CPR's Latest Op-Eds Take on the Assault on Our Safeguards

by Matthew Freeman

October 16, 2017

CPR's Member Scholars and staff have continued to appear in the nation's op-ed pages to expose the ongoing assault on our safeguards by President Trump and Congress. Among recent examples:

Dan Farber's July 5 article in The Hill highlighted the many flaws in legislation introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) designed to encumber the development of regulatory safeguards. In "Tangling life-saving regulations in red tape," Farber writes, "[T]he bill would impose needlessly complex procedures that will hamper agency e?orts to protect the public interest far more than it will improve agency decision making. And, of course, for many of the bill's supporters, that's exactly the point. Nothing about this proposal is intended to foster safer workplaces, food and consumer, and nothing about it would improve public health or the environment. The purpose is to delay or defeat rules that would accomplish those important objectives."

Writing in the Albany Times-Union on August 2, Martha McCluskey and co-author Matt London of the North East New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health write that it's time to "Raise maximum fines to deter unsafe working conditions." They relate the tale of a worker killed by a tree-chipper on his first day on the job after his employer violated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules by offering him no training on the dangerous machine. The punishment for the employer was a meager $141,811 fine from OSHA, providing little deterrent to other employers inclined to skirt worker-safety laws. The authors go on to write, "The good news is that many state prosecutors see that killing workers can be a crime, and that workers, families, responsible businesses, and all New Yorkers deserve justice."

The next day, in a piece in the Syracuse Post-Standard headlined, "Congress must stand up for independent law enforcement," David Driesen commended a GOP member of Congress for voting to impose sanctions on Russia for meddling in U.S. elections. He writes that President Trump's "threats to fire those investigating Russian interference in our election and to pardon those who may have conspired with the Russians sends [Vladimir] Putin a very di?erent message than the sanctions send: It invites future interference by suggesting that we are too weak to thoroughly investigate and resist Russian encroachment."

Two days later, Martha McCluskey placed a piece in The Hill, "The House recently sided with big banks over consumers," highlighting a GOP-led vote in the House of Representatives to repeal (by means of the Congressional Review Act) a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule to prevent banks from imposing stacked-deck arbitration procedures on consumers who bring complaints. She writes, "[I]t's clear who the losers will be: ordinary Americans and small businesses. Financial giants like big banks and credit card companies will be the big winners. They can continue to engage in illegal practices that take a few dollars here and there from consumers without worrying about real accountability. Thanks to the volume of business these large corporations do, that will add up quickly."

On August 23, Evan Isaacson and co-author Jacqueline Guild of the Chesapeake Legal Alliance wrote in the Chesapeake Bay Journal that given the Trump EPA's obvious distaste for enforcement of Clean Water Act requirements, the states must increase their funding for enforcement if we are to achieve clean-up goals for the Chesapeake. "Without sufficient staff," they write, "the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Department of the Environment simply do not have the capacity to ensure that programs are working, sites are inspected and those who break the law are held accountable…. Enforcing the laws we already have on the books is the most cost-effective way to meet the Bay states' collective goal to reduce pollution." The piece, "If EPA is prevented from enforcing clean water laws, states must step up," was subsequently reprinted in Southern Maryland Online, the Philadelphia Tribune, and the DelMarVa Daily Times.

On August 30, Robin Kundis Craig placed "United States marine national monuments are a world legacy" in The Maui News, arguing against reducing the size of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which protects a remote archipelago of islands, reefs, and atolls in the northwestern sector of the Hawaiian Islands. The Trump administration had initiated a review of it and several other monuments. She writes that the president lacks authority to de-certify such monuments: "Congress explicitly gave presidents the authority to create national monuments but not to rescind them, and Congress has the last word in this area."

In the September 20 Baltimore Sun, Evan Isaacson and Matthew Shudtz, writing in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, note that Baltimore could learn some lessons from the flooding the storms caused. In "Preparing for hurricanes should not fall to ratepayers," they note that fixing the problem of frequent sewer overflows after storms will require funding, but that the costs shouldn't be piled onto ratepayers. Rather, they maintain, "[W]e need to work together to stop regressive rate increases, utilize a more diverse mix of sources to invest in water and move forward nationally with a bold plan to quickly repair, strengthen and modernize our infrastructure for drinking water, sewage treatment and stormwater management."

On September 28, Rob Verchick, a New Orleans resident, and Victor Flatt, a Houston dweller, draw on their personal experiences with hurricane flooding in "Burying our head in sand on climate change no longer an option," published in the Houston Chronicle. They argue that in order to combat future mega-storms, the first thing to do is to "stop making things worse. In addition to the Trump Administration's well-publicized efforts to roll back limits on carbon pollution, it has also axed important initiatives, including the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, that helped cities, states and tribes prepare for larger floods, prolonged droughts, and stronger wildfires. The president also revoked Obama-era standards that required the federal government to account for sea-level rise and other climate change impacts when building new infrastructure."

Finally, on September 28, James Goodwin decried the Trump administration's use of "Fuzzy math to assault environmental rules" in the Bloomberg BNA Daily Environment Reporter. Digging into the cost-benefit analyses the Trump administration has issued on key regulatory rollbacks, Goodwin notes that the promised "deconstruction of the administrative state" will "require the Trump administration to confront its old nemesis: arithmetic. The early indications are that the administration will resort to Enron-esque book-cooking to advance its rollback of critical safeguards."

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Also from Matthew Freeman

Media relations consultant Matthew Freeman helps coordinate CPR's media outreach efforts and manage its online communications. His media relations experience in Washington spans more than 30 years, and his client list includes a range of organizations active on the environment, education, civil rights and liberties, health care, progressive organizing in the interfaith community, and more.

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