Nov. 9, 2010 by Lena Pons

CPR White Paper Identifies Hundreds of Toxic Chemicals Insufficiently Studied by EPA

A new CPR white paper released today evaluates EPA’s performance in improving its database of human health information on toxic substances. The Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) contains “profiles” with bottom-line health effects information for 540 substances; federal regulators, as well as state and local governments and regulated industry itself, rely on the assessments to make decisions in protecting the public from harm.

In Corrective Lenses for IRIS: Additional Reforms to Improve EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (press release), CPR found that due to procedural changes and attacks from regulated industry and other federal agencies, the information in IRIS hasn’t kept pace with the needs of EPA’s program offices that regulate toxic substances in the air, water and land. "We found 255 chemicals that Congress or EPA have listed as regulatory targets that are waiting for IRIS profiles." Among the 255 are:

  • Thirty-two hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) regulated under the Clean Air Act are not listed in IRIS at all, and 77 are listed but lack inhalation values, hampering the EPA's ability to conduct residual risk assessments to provide an ample margin of safety.
  • Three of 71 contaminants regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act …

Nov. 8, 2010 by Ben Somberg

In a post the other week, Celeste Monforton at The Pump Handle gives a great example of health/safety protection being evaluated the wrong way ("Contractor racks up mine safety violations and unpaid penalties, also wins safety awards.") Monforton points to a large construction company that seems to be collecting safety awards while simultaneously being cited for numerous safety violations (and in January, an employee was killed at a work site).

The problem: 

Sure, whether workers sustain an injury is something to pay attention to, no doubt. But, with some employers' policies that discourage injury reporting, workers' reticence about telling their boss about a chronic work-related health problems, or workers' comp rules that compel workers to return to work before they are fully healed, lost-time injury rates alone don't cut it.

Laws like the Occupational Safety and Health Act set out goals; to what extent are …

Nov. 4, 2010 by Yee Huang

Today CPR President Rena Steinzor and I submitted comments to EPA and each Chesapeake Bay Watershed jurisdiction regarding their draft Phase I Watershed Implementation Plans. The states, we find, need to improve their plans significantly.

After more than 20 years of haplessly stumbling toward restoration, often in fits and starts, EPA and the Bay jurisdictions—Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia—have finally agreed on a final destination: the Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load). Achieving the pollutant allocations in the Bay TMDL will make the Bay once again healthy enough to sustain oyster and blue crab populations and the local economies that depend on them, provide nursery habitat in its grasses, and allow safe recreation for the millions of people who live and work in the Bay Watershed. Establishing the destination goes hand-in-hand with determining the route, which is …

Nov. 4, 2010 by Rena Steinzor

There’s a lot of punditry left to be committed about whether and how the GOP majority in the House and the enhanced GOP minority in the Senate will work with the Obama Administration. I’m not optimistic. But even if the President and House Republicans are able to find some small patch of common ground, the hard reality that progressives need to swallow is that whatever major progressive legislation will bear Barack Obama’s signature has already become law, at least for his first term.

The same is not true, however, for what Barack Obama might accomplish simply by infusing the health and safety  agencies in his Administration—from EPA to OSHA to FDA—with a sense of urgency, clearing away barriers to regulatory progress within his own White House, and insisting that the agencies enforce existing laws with newfound vigor. A string of catastrophes have …

Nov. 3, 2010 by Catherine O'Neill

Economics professors at two major universities just issued their reviews of industry-funded assessments of the costs of EPA’s proposed boiler rule (via NRDC). The professors’ conclusions: “the methodology is fundamentally flawed;” “the resulting estimates of job losses are completely invalid;” “the results reported are useless;” “if I were grading this, I would give it an F.” These strongly-worded indictments should make us sit up and take note. 

Professors Charles Kolstad and Jason Shogren were asked to review industry-funded estimates of the costs of EPA’s proposed boiler MACT rule. These estimates have been cited in support of recent industry claims that it would be too costly and result in a large loss of jobs. The professors’ reviews usefully reveal the serious flaws in the “evidence” around which industry has been spinning its anti-regulatory story. In an earlier post, I examined another aspect of the industry story …

Nov. 3, 2010 by Ben Somberg

Tomorrow, Thursday, the American Constitution Society will host a midday panel discussion about the issues and ideas presented in Regulating from Nowhere: Environmental Law and the Search for Objectivity, by CPR Member Scholar Douglas A. Kysar. The panel includes CPR Board Member Amy Sinden.

Drawing insight from a diverse array of sources, including moral philosophy, political theory, cognitive psychology, ecology, and science and technology studies, Kysar offers a new theoretical basis for understanding environmental law and policy. He exposes a critical flaw in the dominant policy paradigm of risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis, which asks policymakers to, in essence, “regulate from nowhere.”

The event is free and open to the public. Details are here. Please join us!

Nov. 2, 2010 by Alice Kaswan

As “Cap-and-Trade Is Dead” continues to echo through the empty halls of Congress, California rolled out its proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade program on Friday. The proposed regulations send a powerful message that, notwithstanding political paralysis at the federal level, the states are proceeding with meaningful climate action.

The proposed cap-and-trade program, to be voted on by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) at its December 2010 meeting, is scheduled to take effect in January 2012. At the outset, it will apply to the state’s large stationary sources, including manufacturing and utilities. Beginning in 2015, the program will also cover fuel distributors, including distributors of transportation fuels and natural gas or propane not covered by the program’s earlier phase.

The cap-and-trade program is just one of many emissions reduction strategies outlined in California’s scoping plan, the planning document that guides the state’s implementation …

Nov. 1, 2010 by Bill Funk

Cross-posted from ACSblog.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on November 3 in a potentially important preemption case, Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America. In Williamson, a child was fatally injured in a collision when she was sitting in the center rear seat of a Mazda van, secured by a lap belt. The two other passengers in the vehicle, both wearing lap-shoulder belts, survived with minor injuries. The young Williamson, however, suffered severe abdominal injuries and internal bleeding because her body jackknifed around the lap belt. The Williamsons sued Mazda asserting that the van was defectively designed by providing only a lap belt in the center rear seat. When the van was built, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's Federal Motor Vehicle Standard (FMVSS) 208 only required lap belts in the center seat, even while it required lap-shoulder belts in all other seats. Mazda moved to …

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