March 15, 2010 by Ben Somberg

Drywall Trial Begins Today in New Orleans

A year after the contaminated drywall story went big, a "test trial" over damages from the material begins today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The court has posted documents regarding the case here, and outlets covering the case include the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Bradenton Herald, and Palm Beach Post.

March 15, 2010 by Ben Somberg

The Wall Street Journal had what seemed like a major scoop over the weekend:

A federal safety investigation of the Toyota Prius that was involved in a dramatic incident on a California highway last week found a particular pattern of wear on the car's brakes that raises questions about the driver's version of the event, three people familiar with the investigation said.


During and after the incident, Mr. Sikes said he was using heavy pressure on his brake pedal at high speeds.

But the investigation of the vehicle, carried out jointly by safety officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Toyota engineers, didn't find signs the brakes had been applied at full force at high speeds over a sustained period of time, the three people familiar with the investigation said.

The brakes were discolored and showed wear, but the pattern of friction …

March 12, 2010 by Ben Somberg

This item, by Liz Borkowski, is cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

Exactly one year ago, President Obama issued a memorandum on scientific integrity that gave the Office of Science and Technology Policy 120 days to “develop recommendations for Presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch” based on six principles that Obama specified. OSTP solicited public input to inform its drafting of the recommendations.

It’s now been 365 days, and OSTP hasn’t released its recommendations. Why the delay? Since President Obama issued the scientific integrity memo during his first hundred days in office, this is evidently an important issue for him.

Although advocates for scientific integrity have welcomed many of Obama’s decisions and appointments, threats to the integrity of government science haven’t disappeared. As I noted last week, my colleagues and I have just released a report on scientists in …

March 3, 2010 by Ben Somberg

This post, by Sarah Vogel, is cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

If you thought the scientific debate about bisphenol A was over or even quieting down, you haven’t been reading the latest issues of Toxicological Sciences. (What are you doing with your spare time?) Last month in an editorial piece published in the journal, Richard Sharpe queried: “Is It Time to End Concerns over the Estrogenic Effects of Bisphenol A?”  His answer was an unequivocal ‘yes’, based on the latest study from Ryan et al.  (published in the same issue) that found no reproductive effects from bisphenol A exposure in rats.  The study, according to Sharpe, “throws cold water on this controversy.”

Not so fast.  On Wednesday, February 17, 2010, the journal published a second letter to the editors, “Flawed Experimental Design Reveals the Need for Guidelines Requiring Appropriate Positive Controls in Endocrine Disruption Research,” by …

March 1, 2010 by Ben Somberg

Water pollution / water law on the front page of the Times and the Post on the same day?! Yep.

NYTimes: Rulings Restrict Clean Water Act, Hampering E.P.A.

WashPost: Rising with a bullet among top pollutants: Number Two

Feb. 22, 2010 by Ben Somberg

Representatives Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak have released a batch of documents this afternoon on the day before their committee hearing on the Toyota debacle. Their focus is largely on the issue of the possible role of electronic failures as a cause of sudden unintended acceleration cases. They criticized Toyota's response to the reports of electronic problems, and in their letter to transportaiton secretary Ray LaHood, say:

Our preliminary review of the documents and the information learned from the meetings with NHTSA officials raises two significant concerns. First, NHTSA appears to lack the expertise needed to evaluate defects in vehicle electronic controls. ... Second, NHTSA's response to complaints of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles appears to have been seriously deficient.


Feb. 18, 2010 by Ben Somberg

Just to give you an idea of the scope of the situation in Tennessee: More than 3 million cubic yards of coal ash were released into the waterways in the Kingston coal ash disaster in late 2008. This week comes news from cleanup officials that the removal of that waste is 70 percent complete. The EPA's PowerPoint shows that removal of the coal ash from the river is slightly ahead of forecast (slide 16).

So, just a half million cubic yards plus to go. Oh, but don't forget, says the Tennessean:

TVA plans to remove the more than 2 million cubic yards that lie just west of the river in a second phase that could take three years. The total cost of the cleanup effort could reach $1.2 billion.

Officials managing the cleanup can be forgiven for their enthusiasm at the progress to date …

Feb. 15, 2010 by Ben Somberg

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had its latest article on BPA this weekend, this time looking at the role of the December 22 meeting between the industry and OIRA. Writer Meg Kissinger contrasts the forceful EPA statements on BPA from last year with the lack of an EPA action plan on the chemical now. As for the documents presented to OIRA at the meeting,

The Journal Sentinel reviewed the list and found 13 of the 19 papers and presentations cited were paid for by the BPA industry. The funding source for the authors of two other papers could not be determined. Only one was written by a scientist without ties to the industry.

Perhaps it's not surprising. But it bears noting that this is what's going on over there.

Feb. 10, 2010 by Ben Somberg

According to recent statements from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) press office, Administrator Cass Sunstein and staff are adamantly committed to granting an audience with OIRA senior staff to anyone who asks to see them about anything, and most especially pending health and safety rules. So not only are special interests granted second, third, fourth, and fifth audiences with OIRA staff after far more qualified political appointees and technical experts at agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration have considered but refused to acquiesce to their demands, OIRA imposes no limits on how many times the same interest group—and even the same individual lobbyist—comes to the White House to whine. The most blatant example of this pseudo-transparency-turned-lobbyist-free-for-all is the uncontrolled swarming of special interests with respect to the pending EPA proposal to treat coal ash as a …

Feb. 9, 2010 by Ben Somberg

CPR today releases the white paper Workers at Risk: Regulatory Dysfunction at OSHA (press release).

The report examines an Occupational Safety and Health Administration where

Today its enforcement staff is stretched thin and the rulemaking staff struggle to produce health and safety standards that can withstand industry legal challenges. In short, OSHA is a picture of regulatory dysfunction.

The new leadership of the agency has

... inherited a resource-starved agency operating under a statute that has been enfeebled by 30 years of troubling appellate court decisions and White House initiatives that substantially increase the time and effort needed to implement a proactive regulatory agenda.

The CPR scholars propose remedies including:

  • End the practice of regularly discounting penalties before they’re even proposed.
  • Publish all negotiated settlement proposals for public comment.
  • Conduct a rigorous analysis of what resources would be required to make the OSHA inspection program a credible …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
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Mancini 'Leads' OIRA as Deputy Administrator

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There is Now No OIRA Administrator

Feb. 28, 2013

Robert Glicksman Testifies in House Hearing on Regulatory Policy

Jan. 11, 2013

CPR Report: Rise in Contract Labor Brings New Worker Safety Threats, Demands New Government Policies in Several Dangerous Industries

Nov. 26, 2012

Noah Sachs Op-Ed: Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act Would Further Politicize Rulemaking