Today CPR releases a new white paper, From Ship to Shore: Reforming the National Contingency Plan to Improve Protections for Oil Spill Cleanup Workers (press release), a look at how decisions were made about safety protections for cleanup workers in the aftermath of the BP oil spill -- and the lessons for the future.
The federal government's pre-disaster planning on worker safety issues didn't adequately consult the safety experts, and that meant the decision-making in the immediate wake of the spill couldn't be adequate. Too many cleanup workers in the Gulf were given inadequate training on the use of personal protective equipment. Employers and individual workers were left to determine on their own how to resolve the difficult question of what level of protections, such as respirators, to use.
OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are constrained to limited roles for planning for and implementing regulations related to oil spill disasters under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, the statute governing oil spill response. As a result, the federal government's advance planning for disaster response doesn't adequately incorporate agency expertise best suited for planning for worker safety issues in disaster cleanup …
CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro will be on the Leslie Marshall Show at 7:20ET this evening discussing regulatory failures, from the BP oil spill to the Katrina disaster of five years ago, and the lessons learned. The program is syndicated on TalkUSA and streams live.
CPR Member Scholar Douglas Kysar has an opinion piece in the Guardian making the case for Carbon Upsets. Upsets, you ask? That is:
Rather than award credits based on development that moves us toward a cleaner but still very dirty future, why not award credits to legal and political actions that have more dramatic impact? For instance, rather than bribe fossil fuel companies to stop flaring natural gas, why not reward indigenous groups that entirely block new exploration activities? Rather than transfer money to logging operations for incremental replanting programs, why not award credits to forest-dwelling communities that successfully fight to stop logging altogether?
CPR Member Scholar Frank Ackerman had an op-ed in the Des Moines Register the other day, "Atrazine ban would not ruin the Corn Belt."
The chemical in question is a weed-killer, and also a known endocrine disruptor. The Bush Administration's EPA determined that atrazine does not cause negative effects to human health. The Obama Administration's EPA is currently conducting a review of that assessment (stay tuned).
Ackerman responds to arguments that banning atrazine would cause huge economic harm, writing:
How great is the economic benefit of using atrazine? Several studies have estimated that atrazine boosts average corn yields by 6 percent or less. A database of field trials, maintained by consultant Richard Fawcett and relied on by atrazine supporters, shows that it increases corn yields by an average of 3 to 4 percent. The most comprehensive national study, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture …
CPR Member Scholar Rebecca Bratspies was recently on Chicago Public Radio's Worldview talking about oil spills in the developing world, the power of big companies in small nations, and the broader picture of resource extraction and its effects on people.
"any oil company that doesn't cut the same corners that the worst player does is going to be at a competitive disadvantage, and that creates a snowball effect, of choices that are not sustainable and choices that are not about doing things in a responsible fashion."
The Minerals Managements Service's coziness with an industry it was supposed to be monitoring has brought attention back to an all-too-pervasive problem: regulatory agencies becoming "captured" by the regulated industries.
This morning the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts is holding a hearing on “Protecting the Public Interest: Understanding the Threat of Agency Capture.” CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro is testifying about the nature and extent of agency capture, and what Congress can do about it. (There's also a news release.)
Shapiro says there are three preliminary types of capture:
You may have read of a letter sent by 31 Representatives to the EPA today to complain about coal ash regulation. I wasn't planning on dignifying it with a response, but sometimes something just calls out for a little highlighting. Like when the members write:
"States have been effectively regulating CCRs"
That's actually a case they want to be on record making? Really?
View of the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant fly ash spill. Photo used under Creative Commons by Brian Stansberry.
The last time the WSJ attempted a big scoop on the Toyota story (attempting to discredit the Prius driver case in California), the article did not hold up well. This week's story ("Early Tests Pin Toyota Accidents on Drivers") has caught attention, and a response from NHTSA: the agency has "several more months of work to do" before it announces conclusions of its investigation.
From the response by Safety Research & Strategies Inc.:
Recall that Toyota reported to Congress in January that the company identified 37,900 customer contact reports “potentially related to sudden unintended acceleration” analyzing “dozens” of data recorders from the thousands of complaints doesn’t extrapolate to a driver error problem. Nor does it explain the large jump in complaint rates when Toyota moved to Electronic Throttle Control (ETC).
How unintended acceleration reports went up when electronic throttle control was added to vehicles …
A report released in Washington this morning highlights "The Hidden Struggles of Migrant Worker Women In The Maryland Crab Industry." The paper, by Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. and the International Human Right Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law, is focused mostly on immigration policy issues (a little outside our purview), but I wanted to note the section on worker safety.
The report looks at the hundreds of Mexican women who travel every year to the Eastern Shore of Maryland on H-2B guestworker visas to work in the crab industry. The researchers interviewed more than 40 current or former workers, and found that:
Work-related injuries are common for many of the migrant workers in the Maryland crab industry. Use of sharp knives, contact with chemicals, lack of formal training, and the pace of work all contribute to injuries. ... In fact, cuts, scrapes …
Sorry to link to the Daily Show again, but I swear it's relevant. On last night's show, Lewis Black covered recent food safety and consumer product safety news.
"But knowingly selling us broken cars, poisoned medicines -- if I didn't know any better, I'd think these companies were just in for the money!"