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Analyze Always, Regulate Never

(Cross-posted from CitizenVox, Public Citizen’s blog.)

by Amit Narang and Bartlett Naylor

After two years of studying the proposed Volcker Rule, with 20,000 comments from bankers and the public, hundreds of meetings with Wall Street lobbyists, and 18 months past the rule’s congressionally mandated deadline for enactment, we’re now being told by the American Action Forum (AAF) — a self-described “center right policy institute” — that this was a rush job. Continue reading

The SCRUB Act: Another Anti-Regulatory Bill Targets Health, Safety, and Environmental Protections

(Cross-posted from the The Fine Print, the Center for Effective Government’s blog)

by Katie Weatherford, February 18, 2014

On Feb. 11, the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law held a hearing on yet another anti-regulatory bill that attempts to undermine our nation’s important health, safety, and environmental protections. The bill, entitled the “Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act of 2014,” would establish a “retrospective regulatory review commission” that would grant unaccountable, non-expert political appointees the power to override our nation’s most crucial health, safety, and environmental safeguards. Continue reading

Chicken Inspector Rule_0

Senator Tester Says USDA Should Put the Brakes on Controversial Poultry Inspection Rule

Senator Jon Tester of Montana has expressed his concerns to the administration. In a recent letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Tester wrote:

“Without adequate scientific analysis to ensure the new process improves the safety of poultry slaughter and evisceration plants, it is premature to propose a rule that would standardize these practices across all plants. USDA should delay the proposed rules and reevaluate the pilot on food safety and market competition.”

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Food safety and worker safety advocates have been campaigning against a proposal by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to “modernize” poultry inspection – by taking federal food safety inspectors off the line and essentially replacing them with processing company employees. It’s worrying for food safety because the company inspectors would have to visually inspect about three chickens per second; processing plants that have tried the system under a pilot program have produced birds contaminated with feathers, bile and feces. And it’s worrying for worker safety because poultry processing is already an extremely dangerous job, and the proposed rule would allow companies to speed up the lines. (Much more information in our poultry rule information center.)

The Senator is right to speak out. The rule is currently in USDA’s hands, but expected to be sent to the White House for review soon. The Obama Administration should stop this ill-conceived proposal in its tracks.

Attribution: The Economist / Dave Simonds

Consumer Protections at Stake in Trans-Atlantic “Trade” Deal

A “trade” deal only in name, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) would require the United States and European Union (EU) to conform domestic food and product safety standards, financial regulations, climate policies, data privacy protections and other non-trade policies to TAFTA rules – rules that are being negotiated in secret.

Some products and services that do not meet U.S. health and safety standards could be allowed into our markets. State and local governments could be forced to weaken health and safety standards and give up long-standing tools for local job creation. And the U.S. could be required to conform to new standards negotiated for corporate convenience, instead of standards developed through state and national laws over decades. The goal is to finish the sweeping deal by the end of 2014.

The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards and Public Citizen have assembled a list of the 10 biggest threats that TAFTA poses to consumers, workers and the environment. See it here:

The Top Ten Threats of the Trans-Atlantic “Trade” Deal To Americans’ Daily Lives (11/07/13)

Congressional Mandates Obstructed, Public Pays the Price

On October 25, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards co-sponsored Delayed, Diluted and Defunct: How Congressional Mandates are Thwarted by the Broken Regulatory Process, a briefing for Senate staff.

The speakers presented a series of examples of congressional mandates for public protections that were or are stalled or weakened in the rulemaking process — from food safety rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act to consumer financial protections mandated by the Dodd-Frank law and air pollution controls required by the Clean Air Act.

The speakers described the consequences of regulatory delay, such as when lives are lost while a worker safety regulation is delayed due to political interference or demands for additional analysis. They argued for transparency and de-ossifying the rulemaking process, and warned against a series of congressional bills that would make it harder for agencies to issue new protections mandated by congress.

Our thanks to the speakers: Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen; John Walke, Director of Clean Air Program, Natural Resources Defense Council; Peg Seminario, Health and Safety Director, AFL-CIO; Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest; Marcus Stanley, Policy Director, Americans for Financial Reform; Katherine McFate, President, Center for Effective Government.

To the sponsoring organizations: Center for Effective Government, Center for Progressive Reform, National Consumers League, Public Citizen, and the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards

And to the host, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Actions.

Among the materials provided at the briefing:

Bill in Congress:

  • Decoding the Bill: Lobbying Records Show That Electric Utility Industry Dominates Push for Deregulatory ‘REINS’ Legislation (Public Citizen)
  • The Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act: Politicizing Independent Agencies and Putting Americans in Harm’s Way (Coalition for Sensible Safeguards)
  • The Regulatory Accountability Act of 2013: Legislation Would Override and Threaten Decades of Public Protections (Coalition for Sensible Safeguards)
  • Return of the Regulatory Accountability Act: A Veiled Threat to Public Protections (Center for Effective Government)
  • Republican Bills Would Obstruct Enforcement of Environmental Laws (NRDC)
  • The REINS Act: Why Congress Should Hold its Horses (NRDC)

Regulatory Delay:

  • Clarity on Clean Water Protection Is Coming, but How Long Will it Take? (Center for Effective Government)
  • Testimony of Peg Seminario, Director Safety and Health, AFL-CIO Before the Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights, and Agency Action Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on “Justice Delayed: The Human Cost of Regulatory Paralysis” (AFL-CIO)
  • Down the Regulatory Rabbit Hole: How Corporate Influence, Judicial Review and a Lack of Transparency Delay Crucial Rules and Harm the Public (Coalition for Sensible Safeguards)

Broken Regulatory Process:

  • Disclosure at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs: Written Comments and Telephone Records Suspiciously Absent (Center for Effective Government)
  • Key Recommendations for The Next Regulatory Czar’s Critical Mission: Will He Rebuild a Regulatory System that Works for the Public Interest? (Coalition for Sensible Safeguards)
  • The Perils of OIRA Regulatory Review: Reforms Needed to Address Rampant Delays and Secrecy (Public Citizen)
  • President’s Spring Agenda Signals Continued Delays on New Rules (Center for Effective Government)

Six Month Anniversary of West, Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion

Today is the 6 month anniversary of the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion, a disaster that destroyed a community, claimed 15 lives, and injured over 160 others. The West Fertilizer Company supplied chemicals to farmers since it was founded in 1962, and was last inspected by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration in 1985.

West Texas

In the aftermath of the explosion, the operator of the fertilizer plant was cited for 24 safety violations and charged $118,300 in penalties. Safety violations included exposing workers to explosion hazards and chemical burns, unsafe handling and storage of chemicals, failing to have an emergency response plan and not having an appropriate number of fire extinguishers.

The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) reported that regulation of the dangerous chemicals used in the industry fall under shoddy standards that are dated and far weaker than standards in other countries. However, Texas, which has the country’s highest number of workplace fatalities, is still wary of regulations.

During the government shutdown 90% of CSB employees were furloughed, causing a delay in the investigation of the West, Texas disaster.

Advocates Oppose Poultry Modernization Rule: Food and Worker Safety Experts Unfurl 500,000 Signatures Outside White House Opposing a New USDA Regulation

On Thursday, September 26th, a coalition of food and worker safety advocates and allies rolled out the names of over 500,000 people opposing a rollback to the USDA poultry processing system that could increase food poisoning for American consumers and put workers at risk of serious harm.

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The press conference showcased a man in a chicken suit covered in “feces”, “bile”, “pus”, “salmonella”, and “campylobacter”. The groups involved, including Interfaith Worker Justice, Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, Center for Effective Government, Food and Water Watch, Government Accountability Project, AFGE, SumOfUs.org, and others rolled out papers with the names of 500,000 people who have signed action alerts, petitions or comments opposing this rule (like this one from retired poultry inspector Phyllis Mckively).   Advocates encouraged the White House to take the many concerns of these groups into considerations instead of moving forward with the change.

“Mounting opposition and media attention to loosening  blog4USDA inspection in meat processing is making more people conclude that the administration is more responsive to increasing industry profits than protecting consumers from contaminants,” said Tony Corbo, Senior Lobbyist at Food & Water Watch.

This industry-friendly regulation is bad for consumers and poultry workers. In fact USDA’s own evidence on the impacts of this rule change is seriously flawed. Up to 75% of USDA inspectors will be removed and replaced with factory employees, reducing federal oversight and increasing the danger of poultry contamination, chemical residue, and food poisoning bacteria. In addition, the rule change would place poultry factory workers at severely increased risk of injury and chemical exposure by increasing production speed by up to 25 percent.

To take action against this pro-industry, anti-consumer regulation, sign the petition to President Obama urging him to reverse the USDA’s horrible poultry regulations. VIEW THE PETITION HERE: http://action.sumofus.org/a/usda-chicken/?sub=pr-

The official blog of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards

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