Standards and Safeguards in 2013

Agencies rolled out few health, safety, or environmental standards in the first quarter of 2013, despite hopes that President Obama would commit more attention to agencies' regulatory agendas after winning reelection. But in the spring, the gears began to move as the administration focused on implementing crucial public protections and the new director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Howard Shelanski, made good on his promise to cut the backlog of rules waiting for review at OIRA. With the gridlock on legislation in Congress, many are looking for the administration to be more active in moving rules and action through the executive branch.

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EPA Scientists Deem Benzo(a)pyrene a Cancer-causing Chemical

On Aug. 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a draft revised health assessment of the toxic chemical benzo(a)pyrene (BaP). This chemical is widely found in the environment and in a number of workplaces, and in its assessment, EPA declared that BaP causes cancer.

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Court Rejects Industry Challenge to Styrene Listing in the Report on Carcinogens

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently rejected industry challenges to an agency's decision to list the chemical styrene in the Twelfth Report on Carcinogens as "reasonably anticipated" to be a cancer-causing agent. A major styrene trade association and a manufacturer of the substance had sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for including styrene in the report.

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After Four Years, Obama Delivers Policy Leadership on Transparency, but Agency Implementation Is Inconsistent

Four years ago, President Obama entered office offering an inspiring vision for a more open and participatory government. A new report by Center for Effective Government staff credits the Obama administration for using its first term to construct a policy foundation that could make that vision a reality. However, the actual implementation of open government policies within federal agencies has been inconsistent and sometimes weak.

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Obama's Legacy of Transparency is Unfinished

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2013—In a report released today, the Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch) examines the Obama administration's progress on open government during the president's first term. The review finds that the administration has issued important policy reforms, but that the implementation of White House policies has been inconsistent across federal agencies.

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Controversy Mounts over EPA’s Release of Draft Report on Fracking

On May 3, the Associated Press reported that the governor of Wyoming pressured the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to delay the release of a draft study linking a controversial natural gas extraction process, commonly referred to as fracking, to the contamination of drinking water. Wyoming officials apparently used the delay to coordinate efforts with the oil and gas industries to attack the report’s findings.

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Secrecy Still Protects Genetically Modified Foods from Disclosure

The use of genetically engineered (GE) crops has increased enormously over the last decade, without a corresponding increase in government oversight. Industry has fought hard against strict oversight and testing and has even blocked efforts to label GE food products as such, leaving U.S. consumers in the dark about how their food is produced and what it contains. As consumers have become increasingly concerned about food safety and health, demands for federal and state food labeling legislation have intensified.

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Government Transparency in 2011: Moving the Chains

Heading into the holiday season, many Americans think not just of gifts and snowdrifts, but also of another winter tradition: football. As it happens, gridiron analogies are a good way to think about the year's events in the arena of government transparency and right-to-know. In March, OMB Watch published an assessment of President Obama's first two seasons as coach, which showed remarkable progress for Team Transparency. Throughout 2011, Obama and his staff made strong decisions, but there were also a few setbacks along the way.

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Administration Fumbling Toward Scientific Integrity

The Obama administration's efforts to protect scientific integrity moved forward recently with the submission of five finalized agency policies and 14 draft policies, but progress has been slow and haphazard. The administration recognizes that sound, uncensored science is critically important to protecting public health and the environment. The administration also understands that agencies should foster a culture of scientific integrity that includes effective policies and oversight to protect science from political manipulation and research misconduct. However, it has yet to undo the damage wrought by the previous administration.

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Congress Pushes to Strip EPA Authority to Regulate Greenhouse Gases

Congressional leaders are acting on several proposals to strip the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). A House committee has passed one piece of legislation, and the Senate is expected to vote on a similar measure when it reconvenes in late March.

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