Jan. 5, 2011 by Matthew Freeman

David Driesen Takes a Bite out of the REINS Act in Post-Standard Op-Ed

One of the top agenda items for the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives will be pressing an anti-regulatory bill they're calling the REINS Act. The bill would subject newly minted regulations protecting health, safety, the environment and more to a requirement that  Congress adopt resolutions of approval within 90 days of the date that the regulatory agency finishes its work.  It's a miserable idea for a number of reasons, many of which CPR Member Scholar David Driesen details in an op-ed in this morning's Syracuse Post-Standard.  He writes:

Since gridlock, backed by filibusters, makes passage of legislation extremely difficult today, this approach promises to make setting significant standards to address looming problems, from climate disruption to a new potential economic crisis, very unlikely. Just to make sure that routine delays in Congress can derail even popular and obviously needed standards, the proposed legislation provides that a lack of approval in 90 days makes new agency-enacted standards invalid.

This legislation serves the interests of corporate campaign contributors, who spent an unprecedented $50 billion in Senate races alone last time around, at the expense of everybody else. And it’s completely unnecessary. Agencies left to their …

Sept. 27, 2010 by Matthew Freeman

In a CPRBlog post on Friday, 9/24, we inadvertantly referred to the Chesapeake Bay Program as the Chesapeake Bay Commission.  The Program is a regional partnership of states and the District of Columbia working together to restore the Bay.  The Commission is a group of 21 elected officials, appointees and citizen representatives conducting research, policymaking and consensus-building on Bay issues.

There's a big difference between the two entitites, their methods, and their work.  It was a simple mistake, but not insignificant.  We regret the error.  We've corrected the post, here.

July 8, 2010 by Matthew Freeman

Over on Slate this weekend, William Saletan posted an Elena Kagan piece in which he describes a 1996 incident in which the future presumptive Supreme Court Justice, then working at the White House, commented on a draft statement on “partial birth abortion” by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). 

Congress was then on the verge of banning certain abortion procedures lumped together under the umbrella of “partial birth,” a name made up by the right wing and not otherwise used by doctors. ACOG had drafted a statement saying that its select panel on the subject had concluded that while it could identify no circumstances under which the “intact D&X” procedure, which seemed to be the procedure the right wingers in Congress were after, “would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman…the potential exists that legislation prohibiting …

July 5, 2010 by Matthew Freeman

In an op-ed in this morning's Raleigh News & Observer, CPR Member Scholar Victor Flatt describes why it is that BP was allowed to drill its Macondo 252 deepwater well -- the one that is now spewing oil into the Gulf -- without conducting a serious analysis of the risks of a blowout, and providing a detailed and realistic plan describing what it would do in such a scenario. Flatt writes:

The National Environmental Policy Act requires that federal agencies analyze the environmental risks before they agree to permit activity under their jurisdiction (like drilling and operating a deepwater oil well). We know that in the Deepwater Horizon case, the MMS Minerals Management Service approved the drilling and operating permits without undergoing full NEPA analysis, instead allowing the permitting under a NEPA exception known as a categorical exclusion, an exception to be used only when there are definitively …

June 18, 2010 by Matthew Freeman

CPR President Rena Steinzor has an op-ed in this morning's Baltimore Sun on the various regulatory failures at work in the BP oil spill. She writes that important questions need to be answered "about how the federal regulatory system allowed BP and other oil companies to drill in waters so deep without effective fail-safes," and continues:

In truth, this is just the last in a string of profit-driven tragedies that have horrified us recently. Consider the 29 workers smothered in a West Virginia mine shaft; salmonella-laced peanut butter that killed nine and sickened thousands; the recall of 8 million Toyotas after as many as 89 people were killed in sudden acceleration incidents; children's toys slathered with lead paint; drywall venting sulfuric acid into living rooms; and now the worst environmental disaster in our history, which initially killed 11 workers.

The companies that caused these tragedies …

June 16, 2010 by Matthew Freeman

CPR Member Scholar Dan Farber was on the PBS NewsHour on June 14 discussing the Obama Administration's plan to force BP to establish an escrow fund to compensate victims of its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  You can see the entire interview with Ray Suarez, on the NewsHour site.  Here's a snip of the transcript:

RAY SUAREZ: Daniel Farber, you're familiar with what's in that federal oil protection act. Is there a mechanism in there for the government to say, you must create an escrow fund?

DANIEL FARBER: They're -- certainly, it's true that, at the end of the day, victims can go to court and sue. And BP also has to have a mechanism for processing claims before that. But I don't see anything at least that to my mind requires them to set up this …

June 15, 2010 by Matthew Freeman

It’s fascinating to listen to the media, with lots of encouragement from the right wing, inch its way toward blaming the BP Oil Spill on President Obama. Apparently the President’s job description includes a previously unknown provision about deep-sea plumbing expertise. 

Let’s follow the media’s path for a moment here. First we heard media whining that the President was insufficiently engaged in the crisis, on the strength of no evidence whatsoever. Then the press went through a "false equivalency" phase, with a wave of speculation over whether this was, “Obama’s Katrina.” Then we heard howls from FOX commentator Sarah Palin (she of “drill, baby, drill” fame) that he hadn’t cozied up personally to BP CEO Tony Hayward. Now former American Enterprise Institute Fellow and current Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum complains that he’s bending too far in the opposite direction …

May 9, 2010 by Matthew Freeman

CPR Member Scholar Victor Flatt has an op-ed piece in this morning's Houston Chronicle, in which he argues that the week of April 20 will likely be recalled as "one of the most pivotal and important weeks in the history of energy in this country," citing the confluence of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling platform and its disastrous environmental consequences, and the federal approval of the massive Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound to capture wind energy.  He writes:

To be sure, offshore wind power has costs: impacts on animal habitat (notably birds');, possibly on fishing and on view-scapes. But in this case, cold calculation has determined that these costs are worth it when compared to the benefits of mostly pollution-free energy production. In the last few months, studies have shown that a string of offshore wind projects along the East Coast …

April 21, 2010 by Matthew Freeman

The tagline that the producers of Food, Inc. are using to promote their Academy Award-winning documentary is “You’ll never look at dinner the same way.” They’re quite right. The film airs on many PBS stations this evening (and on others throughout the course of the next week). See for yourself.

I came to it expecting that I’d end up feeling guilty about being part of the industry-consumer web that subjects farm animals to “nasty, brutish and short” lives, before slaughtering them for hamburger. I did feel guilty, and still do, days later. But more than that, you come away from Food, Inc. convinced that in the interest of maximizing profits for the food industry, we’ve introduced hazards into the food we eat, created an obesity problem, and allowed mega-corporations to run roughshod over family farmers.

I won’t spoil the story, but the …

April 16, 2010 by Matthew Freeman

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is upset with the way administrative law works. On Thursday they released their annual report on the costs of regulations. I hesitate to dignify it with pixels, but here goes.

CEI has a problem with agency rulemaking altogether:

Congress should answer for the compliance costs (and benefits) of federal regulations. Requiring expedited votes on economically significant or controversial agency rules before they become binding on the population would reestablish congressional accountability and would help fulfill the principle of “no regulation without representation.”

First, CEI owes an apology to our revolutionary forebears for bending the notion of “no taxation without representation” into an anti-regulatory chant. And while I’m diverting, exactly who is without representation in this construction? More significantly, long before agencies adopt regulations – and in many cases, a very long time before they adopt them – elected officials have already passed health and …

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