CPR Archive for Rena Steinzor

One Step Forward and Two Steps Back on Toxic Chemicals

by Rena Steinzor | May 24, 2016

This post has also been published on The Huffington Post.

Within the next few days, Congress is likely to enact the first update of a major environmental statute in many years. Widely hailed as a bipartisan compromise, legislation to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA, pronounced like the opera Tosca) was made possible by the steely and relentless determination of the U.S. chemical industry. The deal places burdens on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will undermine public health and environmental protections for many years to come. 

A well-funded, politically empowered EPA that employed the best and the brightest of American scientists might be able to make lemonade out of the lemons scattered throughout this unfortunate legislation. But it's far more likely that the agency we have today will soon become mired in "paralysis-by-analysis" before it takes action and a flood of litigation after it – only occasionally – acts. 

Toxic chemical exposures are so loosely regulated that the Government Accountability Office, the top-flight auditor of the federal government, has placed EPA's regulatory efforts on its select list of "high risk" programs that are vulnerable to mismanagement and ineffectiveness. In contrast to what many Americans believe, new chemicals are not required to undergo any testing before they are sold in large volumes in the marketplace unless EPA puts its foot down and are rarely subject to regulatory controls until some entity or person throws them ...

We Need to Get Back to Work

by Rena Steinzor | May 13, 2016
Originally published on RegBlog by CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor. Rulemaking has slowed to a crawl throughout the executive branch. If an agency does not have a statutory mandate to undertake such a brutal and resource-intensive process, the choice to accomplish its mission through any other means will be tempting. Of course, if the policy issues are controversial, no pathway to their redress—rule, adjudication, guidance, or bully pulpit—will be problem-free. The opposition party made clear, almost as soon as President Barack Obama ...

Steinzor Reacts to Blankenship Sentencing

by Rena Steinzor | April 06, 2016
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. Upper Big Branch exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010. CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, issued the following statement: "Although Mr. Blankenship won't spend much time in jail, an outcome determined by a ...

Steinzor Reacts to SCOTUS Chesapeake Bay Case

by Rena Steinzor | February 29, 2016
The Supreme Court today denied certiorari in a case challenging the watershed-wide effort led by the EPA to reduce pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. The Court's action leaves standing a lower court ruling upholding the effort. CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, issued the following reaction: "The Supreme Court's decision is a milestone victory for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and the thousands of local waters in the Bay watershed. Today's ...

Blankenship Convicted in Massey Coal Mine Disaster

by Rena Steinzor | December 03, 2015
Justice was done today by a hard-working jury in West Virginia that convicted Don Blankenship of conspiracy to obstruct federal mine safety rules.  This conspiracy was the primary cause of an enormous explosion that killed 29 men in the worst mine disaster in 40 years.  Although the jury was not presented with the question of whether Blankenship was directly responsible for the explosion, it did decide that he played Russian roulette with miners’ lives.  By underfunding efforts to comply with and harassing ...

Steinzor Reacts to GM Settlement Deal

by Rena Steinzor | September 17, 2015
CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor reacted to today's announcement of a settlement between General Motors and the Justice Department over charges stemming from the company's failure to disclose a deadly ignition defect it millions of its cars. Steinzor said: This settlement is shamefully weak. GM and its executives knew for years that they had a big problem with the ignition switch, which caused cars to stall at high speeds, depriving drivers of power steering, brakes, and airbags.  The company’s dysfunctional ...

Kill a Worker? You're Not a Criminal. Steal a Worker's Pay? You Are One.

by Rena Steinzor | July 16, 2015
Labor Secretary Tom Perez came into office pledging to create good jobs and take on the economic injustice that oppresses blue-collar workers, from raising the minimum wage and restoring unpaid overtime to combatting wage theft. Luckily, the head of his Wage and Hour Division, David Weil, the author of a revelatory report on how to make the most of strategic enforcement, has moved out quite aggressively.  It’s a pity that other, even more serious crimes, don’t seem to get the ...

CPR's Steinzor on the Third Circuit Court's Decision to Uphold the Chesapeake Bay's TMDL Program

by Rena Steinzor | July 06, 2015
The Third Circuit’s decision today is a tremendous victory for the elusive goal of restoring the Chesapeake Bay to the point that it is ecologically healthy.  As the Third Circuit made clear, the Farm Bureau’s relentless and self-serving opposition to EPA’s leadership in this area misreads the law.  Strong federal pollution controls are the last hope for the largest estuary in the world and for the millions of people who trek to its shores to enjoy its amazing beauty.  The ...

The President's Schizophrenia on the Working Class

by Rena Steinzor | June 30, 2015
President Obama’s approval rating is up to 50 percent for the first time in two years after a stellar period of national reconciliation and the safeguarding of Obamacare, his signature, and truly momentous, achievement.  The president, in fulfillment of his noble promises to help the middle class, is about to put his weight behind a Labor Department rule that would hike minimum earnings needed to earn overtime pay, a proposal that would affected 5 million Americans.  These accomplishments remind people ...

House Bipartisanship Throws Up Pitifully Weak Toxic Chemicals Control Act Bill

by Rena Steinzor | June 25, 2015
Anyone who cares about the development of sound public policy has grown distraught over congressional gridlock.  The House and Senate are dysfunctional to an extent not seen in modern times.  Neither is able to develop bipartisan legislation to deal with a slew of urgent social problems, from immigration and the minimum wage to the strengthening of outdated health and safety laws.  But the kneejerk glee that accompanies any bipartisan action regardless of content is just as dangerous.  Take, for example, ...

Are We Done with Sweetheart Deals for Too Big Banks?

by Rena Steinzor | May 21, 2015
In her first major criminal settlement since becoming Attorney General, Loretta Lynch has delivered, trussed and on a platter, five of the world’s biggest banks—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, and UBS.  The five will actually plead guilty to specific crimes involving manipulation of foreign currency markets and will pay close to $6 billion in penalties for illegally collaborating to drive trading prices up and down. As one not-so-bright bank executive pronounced slyly in an online chat room ...

GM and Its No Good, Very Bad Year

by Rena Steinzor | May 01, 2015
With the announcement that GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra received the outsized compensation of $16.2 million in 2014, what should have been a year of humiliation and soul-searching for that feckless automaker instead ended on a disturbingly self-satisfied note.  Purely from a public relations perspective, Barra worked hard for her money.  Appearing repentant, sincere, and downcast, she persuaded star-struck members of Congress that the company was committed to overhauling a culture characterized by what she called the “GM shrug,” ...

The Age of Greed: Toxic Chemical Control Is 'High Priority' Failure for Nation’s Government

by Rena Steinzor | February 11, 2015
Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reiterated its conclusion that EPA’s regulation of toxic chemicals is in crisis, unable to deliver badly needed protection to the American people.  These benighted programs are among a couple of dozen of “high priority” failures that cause serious harm to public health, waste resources, or endanger national security, and Congress is giving the report red carpet treatment, with House and Senate hearings on the report scheduled the very day it was released.  In auditor ...

With State of the Union Address, Obama Begins Sketching Out a Positive View of Government

by Rena Steinzor | January 23, 2015
There were many highlights in President Obama’s recent State of the Union address, but one passage in particular stuck out for us.  In this passage, Obama laid out his clear vision of the positive role that government can and must play in our society—and sharing this vision with the American public will be essential for successfully repelling the oncoming Republican onslaught against regulatory safeguards.  He cast his positive vision of government in the following terms: But here’s the thing—those of ...

Corporate Violence as Crime

by Rena Steinzor | January 09, 2015
A year ago, about 300,000 people in and around Charleston, West Virginia, lost their drinking water source when thousands of gallons of a toxic chemical known as MCHM (4-methylcyclohexanemethanol) leaked into the nearby Elk River through a hole in a rusted-out storage tank. Last month, the wheels of justice began to catch up with the owners of the responsible company when they were indicted by U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.  Coincidentally, the West Virginia indictments came down on the same day ...

Steinzor Reacts to Indictments in West Virginia Chemical Spill Case

by Rena Steinzor | December 17, 2014
CPR President Rena Steinzor issued the following statement in response to today's announcement that a grand jury had indicted owners and managers of Freedom Industries in connection with the massive leak of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MHCM) that fouled the Elk River and triggered a drinking water ban for 300,000 residents earlier this year: Booth Goodwin continues to distinguish himself as a tough prosecutor who is willing to use the law to punish and deter those who threaten public health.  Because this harsh ...

Obama’s Path to Progress: Will the White House Compel Rich Utilities to Clean Up Giant Coal Ash Pits?

by Rena Steinzor | December 15, 2014
We’ll soon learn the results of White House deliberations over EPA’s long-delayed coal ash rule, one of the Essential 13 regulatory initiatives we’ve called upon President Barack Obama to complete before he leaves office.  Under the terms of a consent decree, EPA is required to issue its new rule by Friday, December 19. As glad as we are to see this phase of the rule’s tortuous odyssey come to a close, we suspect that court, not a victory party, will ...

EPA's Long-Delayed Ozone Proposal

by Rena Steinzor | November 26, 2014
How much is it worth to save the life of a grandfather with lung disease or to keep an asthmatic child out of the hospital?  The ozone rule, which EPA proposes today after years of politically motivated delay and while staring down the barrel of a court order, responds to the urgent calls of a gold-standard panel of scientists, who have been pleading with the agency to lower the existing standard of 75 parts per billion to the lower end of ...

Also from Rena Steinzor

Rena Steinzor is a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, and a past president of the Center for Progressive Reform. She is the author of Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction.

One Step Forward and Two Steps Back on Toxic Chemicals

Steinzor | May 24, 2016 | Environmental Policy

We Need to Get Back to Work

Steinzor | May 13, 2016 | Regulatory Policy

Steinzor Reacts to Blankenship Sentencing

Steinzor | Apr 06, 2016 | Workers' Rights

Steinzor Reacts to SCOTUS Chesapeake Bay Case

Steinzor | Feb 29, 2016 | Chesapeake Bay

Blankenship Convicted in Massey Coal Mine Disaster

Steinzor | Dec 03, 2015 | Access to the Courts

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