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Feb. 27, 2014 by Erin Kesler

CPR's Michael Patoka Testifies in Support of Maryland Responsible Contracting Bill for Worker Health and Safety

Today, Center for Progressive Reform analyst Michael Patoka testified at a Maryland Senate Finance Committee Hearing in support of SB 774, which would require construction companies contracting with the state to be prequalified based on their worker health and safety performance measures.

The widely supported legislation would ensure unscrupulous employers do not receive contracts funded by taxpayer dollars. 

In his testimony Patoka notes: 

Currently, construction firms are screened on a number of factors prior to bidding, but worker-safety considerations are not included. As a result, agencies can easily end up financing companies that operate hazardous worksites and endanger Maryland workers. Indeed, the current system encourages firms to cut corners on worker safety, since by doing so they may be able to offer lower bids than their more responsible competitors and thus have a better chance at winning lucrative contracts.

The construction industry is responsible for a disproportionately high number of fatalities and injuries. From 2008 and 2010, between 25 and 33 percent of all workplace deaths in Maryland were in the construction industry, and each of those years saw between 5,800 and 6,900 construction-related injuries. These incidents impose unbearably high costs on individuals and families in Maryland, as …

Feb. 27, 2014 by Frank Ackerman
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It sounds like a rare piece of good news about climate change: emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal cause of global warming, grew at a slower rate after 2000 in the United States, and have actually dropped since 2007. In Europe the story sounds even better, as overall emissions dropped from 1990 to 2008, often roughly matching, or in some cases exceeding, the reductions promised under the Kyoto Protocol.

Yet the apparent progress on emission reductions in rich countries has occurred at a time of widespread outsourcing of manufacturing to China and other developing countries. In the process, we have effectively outsourced our carbon emissions as well. If consumers are responsible for the emissions from making the consumer goods they buy, then we have not solved the problem. We have just made it harder to see - and much harder to measure.

Here's the problem: if a …

Feb. 24, 2014 by James Goodwin
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Cue the majestic fanfare, for this week marks House Republicans’ so-called “Stop Government Abuse Week”—you know they mean business, because they have a clever Twitter hashtag and everything.   So how does one celebrate such an auspicious occasion?  Apparently, by wasting precious House floor time with a series of votes on several extreme anti-regulatory bills that, if enacted, would make it all but impossible for agencies to carry out their congressionally mandated missions of safeguarding the public against corporate abuses.  The jewel in this potentially catastrophic crown is the Regulatory Accountability Act, which has been repackaged as Title II of the overstuffed “Regnibus” bill, officially known as the All Economic Regulations are Transparent (ALERT) Act (H.R. 2804). 

If enacted, the Regulatory Accountability Act would subject the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and all other protector agencies to as …

Feb. 20, 2014 by Rena Steinzor
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Yesterday, we wrote about OIRA’s role in delaying and diluting the EPA’s long-awaited coal ash rule, in part by introducing and promoting a weak option that would rely on voluntary state implementation and citizen suits, instead of nationwide requirements and federal oversight, to protect the public from dangerous leaks and spills. Anyone who thinks the states can be entrusted with regulating toxic coal ash need only take a passing glance at North Carolina’s track record—a virtual “how to” guide for regulatory dysfunction. Governor Pat McCrory himself worked at Duke Energy for 28 years, and Duke-connected sources donated over a million dollars to get him elected in 2012. Once in office, he appointed several former Duke employees to high-level posts, and the newly appointed head of the state’s environmental department saw himself as a “partner” to regulated industries rather than a cop on …

Feb. 20, 2014 by Sandra Zellmer
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A Lancaster County District Court has struck down the governor's decision to approve Keystone XL's pipeline route through the state in Thompson v. Heineman, CI 12-2060 (Feb. 19, 2014).  As described in a previous blog, LB 1161 was passed in 2012 to give Governor Dave Heineman the authority to approve the route rather than having the state's Public Service Commission (PSC) make the decision. The court found that the PSC--not the governor--is constitutionally empowered under Nebraska Constitution Art. IV § 20 to play the lead role in approving the pipeline's route.  The PSC was created in the late 1800's to prevent precisely this kind of overreaching by politicians who were inclined to grant political favors to powerful railroad executives who wanted to expand their routes through private property. "If such abandonment or abolition of the PSC's regulatory control were permitted, the protection …

Feb. 19, 2014 by Rena Steinzor
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Two and a half weeks ago, a Duke Energy ash pond in North Carolina spilled up to 39,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of contaminated water after a stormwater pipe underneath the pond broke. The spill coated the bottom of the Dan River for 70 miles with gray sludge—five feet thick in some places. Now, investigators have discovered a second pipe underneath the pond that appears to have been leaking contaminated water into the river for a long time, with levels of arsenic 14 times higher than what would be considered safe for humans.

These spills were accidents waiting to happen. The dangers of toxic coal ash have been flashing loudly on the nation’s radar screen ever since 1.1 billion gallons of wet ash spilled from a ruptured dam in Kingston, Tennessee at the end of 2008. At the time …

Feb. 17, 2014 by Bill Funk
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In his State of the Union Address President Obama announced that, while he intended to work with Congress to achieve various goals, he will act unilaterally, invoking his “executive authority,” pending congressional action.  There followed a laundry list of initiatives that he said he would take on his own.  Predictably, Republicans have railed against the President’s proposed actions, accusing him of subverting the rule of law.  It’s all just politics.

First guilty party: President Obama.  For all his touted exercise of executive authority, there is nothing revolutionary there.  Most of the initiatives are simply the use of the bully pulpit to call upon various groups and constituencies to do the right thing.  For example, the White House hosting a Summit on Working Families, asking the Vice President to lead a “full review” (as opposed to a partial review, I guess) of America’s job training …

Feb. 12, 2014 by Thomas McGarity
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At long last, the comment period on OSHA’s silica proposal has closed and the next phase in this rule’s protracted timeline will commence.  In the four months since OSHA released the proposal, the agency has received hundreds of comments.  They run the gamut, from the expected support of unions and other advocates for working people, to the fear-mongering hyperbole of the major trade associations.  CPR Member Scholars Sid Shapiro and Martha McCluskey joined us in submitting our own comments to the record.  You can read them here.

Silica dust is a pervasive occupational hazard.  The vast majority of exposed workers toil in the construction industry, where clouds of dust surrounding jackhammers, masonry and concrete saws, and brick and mortar work are an all too common sight.  OSHA seeks to eliminate those dangerous conditions by encouraging employers to provide modern tools that have better dust collectors …

Feb. 11, 2014 by Matthew Freeman
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A group of eight CPR Member Scholars today submitted a letter to Reps. David Schweikert and Suzanne Bonamici, the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on the Environment. The letter levels a series of powerful criticisms at Schweikert's proposed "Secret Science Reform Act," yet another in a series of bills from House Republicans aimed at gumming up efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to exercise authority granted it by Congress to protect the environment.

Schweikert and his cosponsors maintain that the EPA is adopting regulations based on science that should be available to the public, but is not. That's true. But the bill steers clear of the actual problem, and instead focuses on harassing EPA regulators. The real problem with secret science in the regulatory process is that industry science is carefully shielded from public …

Feb. 7, 2014 by Anne Havemann
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Anchorage, Alaska is more than 4,000 miles away from the Chesapeake Bay, yet Alaska joined 20 other states on Monday in asking a federal appeals court to overturn the EPA-led plan to restore the Bay, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

While Alaska’s interest in the Bay-wide TMDL is murky, the history of the lawsuit is straightforward. In 2009, the Obama administration issued Executive Order 13,508, directing EPA to take a leadership role in cleaning up the Bay. The Bay-wide TMDL, often referred to as a “pollution diet,” followed in 2010. It imposed strict limits on the quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment that could be discharged into the Bay and allocated the total permissible amount of each pollutant among the Bay states and the District of Columbia, leaving it up to the states to determine how to meet the specific …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Feb. 27, 2014

CPR's Michael Patoka Testifies in Support of Maryland Responsible Contracting Bill for Worker Health and Safety

Feb. 27, 2014

Your Iphone Causes China's Pollution

Feb. 24, 2014

The Regulatory Accountability Act: Or How to Defeat the Public Interest in Just 65 Easy Steps

Feb. 20, 2014

North Carolina's Coal Ash Spills: A Glimpse of the Future under OIRA's Weak Option

Feb. 20, 2014

A Win for Nebraska: Lancaster District Court Struck Down Governor's Approval of Keystone Pipeline

Feb. 19, 2014

Mounting Coal Ash Spills Will Be OIRA's Legacy

Feb. 17, 2014

Executive Fiat or Business as Usual? Claims of Presidential Overreach are Just Politics