CPRBlog Archives
[ Prev ] [ Next ]

Senate Joint Committee Hearing Dedicated to Attacking Public Servants

When your public approval rating has hovered at or below 20 percent for the last several years, maybe the last thing you should be doing is maligning other government institutions.   That didn’t stop a group of Senators from spending several hours doing just that today during a joint hearing involving the Senate Budget and Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committees.  The joint hearing was nominally about a nonsense regulatory reform proposal called “regulatory budgeting” (for more on that, see here), but it quickly devolved into a no-holds-barred hate session directed at federal agency employees, as the upright and honorable members of the “world’s greatest deliberative body” repeatedly attacked the prevailing “culture” at agencies.

Full text

Walmart’s Cutthroat Business Model Fuels Labor Violations throughout Its Food Supply Chain

Every day, millions of consumers endure Walmart’s crowded parking lots and cramped aisles for the chance to buy retail goods and groceries at low prices.  Perhaps some visitors find value in the prospect of starring in the next caught-on-camera video like last week’s hit filmed at a store in Beech Grove, Indiana.  But the lower prices Walmart offers come at a high cost elsewhere. 

According to a new report by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, Walmart’s low cost strategy induces poor labor and environmental practices throughout its food supply chain, and these hidden costs are passed back to workers, suppliers, the environment, and communities.  “Walmart’s business model  . . . . creates the conditions to force suppliers to cut costs, which often means cutting wages for workers, lowering prices to farmers, and externalizing costs on to the environment and the communities surrounding the suppliers’ business,” the report states.

Full text

You Can Be for Cost-Benefit Analysis or You Can Be for Regulatory Budgeting, But You Can’t be for Both

For decades, so-called regulatory “reformers” have backed up their sales pitches with the same basic promise:  Their goal is not to stop regulation per se but to promote smarter ones.  This promise, of course, was always a hollow one.  But it gave their myriad reform proposals—always involving some set of convoluted procedural or analytical requirements designed to surreptitiously sabotage the rulemaking process—some shred of legitimacy, while insulating the proponents against any public backlash that might follow from such cynical attacks on broadly popular public health, safety, and environmental programs.

If the real motivation behind the “regulatory reform” movement wasn’t clear before, then tomorrow’s hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs and Budget Committees on “regulatory budgets” ought to peel away the last of any lingering doubts.  The idea behind “regulatory budgeting” (or “regulatory pay-go,” as it is sometimes known) is that Congress would set a hard cap on total regulatory costs, and once the cap has been met, agencies would be prohibited from issuing any rules until their costs have been offset by the removal of existing regulations.  Its proponents claim that this cap on regulatory costs somehow reflects all the safeguards our country “needs” or “can afford.”  Ask them to substantiate that claim, though, and all you’ll get is a lot of arm waving and vague platitudes.

 

Full text

Heading in the Right Direction: OSHA Nails Poultry Processor for Ergonomics

Last week, OSHA issued noteworthy citations against a poultry slaughtering facility in Delaware. The agency is using its General Duty Clause to hold Allen Harim Foods in Harbeson, Delaware responsible for ergonomic hazards that plague the entire industry—hazards involving the repetitive cutting and twisting motions that lead to musculoskeletal disorders like tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

This case follows another from October of last year, when, in response to a complaint by workers and their advocates from the Southern Poverty Law Center, OSHA cited Wayne Farms in Jack, Alabama for General Duty Clause violations, also related to ergonomic hazards. As it turns out, the Wayne Farms case was a shot across the bow for an industry that subjects its workers to punishingly repetitive work in a variety of situations. Today’s announcement may be evidence of a trend developing in OSHA enforcement.

Full text

Maryland's Bay TMDL Report: A Tale of Two States

Editors’ Note:  This is the fourth in a series of posts on measuring progress toward the 2017 interim goal of the Bay TMDL.  The first three posts cover the region as a whole, and then Pennsylvania and Virginia. Future posts will explore the progress of the remaining four jurisdictions.                

Judging from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s modeling of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland is a tale of two states when it comes to reducing its polluting emissions.  On the one hand, the state is clearly lagging in reducing nitrogen pollution, one of two main contributors to the algal blooms that lead to “dead zones” in the Bay.  On the other hand, it has made some progress. Indeed, Maryland’s experience appears to be quite similar to that of Virginia, a leader in reducing nitrogen to date, in that it owes most of its success to significant early investments in wastewater treatment plant upgrades.  Like Virginia, Maryland has committed well over $1 billion to installing advanced technology on its major wastewater treatment plants, albeit a few years later than Virginia.

In an important respect, however, Maryland is unlike Virginia, or any state for that matter.  Maryland has crafted its Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) for meeting the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) with an ambitious “all of the above” strategy that seeks significant pollution reductions broadly across each main sector.  Unfortunately, the data so far indicates that this strategy has yet to really bear fruit, and it is too early to tell if it will in time for the 2025 TMDL deadline.

Ambition has been in evidence in Maryland’s plan since the Obama Administration established the Bay TMDL in 2010.  In fact, former Governor O’Malley’s first WIP called for implementing practices to achieve 70 percent of its reduction targets by 2017, not just the 60 percent required, and it also anticipated implementing all practices by 2020, instead of 2025.  Alas, Maryland quickly backtracked, perhaps after understanding just how difficult a task this might be.  

Full text

Meet CPR’s New Workers’ Rights Policy Analyst

Regular readers of this blog are already well acquainted with her, but for everyone else, CPR is pleased to introduce our new workers’ rights policy analyst, Katie Weatherford.

Weatherford joins CPR after several years with the Center for Effective Government, where she was a regulatory policy analyst and advocated for strong regulations to protect public health, safety, and the environment. “Katie is insightful, thorough, and poised to be a great fit for CPR,” says Executive Director Matthew Shudtz, “along with our Scholars, I’m looking forward to working with her to fight for stronger worker health and safety protections.”

Among her achievements at CEG, Weatherford produced a report examining OSHA’s whistleblower protection program and proposing model state legislation to protect workers from retaliation. Her expertise on the subject will be invaluable as she takes on the job of working with CPR’s allies to help promote the policy reforms outlined in our groundbreaking manual, Winning Safer Workplaces: A Model for State and Local Policy Reform. 

Full text

Why the Climate Movement Needs a Green Pope, and a Super Voucher

ROME—On my first visit to Vatican City, before my meeting with Michelangelo, I greeted the Pope via the city’s ubiquitous souvenir stands. I love this stuff. You can try on the “Papa Francisco” kitchen apron and imagine the pontiff’s smile beaming over your Spaghetti Bolognese. Or gently joggle the pate of a Pope Francis bobble-head. Postcards are everywhere, of course. And for €10 you can score the annual “Hot Priests Calendar,” featuring hunky young men of the cloth. In this “G-rated” feature, priests from all over the world help promote the Eternal City and breathe into the Catholic brand a wisp of hipness, to say nothing of hotness.

But back to the Pope. This week Pope Francis released the much anticipated encyclical on the environment and climate change. And there’s a connection between that, the souvenir aprons, and even the hot priests. I’ll leave it to others to examine the language of this compelling and lyrical document. Suffice it to say that, in terms of substance, the edict says nothing we don’t already know. For a generation, experts and activists have hammered the shackles of climate, pollution, and poverty within earshot of anyone willing to hear. What is new—and very exciting—is that now the head of the Roman Catholic Church, an extremely popular and charismatic figure, is calling out this injustice and demanding that world leaders take action. 

Full text

PA's Dismal TMDL Report: An Opportunity for Change

We recently explored how Virginia’s progress toward meeting the 2017 interim goal for the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL) is mostly the product of decades’ old financial commitments.  So, we might hope to see much of the same from Pennsylvania, a fellow member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission since 1985.  Unfortunately, despite decades of participation in the various agreements to clean the Bay, Pennsylvania’s lack of progress is the single biggest reason to worry about the future health of the Chesapeake.

Although no part of Pennsylvania borders the Chesapeake, much of the state is in the Bay watershed. Its agriculture sector alone contributes more than one-quarter of all nitrogen pollution in the watershed.  Put another way, this one sector contributes more nitrogen than the entire Commonwealth of Virginia, or more than every sector in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and West Virginia combined.  That’s why the single most discouraging fact facing policymakers, regulators, and advocates in the Bay is that nitrogen from the agriculture sector in Pennsylvania has actually increased by about 4 percent between 2009 and 2014 according to the most recent data from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Model, whereas the goal is to reduce such pollution by about 26 percent by 2017.  

Full text

Virginia's Bay TMDL Progress Report: A Complete Picture

This is the second in a series of posts to explore progress in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, as reflected in recent data from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s elaborate computer model of the Bay, which accounts for what the states are actually doing to reduce pollution. Read the first post, taking a look at the overall region’s progress, here.

Judging solely from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Watershed Model, the Commonwealth of Virginia is doing a pretty good job of reducing its pollution “contribution” to the Bay. The most recent data (2014) from the Model indicate that the Commonwealth has achieved 97.6 percent of its nitrogen reduction goal for 2017 and 150.4 percent of its phosphorus reduction goal, three years ahead of schedule.

Full text

CPR's Glicksman to Testify at House Hearing on Ozone Regulations

This morning CPR Scholar and George Washington University Law School professor Robert Glicksman will testify in support of EPA's proposed rule to regulate ozone. The Hearing, held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommitee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade will focus on the potential impacts of the proposed ozone rule on manufacturing. 

Glicksman's testimony corrects misinformation about the ozone rule's potential negative impact on manufacturing. He notes,

My testimony makes four key points:

  1. A strong national ozone pollution standard that fulfills the public health goals of the Clean Air act will deliver significant benefits for human health and the environment.
     
  2. Regulations, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pending ozone standard, can and do provide important economic benefits for U.S. businesses, including those in the manufacturing sector.
     
  3. A frequently cited study purporting to find catastrophic economic effects from a strong ozone standard is flawed and fails to provide a reliable accounting of the rule’s potential impacts.
     
  4. To the contrary, the available evidence confirms that strong national standards for ozone pollution are not an impediment to economic growth.

To read Glicksman's full testimony, click here.

 

Full text