Five Years Ago Today: When Obama Put Politics Ahead of the Public Interest

by James Goodwin | September 02, 2016

September 2, 2011, was a lot like today, the Friday before a long holiday weekend.  While many were already turning their attention to backyard barbecues and afternoon naps in hammocks, the then-Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Cass Sunstein, the controversial official charged with supervising federal regulatory activities, dropped a bombshell. In a notice known as a “return letter,” Sunstein publicly announced that President Obama was rejecting what would have been one of the most important public safeguards during his time in office: the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pending rule to strengthen the national air quality standard for harmful ozone pollution. It was, and remains, one of the darkest days of Obama’s time in office, at least where public health and environmental protection are concerned.

Mountains of scientific evidence confirm that ozone pollution is nasty stuff, and high levels of exposure can be harmful to human and environmental health. It can trigger asthma attacks and aggravate lung diseases such as bronchitis, leading to missed work and school days, emergency room visits, and even premature death. These effects are especially alarming considering that the American Lung Association found in its 2016 State of the Air report that nearly 163 million Americans – or more than half the people in the United States (51.1 percent) – live in areas with unhealthy levels of ozone. The devastating impacts of ozone pollution extend no less significantly to ...

Presidential Transitions Are Important. So Why Aren't They More Transparent?

by James Goodwin | August 31, 2016
Next Wednesday, Public Citizen is holding an important event that aims to promote greater transparency in the presidential transition process. The transition process is among the most critical events in our constitutional system of democracy. As the Center for Presidential Transition lays out in detail in its Presidential Transition Guide, this process is where the incoming president's policy agenda is formulated, where candidates for key administrative posts are selected, and where at least the first year of budget priorities are ...

Verchick in Slate: Connecting the Dots Between Climate Change and Our Vulnerable Energy Grid

by Brian Gumm | August 29, 2016
It's common knowledge that our energy choices impact the planet's climate, but less widely known is how climate change and its intensified storms, heat waves, droughts, and water shortages affect our energy grid. Already vulnerable, the grid can suffer catastrophic damage when a storm like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy strikes.  In an Aug. 26 article in Slate, Center for Progressive Reform Board President Rob Verchick explores these vulnerabilities and connects the dots between climate change and the grid. He ...

'Cultural Cognition' Theory Offers a Path to Climate Change Progress

by Matthew Freeman | August 25, 2016
Over the course of the last few decades, one of the great communications challenges facing progressives has been, and continues to be, how we talk about climate change. The difficulty in persuading politicians and the public about the need for action isn’t just that the effort has run head-long into a massive and well-funded industry campaign designed to sow confusion. It’s also that the policy changes needed to  make a difference fairly drip with disruption of one sort or another ...

Comments from CPR: Forced Arbitration Proposal Is Strong but Should Be Stronger

by James Goodwin | August 23, 2016
Yesterday, several CPR Member Scholars and staff formally submitted comments on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) proposed rule to limit the use of forced arbitration agreements in consumer contracts for financial products like credit cards and bank accounts.  CPR Member Scholars and staff have been tracking this rulemaking for over a year and in May 2016 published a report that assessed several key issues shortly before the CFPB released its proposal. In particular, our report evaluated the CFPB's preliminary ...

CPR's Shapiro Takes on the Politicization of Science in North Carolina

by Brian Gumm | August 18, 2016
In a new op-ed published in the Raleigh News & Observer, Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and Board Member Sidney Shapiro examines two recent examples of politics getting in the way of protecting people and the environment in North Carolina. As he explains, the politicization of science by state officials has serious ramifications for the ability of agencies and scientists to safeguard residents from toxic chemicals, rising sea levels, and more.  The following is an excerpt from the op-ed: ...

Sorry, Senator Vitter. The CFPB Is in Full Compliance with Small Business Outreach Law.

by James Goodwin | August 15, 2016
While the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get You Want" may be an ill-advised campaign song, perhaps it can still serve as the official theme song for Sen. David Vitter's (R-LA) Government Accountability Office (GAO) report requests. The anti-regulatory senator had requested that the GAO audit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – a favorite punching bag of the right – to determine whether it is complying with the small business outreach requirements imposed by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement ...

It's Well Past Time for OSHA to Act on Heat Stress

by Katie Tracy | August 11, 2016
Last month was the hottest July on record for several cities across the southern United States, thanks to a heat wave that brought extreme temperatures to most of the country. But even when temperatures aren't record-breaking, extreme heat can be dangerous and potentially fatal if proper precautions aren't taken. Between 2003 and 2012, more than 30 workers died annually from heat-related illnesses and injuries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2014, 18 workers died and another ...

Justice and Contemporary Climate Relocation: An Addendum to Words of Caution on 'Climate Refugees'

by Maxine A Burkett | August 10, 2016
This excerpt is drawn from a post originally published on Aug. 8, 2016, by the Wilson Center's New Security Beat. The idea that climate change is causing migration and displacement is entering the mainstream, but experts have warned against using the term "climate refugees" to describe what we're seeing in small islands, coastal regions, and even conflict zones like Syria. Geoff Dabelko's 2007 post on climate change and migration was an early and important clarification of this emerging phenomenon. He ...

CPR's Tracy Delivers Comments at EPA Meetings on Risk Evaluation, Prioritization, and the Toxic Substances Control Act

by Katie Tracy | August 10, 2016
UPDATED (8/10/2016): On August 9 and 10, Center for Progressive Reform Policy Analyst Katie Tracy delivered remarks at two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stakeholder meetings on risk evaluation, prioritization, and the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). August 9 – Risk Evaluation Rule Thank you for the opportunity to present today. My name is Katie Tracy. I am a policy analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform. I would just like to share a few brief comments with you today, which will be ...

Climate-Related Catastrophes Require Proactive Solutions and Preparation

by Evan Isaacson | August 10, 2016
Two people died on July 30 after a 1,000-year storm brought devastating flooding to the lovely and historic Ellicott City, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. The 6.5 inches of rain that fell over the course of a few hours damaged or destroyed more than 150 vehicles and scores of buildings, and forced the rescue of dozens of people. It also sent more than 5 million gallons of sewage per day from several different sites into the Patuxent River and out ...

Cleaner Waters for Washington at Long Last?

by Catherine O'Neill | August 08, 2016
The Clean Water Act instructs states and tribes to revisit their water quality standards every three years, updating them as necessary to reflect newer science and to ensure progress in cleaning up the nation's waters – to the point where people can safely catch and eat fish. Last Monday, Washington State's Department of Ecology unveiled its long-awaited update, revising standards that had been developed back in 1992. The state's rulemaking process has been marked by controversy and delay, which I ...

Corporations Advance Food Policy Agenda, but on Whose Terms?

by Mollie Rosenzweig | August 05, 2016
Americans are increasingly looking for reforms in our food system. Limited use of pesticides, animal welfare, and sustainability are just some of the issues becoming more important to consumers when they make decisions about their food. Unfortunately, Congress and the regulatory agencies charged with overseeing the food supply have worked slowly – very slowly – to address these and other pressing issues as of late. On the other hand, the food industry and retailers have seen the writing on the ...

The New NEPA Guidance

by Daniel Farber | August 04, 2016
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued new guidance this week on considering climate change in environmental impact statements (EIS). Here are the key points: Quantification. The guidance recommends that agencies quantify projected direct and indirect emissions, using the amount of emissions as a proxy for the eventual impact on climate change. The EIS should also discuss the impacts of climate change, referring to government reports on the subject for conclusions. A formal cost-benefit analysis is not required ...

Memo to the Next President: Let's Make Government Work for All of Us

by Brian Gumm | August 03, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: Memo to the Next President: Let's Make Government Work for All of Us  Over the past several weeks, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) has urged the next president to take a constructive approach to our government and our system of health, safety, environmental, and financial safeguards. With Election Day just three months away, CPR is releasing a new paper that expands on those themes and provides a comprehensive blueprint for how the next president can rebuild our ...

CPR Lauds OSHA's Continued Vigilance over Rampant Dangers in the Poultry Slaughter Industry

by Matt Shudtz | July 29, 2016
Earlier this week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Pilgrim's Pride, one of the world's largest poultry processors, with more than a dozen serious workplace health and safety violations. CPR Executive Director Matthew Shudtz issued the following statement today:  Credit OSHA for pushing the envelope. The poultry slaughter industry loves to tout its declining injury rates, but outside experts have many reasons to believe the industry's cooking its books. This isn't the first time OSHA's investigators have uncovered ...

Hidden Penalties and Secretive Settlements Make for Lousy Enforcement Policy

by Evan Isaacson | July 29, 2016
If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? More to the point, if law enforcement issues a civil or criminal fine or sentence without anyone knowing, does it have an effect? Thinking back to my criminal law course, I recall such philosophical discussions over the various theories justifying criminal penalties, such as incapacitation of the perpetrator, justice for the victim, and restoration of damages. But perhaps the most important theoretical basis ...

On Climate Change Preparation, Record of Land Management Agencies Is Mixed

by Alejandro Camacho | July 20, 2016
Whether it's raging wildfires in the West, catastrophic flooding in the East and Upper Midwest, or rising sea levels on the coasts, there is no question that climate change is affecting and will continue to significantly impact our public lands and the resources they both provide and protect. As a nation, we need to be prepared for these changes and find effective ways to adapt.  To develop a snapshot of the scope and efficacy of such efforts thus far, we ...

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