Reflections on Workers' Memorial Day

by Matt Shudtz | April 28, 2016

Today, a lot of numbers will be thrown around – the staggering number of workers who died gruesome deaths on the job last year, the paltry fines that employers responsible for those deaths paid, the months and years we've waited for Congress to revisit the Occupational Safety and Health Act to make it more relevant to our modern workforce.

There's good reason to reflect on those numbers. They tell us something important about our society and our relationship to work. They tell us that we have a long way to go before the real value of workers' time, effort, and dedication to their jobs is respected and honored.

40,000 Verizon workers are on strike. The contract dispute is complicated, but one of the core issues is the company's threat to move jobs from one location to another, like so many interchangeable, faceless component parts of a massive machine. The corporate mindset that undergirds the threat is the flipside of looking at workers as "assets." An asset can be something uniquely powerful and a source of strength when appreciated for its intrinsic value; or, an asset can be reduced to a dollar figure on a balance sheet, and it becomes just another fungible instrument of commerce.

Too many employers look at workers as assets in that second sense. It's an attitude that ensures fatality rates remain stubbornly high. There's a vicious cycle at work: skimpy paychecks and bad working conditions lead ...

CPR's Mintz Outlines Flaws of House Bill That Would Undercut SEPs

by James Goodwin | April 28, 2016
Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Joel Mintz submitted written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law ahead of its hearing this morning on yet another ill-advised bill, the misleadingly named "Stop Settlement Funds Slush Funds Act of 2016." The bill would place arbitrary limits on how the federal government can use funds it obtains through settlement agreements that arise from enforcement actions brought against companies that have violated federal laws and the ...

Genetically Modified Mushroom Moves Forward with No Oversight

by Mollie Rosenzweig | April 22, 2016
Just as we predicted back in December, foods created with CRISPR technology (short for clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats) are entering the food supply beyond the reach of federal regulators. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would not regulate white button mushrooms that scientists altered to stop them from browning. The agency's confirmation that it is unable to regulate CRISPR-modified foods confirms that the current statutory scheme for genetically modified foods is not sufficient.  In ...

Saving Endangered Species Requires a Systemic, Nationwide Approach

by Robert Glicksman | April 21, 2016
Yesterday, I joined four other witnesses in testifying about the Endangered Species Act (ESA) at a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing. Most of the witnesses and House members who attended focused on a variety of complaints about the ESA's provisions governing listing and delisting of species and called for changes to the law and the ways in which it is administered. In doing so, they missed the larger point about efforts to save endangered and threatened species: we ...

Heinzerling Calls Out Misleading Cost Claims on Environmental Regulations

by Brian Gumm | April 21, 2016
Lisa Heinzerling, a Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and Georgetown University Professor of Law, published a piece this week on The Conversation that explores the ongoing political debate over environmental regulations.  In particular, Heinzerling calls out the often misleading claims about the costs of safeguards that protect our air, water, health, and wild places:  Specifically, the [2010 Small Business Administration regulatory costs] study misinterpreted a World Bank database and drew unsupportable conclusions from it. The study also included the ...

CPR's Glicksman Testifies on Endangered Species Act

by Matthew Freeman | April 20, 2016
Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar (and board member) Rob Glicksman is on Capitol Hill testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s subcommittee on the Interior this afternoon at 2 pm ET. The hearing will focus on “barriers to delisting” of species under the Endangered Species Act. He’ll cover four major points in his testimony, which he summarizes thusly: First, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has achieved considerable success in achieving its conservation goals. Second, budgetary constraints have prevented the two agencies ...

On Regulatory Reform, It's Now Warren vs. Sunstein

by James Goodwin | April 19, 2016
Several weeks ago, Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered perhaps the most important speech on the U.S. regulatory system in recent memory at a forum on regulatory capture organized by the Administrative Conference of the United States. In it, she described how the regulatory system was not working for the people as it should be – or as Congress had intended. Instead, she described how corporate influence over the regulatory process has become so far-reaching and so overwhelming that it has become ...

Chesapeake Bay Program Releases 2015 Watershed Model Estimates

by Evan Isaacson | April 19, 2016
Yesterday, the Chesapeake Bay Program released its latest estimate of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Bay watershed. The annual model run of the program's Watershed Model shows that the estimated nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads decreased by three percent, three percent, and four percent, respectively, compared to 2014 levels. These are important improvements, but much work lies ahead to improve water quality in the Bay and boost the fisheries, wildlife, and recreational activities it supports. The estimated decrease in ...

Good News for North Carolina Coasts

by Eric Panicco | April 18, 2016
Eric Panicco, a candidate for Master of Arts in Sustainability at Wake Forest University, is undertaking an independent study for CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro. On August 3 of last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan. It was a historic moment for President Obama, one he commemorated by observing, "We're the first generation to feel climate change, and the last one that can do something about it." Should it survive the inevitable court challenge launched ...

In Advocate Op-Ed, Verchick Explores 'Nonstructural' Adaptation to Climate Change in the Gulf Coast

by Matthew Freeman | April 15, 2016
Center for Progressive Reform President Robert Verchick has an op-ed in The New Orleans Advocate this morning about Gulf Coast efforts to prepare for the effects of climate change that we’re too late to prevent. A New Orleans resident himself, Verchick and his family suffered through Katrina, so he knows what he’s talking about when he says that the Gulf Coast is “staring down the barrel of climate change.” He writes that in addition to large-scale infrastructure projects like fortifying ...

Mercury, MetLife, and Mountaintop Removal

by Lisa Heinzerling | April 14, 2016
How Justice Scalia's Last Canon Is Unhinging Statutory Interpretation Justice Antonin Scalia was, as much as anything else, known for insisting that the text of a statute alone – not its purposes, not its legislative history – should serve as the basis for the courts' interpretation of the statute. Justice Scalia promoted canons of statutory construction – or at least what he deemed the valid ones – as a way of limiting the power of judges by setting rules for ...

New Paper: Best Practices for Protecting, Empowering Vulnerable Communities in Face of Climate Change

by Brian Gumm | April 13, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: New Paper Showcases Best Practices for Protecting, Empowering Vulnerable Gulf Coast Communities in the Face of Climate Change Most Americans understand the importance of curbing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent a climate catastrophe in the future. But many communities are already feeling the effects of our warming planet. Impacts on the Gulf Coast are particularly challenging. In a new paper released today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) highlights recommendations and best practices for protecting and empowering vulnerable communities ...

Porter Ranch Gas Leak Mitigation Program Shows Hints of EPA NextGen Strategies

by Evan Isaacson | April 11, 2016
Last month, the California Air Resources Board released a draft Aliso Canyon Methane Leak Climate Impacts Mitigation Program. The program comes in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s January 6 proclamation that Southern California Gas be held responsible for mitigating the estimated 100,000 tons of methane released from the gas storage facility at Porter Ranch, which leaked the equivalent of about one-fifth of all other California sources of the powerful greenhouse gas combined over that same period. While this high-profile case ...

No Benefits Allowed? Mercatus Study on Federal Regulation and the States

by James Goodwin | April 08, 2016
Over the last few years, deregulatory advocates have pursued a well-trodden path for advancing their anti-safeguard agenda: Publish a large, glossy "study," replete with impressive mathiness, that purports to measure the impacts of regulation but in fact provides a highly skewed portrayal by consciously ignoring the many benefits that regulations provide. (For example, see here, here, and here.) Last week, the libertarian Mercatus Center did the latest trodding when it released a study that ranked all 50 states (and the ...

Steinzor in The New York Times: Judgment Day for Reckless Executives

by Brian Gumm | April 08, 2016
On April 6, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to one year in jail and a $250,000 fine for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. The mine exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010.  In an April 7 New York Times op-ed, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, ...

Unnatural Disasters and Environmental Injustice

by Christine Klein | April 07, 2016
Originally published on OUPblog by CPR Member Scholars Christine A. Klein and Sandra B. Zellmer. The recent tragedy involving toxic, lead-laced tap water in Flint, Michigan highlights the growing gulf between rich and poor, and majority and minority communities. In an ill-fated measure to save costs for the struggling city of Flint, officials stopped using Detroit's water supply system and switched to the Flint River. Although residents complained about the water's foul taste, odor, and color, officials assured them that the water ...

Beware of BPA: New Report Finds Toxic Substance Widespread in Canned Foods

by Mollie Rosenzweig | April 06, 2016
Consumers, take note: Last week, Clean Production Action published a troubling new report, Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes found in the linings of canned food, on the presence of toxic bisphenol-A (BPA) in canned foods. The report, co-written by Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Ecology Center, and Mind the Store Campaign, found BPA in the lining of the majority of canned foods sold by major retailers across the United States and Canada. As the Center for ...

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 ...

Reflections on Workers' Memorial Day

Shudtz | Apr 28, 2016 | Workers' Rights

Genetically Modified Mushroom Moves Forward with No Oversight

Rosenzweig | Apr 22, 2016 | Food, Drug, Product Safety

Saving Endangered Species Requires a Systemic, Nationwide Approach

Glicksman | Apr 21, 2016 | Environmental Policy

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