfills that are already filled to capacity.

Seemingly untouched by this sense of looming disaster, the Obama Administration continues to dawdle in the face of resistance from the coal industry and perennial attempts from House Republicans to deprive the EPA of its authority over the issue. As the EPA fiddles with new power-plant data and reassesses the rule ad nauseam, the next coal ash catastrophe is waiting to happen. As we examine the wreckage, we’ll have to remember how this rule gathered dust on the Administration’s desk.

A …

July 23, 2013 by Matt Shudtz

Tomorrow, the new OIRA Administrator, Howard Shelanski, will testify before the House Small Business Committee on the results of the government-wide “look-back” at existing regulations. It will be an opportunity for the Committee’s Republicans to continue their assault on government programs that keep our food safe, air and water clean, and highways fit for travel. Shelanski could follow in his predecessor’s footsteps by trying to assuage the Republicans’ fears with glowing statistics about the allegedly huge savings that are expected to flow from revising some old regulations, or he could be more supportive of his fellow public servants and highlight the myriad programs that are working just fine and don’t need to be rolled back.

Food safety and occupational health advocates are hoping Shelanski will have an opportunity to give an update on a piece of the look-back program that falls somewhere between the …

July 22, 2013 by Victor Flatt

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari, or review of  EME Homer City Generation v. EPA, 696 F.3d 7 (D.C. Cir. 2012), reh’g en banc denied, 2013 WL 656247 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 24, 2013). This is a welcome development, as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals got many things wrong in its tossing out of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSPAR), the follow-up to the previously invalidated Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) which regulated potential cross-state air pollution. For example, although an oil refinery one state may meet its own air quality, but not in state nearby where it might be polluting neighboring cities. CSPAR would hold states accountable for their pollution of their neighbors, which the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out last year.

This case was brought to the D.C. Circuit on consolidated challenges …

July 22, 2013 by Rena Steinzor

The Senate’s grudging confirmation of Tom Perez as Secretary of Labor was the first piece of good news working people have had out of the federal government for quite some time. I know Perez--as a neighbor, a law school colleague, Maryland’s labor secretary, and a civil rights prosecutor. He’s a fearless, smart, and hard-driving public servant—exactly the qualities that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his caucus deplore in Obama appointees. With luck, Perez will be successful in direct proportion to the unprecedented vitriol Republicans hurled in his path. Their efforts to define a “new normal” for appointees—no one need apply who has ever done or said anything the most rabid member of the Tea Party might dislike—should not distract us from the real challenges confronting Perez within the Administration.

The success or failure of Perez's tenure will be decided not …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
July 31, 2013

New CPR Issue Alert on TSCA Reform: Progressive Principles for Toxic Risk Regulation

July 31, 2013

CPR Scholar Tom McGarity to Testify at Senate Hearing on Toxic Chemical Reform

July 31, 2013

Senate Hearing to Bring Some Sanity to the Debate Over Federal Regulatory Policy

July 30, 2013

Robert Verchick: Will the White House stall its own climate change plans?

July 26, 2013

Shelanski Said What During the House Small Business Committee?

July 25, 2013

Chemical Safety Board Introduces a Most Wanted List of Reforms to Protect Workers

July 24, 2013

Ash Time Goes By: Administration Continues Foot-Dragging on Coal Ash Rule as Toxic Landfills and Ash Ponds Grow by 94 Million Tons Each Year