Citizen Health & Safety / Setting and Enforcing Regulations
The safety standards on which we rely daily for our food, medicines and cars. The energy and climate policies needed to save our planet. The new financial regulations designed to prevent banks from gambling with our money and creating another crisis. These are policies that should be determined in open, democratic venues where we have a say. But a group of the largest U.S. and European banks and corporations want to rewrite these safeguards behind closed doors. For over a decade, they have pushed for a new U.S. "trade" deal with Europe – the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), which corporate proponents have branded the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – a deal that would roll back consumer protections on both sides of the Atlantic.read in full
Apr 29, 2015 by Katie Weatherford
On April 28, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reviewed proposed legislation from Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and Tom Udall (D-NM) to revise the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), our nation's primary chemical safety law. Despite numerous attempts to constructively amend the flawed bill, the committee failed to fix the legislation and sent it on to the Senate floor.read in full
Apr 20, 2015 by Amanda Frank
Five years ago, an offshore oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and causing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. The BP oil spill fouled the Gulf with over 172 million gallons of crude oil. The aftermath of the spill is still visible on certain coastlines, and a toxic chemical that BP used to "clean up" the oil is still injuring people and wildlife in the region.read in full
Mar 24, 2015 by Amanda Frank
Last month, we wrote about the rise in crude oil train accidents and the need to approve federal crude-by-rail safeguards as quickly as possible. These rules, currently under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, would require thicker walls on oil tankards and impose speed limits on oil trains.read in full
Mar 23, 2015 by Amanda Frank
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) just released a long-awaited rule that regulates fracking on federal and tribal lands, the first revision to federal fracking standards in almost 30 years. BLM currently manages over 100,000 oil and gas wells – over 90 percent of which are fracked. The rule establishes minimum safeguards that must be followed when drilling occurs on federal or tribal lands.read in full
A 300-Foot High Fireball from an Exploding Bakken Oil Train: When Will New Rail Safety Standards Be Approved?
Feb 18, 2015 by Amanda Frank
UPDATE (May 1, 2015): The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released their final rule today on crude-by-rail safeguards. These rules will apply to trains carrying certain amounts of flammable liquids, including Bakken crude oil and other flammable substances like ethanol.
The rule requires all tank cars constructed after Oct. 1, 2015 to have shells that are at least 9/16th of an inch thick. Older cars that do not meet this standard must be retrofitted within the next two to 10 years, depending on car type.
The rule also requires rail companies to adopt advanced braking systems over the next six to eight years, including electronically controlled pneumatic systems (ECP) that allow train cars to brake simultaneously and decrease stopping distances. The rule sets an overall speed limit of 50 mph for oil trains and a 40 mph limit for trains passing through densely populated urban areas while carrying cars not yet meeting the new tank car standards.
Unfortunately, the rule does not require railroad companies to notify state and local officials when they are moving crude and other hazardous materials through their jurisdictions. Instead, state and local decision makers must contact railroads to ask for routing information, and the companies are required to provide officials with the industry contact person who can address their questions. This is an unnecessarily roundabout way to disclose crucial information to those charged with protecting residents and businesses from health hazards and destruction in the event of an oil train derailment or explosion.
A bill introduced yesterday by seven Senate Democrats seeks to eliminate this communication gap and grant much-needed resources to local emergency response teams. It would require railroad companies to provide real-time data on train movements and would also raise revenue for advanced training on responding to oil train accidents. The bill would also speed up the phase-out of older, more dangerous tank car models.
UPDATE (Mar. 25, 2015): Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation today that would create stronger crude-by-rail safeguards than those currently under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Among other things, the Cantwell-Baldwin bill would require the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to limit the volatile gases in crude oil that is transported by rail. The PHMSA and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rules currently under review require thicker tank car shells but do not regulate the crude itself, which is highly volatile and can explode during accidents.
The Cantwell-Baldwin bill would also ban certain classes of older tank cars, immediately removing 37,700 unsafe cars from use. It requires railroad companies to alert state and local emergency response officials when moving crude through communities and significantly increases fines for violations.
On Presidents' Day, a train carrying volatile crude oil derailed in Fayette County, West Virginia, igniting several railcars and creating a fireball 300 feet high. While no one was seriously injured, the incident is a stark reminder of the need for stronger safeguards to protect communities near the tracks that transport crude oil.read in full
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Bill Promotes Big Industry Interests in the Guise of Helping Small Business
Jan 27, 2015 by Ronald White
Under the cynical guise of helping small businesses, on Jan. 27, the House Judiciary Committee will mark up, and the House will soon likely pass, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015 (SBRFIA, H.R. 527).read in full
Jan 23, 2015 by Katie Weatherford
If passed, the REINS Act would require congressional approval of all major rules, potentially endangering the most important safeguards to our health, safety, environment, and economy.read in full
Jan 12, 2015 by Katie Weatherford
On Jan. 7, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 185). This measure would cripple our process for issuing and enforcing the rules that ensure we have clean air and water, safe food and consumer products, fair wages and safe workplaces, stable financial markets, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and so many other essential protections.read in full
Jan 8, 2015 by Katie Weatherford
UPDATE (1/8/2015): The White House has announced that EPA will not meet today’s deadline for issuing a final rule to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. Instead, the agency will not finalize the rule until mid-summer, skirting a statutory deadline that requires EPA to finalize the rule within one year of its proposal. On a press call Jan.read in full