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Oct. 29, 2014 by Matt Shudtz

Big OSHA Fine for Wayne Farms Poultry Processor a Win for Workers

Today, brave workers at a Wayne Farms poultry slaughterhouse have a reason to celebrate a milestone in their struggle for justice. With help from lawyers at the Southern Poverty Law Center, they filed a complaint with OSHA in April. They blew the whistle on conditions that included dangerous work speeds that caused serious injuries, as well as denying subsequent medical treatment, and the firing of workers who reported their concerns. The agency released some results from its inspection, proposing significant fines against Wayne Farms for the deplorable conditions the workers continue to face. OSHA is proposing $102,000 in fines, for everything from bad records to forcing workers to work on or clean machines that have not been properly shut down and de-energized. Significantly, OSHA has cited Wayne Farms for violating the General Duty Clause because the company exposed workers to dangerous ergonomic hazards. OSHA hasn't used that tool to address ergonomic hazards in this indury for over 10 years. This development shows OSHA's commitment to addressing the widespread hazards that poultry workers face, that CPR and other advocates have been talking about and that USDA failed to address in its recent rule that was supposed to 'modernize …

Oct. 28, 2014 by Rena Steinzor
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After ringing its hands for nigh on four years, EPA has at last coughed up a final coal ash rule.  Of course, no one but the White House staff will know what it says until the White House releases it in absolutely final form.  Nevertheless, the staff will now engage in the charade of hosting multiple appearances by various interest groups that want to tell the President’s people about those concerns without really knowing what they should be talking about.

EPA is due in court on December 19 to explain to a judge what rule it has written.  We can only hope that it is not the pale alternative crafted by the White House and put out for comment.  That pitiful compromise would perpetuate the status quo, with the states left to continue to do a bad job at overseeing these huge pits in the ground …

Oct. 23, 2014 by Anne Havemann
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This week, CPR President Rena Steinzor and I joined with the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition to submit comments to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) urging the state to strengthen the permit that regulates Maryland’s nearly 600 industrial animal farms. MDE is in the process of renewing the General Discharge Permit, a one-size-fits-all permit that covers Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and Maryland Animal Feeding Operations (MAFOs) within the state (collectively known as Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs)). These farms raise hundreds of millions of animals each year and produce vast quantities of waste, playing a significant role in the ongoing degradation of the Chesapeake Bay and waterways throughout the state.

The comments focus on three main goals, urging MDE to:

  • Immediately begin assessing fees to process CAFOs’ permits. In the past, MDE has waived such fees, despite a legal requirement to the contrary. The fees …

Oct. 14, 2014 by Matthew Freeman
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In an op-ed published in The Hill on Friday, CPR President Rena Steinzor makes the case that in appointing a successor to Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama needs to find a prosecutor tough enough to go after corporate malfeasance with more than a series of comparatively weak deferred prosecution agreements.

She writes,

Of course, prosecutors can’t send corporations to jail — they are inanimate paper entities. But forcing them to acknowledge that they broke criminal laws is more than a symbolic gesture, which is why corporate lawyers work so hard to avoid such outcomes. The stigma of such guilty pleas lasts, rightly spooking existing and would-be investors.

Holder’s record in this area is tainted by his embrace of the “too big to jail” argument that the collateral damage from going after even the most serious corporate malefactors is intolerable. She writes,

This egregious off-ramp was …

Oct. 13, 2014 by David Driesen
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EPA’s proposed new rule for greenhouse gas emissions from power plants gets a lot of things right. For one thing, it recognizes that electric utilities can employ a variety of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They can switch to natural gas or even renewable energy sources. They can fund end-use efficiency improvements—such as energy efficient windows, better insulation, and light bulbs that burn brightly even while they conserve electricity. All of these techniques reduce power plant emissions. So, EPA is right to make them building blocks for its rule.

But the final rule should correct a very poor policy judgment about the form of the emission limits that utilities can meet with these technologies. EPA should demand state limits on the mass of emissions from power plants rather than limits on emission rates. Let me explain why this seemingly arcane issue matters.

In the …

Oct. 9, 2014 by Erin Kesler
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Today, OSHA announced that it is seeking new ideas from stakeholders about preventing workplace injuries caused by exposure to harmful chemicals. The agency wants to identify new ways to develop Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), the basic standards for reducing air contaminants.  

CPR's Executive Director Matthew Shudtz responded to the development:

It’s great that Dr. Michaels is continuing to seek new ways to eliminate or manage chemical hazards in the workplace.  OSHA has been relying on outdated standards for too long. But rulemaking is not the only way to address these hazards.  OSHA needs to use the enforcement tools it has available, especially the General Duty Clause.  With the General Duty Clause, OSHA can cite employers who are lagging behind industry standards for chemical exposure.

Last year, OSHA released new web-based tools to help employers voluntarily limit the exposure of workers to hazardous substances. In a …

Oct. 8, 2014 by Daniel Farber
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Ebola’s natural reservoirs are animals, if only because human hosts die to too quickly. Outbreaks tend to occur in locations where changes in landscapes have brought animals and humans into closer contact.  Thus, there is considerable speculation about whether ecological factors might be related to the current outbreak. (See here).  At this point, at least, we don’t really know.  Still, it’s clear that outbreaks of diseases like ebola strengthen the case for forest conservation.  Which is also, obviously good for the environment.  But that’s not what I want to focus on here.

The Ebola outbreak also highlights the importance of the public health system.  In the places where the disease is worst in Africa, the health infrastructure is extraordinarily weak.  Obviously that’s not true here.  But we’re also seeing the importance of the public health infrastructure in the U.S., as …

Oct. 2, 2014 by James Goodwin
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Apparently undeterred by all the bad press it has received lately, the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy has cast its controversy-attracting lightning rod ever higher in the air by issuing a feeble comment letter attacking the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pending rulemaking to define the scope of the Clean Water Act (“Waters of the US rule”).  The letter is just the latest evidence that the SBA Office of Advocacy has no interest in working to advance the unique interests of real small businesses—in accordance with its clear legal mandate—but instead is entirely focused on seeking to block those rules that are opposed by large business interests and their conservative allies.  

In its recent scathing report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) raised several disturbing questions about whether and to what extent the SBA Office of Advocacy is actually fulfilling its statutory mission …

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CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Oct. 29, 2014

Big OSHA Fine for Wayne Farms Poultry Processor a Win for Workers

Oct. 28, 2014

EPA Sends Coal Ash Rule to OIRA

Oct. 23, 2014

CPR Submits Comments on Proposed Permit for Maryland's Industrial Animal Farms

Oct. 14, 2014

For Attorney General, A Tough Prosecutor

Oct. 13, 2014

A Mass-Based Cap for Power Plants

Oct. 9, 2014

Statement of CPR Executive Director Matt Shudtz on OSHA's Call for Dialogue on Chemical Exposure

Oct. 8, 2014

Lessons From an Epidemic