Delayed Health and Safety Standards Cost Lives

On Tuesday, I testified at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce about why critical health and safety standards were being delayed and how we could improve the timeliness and transparency of the rulemaking process. A condensed version of my oral testimony follows, along with a link to my written testimony.

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Attempts to Use Congressional Review Act for Proposed Rules Threaten All Public Safeguards

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has recently taken an unprecedented action by introducing a joint resolution to disapprove of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed greenhouse gas emissions limits for new power plants. Through the resolution, McConnell is attempting to utilize the accelerated legislative procedures provided in the Congressional Review Act, even though the law was designed only for reviewing final agency rules.

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Idaho's "Ag-Gag" Law Threatens Transparency, Food Safety, and Workers' Rights

On Feb. 28, Idaho became the seventh state in the country to criminalize filming abusive or otherwise unethical activities on farms. These laws (dubbed "ag-gag" laws) limit transparency and keep Americans in the dark about food safety problems. Activists, journalists, and whistleblowers play a vital role in exposing animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, and other violations on farms.

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Public Protections Budget Dashboard -- FY 2015

A critical function of our government is to protect us from known harm. We expect our national government to keep contaminated food off the grocery store shelves and out of restaurants; to prevent industrial facilities from poisoning the air and water in our communities, and to ensure we have safe workplaces. When our health and safety systems are working well, they tend to be invisible to us, and we take them for granted. It's when they fail that we pay attention. And we are likely to see more failures in coming years if we continue to reduce the resources available to public agencies when the scope and complexities of the challenges they face are increasing.

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House Republicans Return to Attacking Public Health and Environmental Protections

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on a series of anti-regulatory proposals during a campaign targeting important public health and environmental safeguards. While House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has dubbed the campaign #StopGovtAbuse Week, the proposed legislation is in fact designed to delay or halt the rulemaking process by adding time-consuming and redundant procedural hurdles, by providing regulated industries additional opportunities to delay the process, and by stripping away the public's right to petition agencies when they fail to act.

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Communities Continue to Call for Stronger Protections as Chemical Incidents Rise

As the number of chemical disasters and injuries continues to mount in 2014, evidence shows that the risks that chemical facilities present to the local communities in which they are located are greater than many residents previously understood. The Center for Effective Government has created a set of maps, showing how close many of these facilities are to schools and hospitals. The maps are helping communities press for new oversight, safer chemicals, and stronger enforcement of existing standards to prevent future disasters.

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OSHA's Overlooked Gift to the Chemical Industry

A recent blog post by labor lawyer Steven Wodka highlights a concerning change in how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires chemical companies to classify cancer-causing chemicals that is likely to pose significant problems for OSHA’s ability to enforce how employers warn workers of the dangers associated with the chemicals they work with.

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Rules to Watch (and Wait) for in 2014

Just before Thanksgiving, the White House quietly released the 2013 Unified Agenda, which contains information on a broad range of upcoming regulatory actions, as well as agencies’ regulatory plans detailing the most important significant regulatory and deregulatory actions they expect to propose or finalize during the coming year. On Jan. 7, agencies published in the Federal Register their regulatory flexibility agendas describing a subset of regulatory actions under development that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. While some important health and safety rules are slated to move forward, the Unified Agenda indicates that many long-awaited actions will not advance as proposed or final rules this year.

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Government Contracting Policies Should Emphasize Safe Workplaces

Public contract money continues to flow to some corporations that have repeatedly put their own workers at excessive risk, even to companies where workers have died on the job, according to a report issued last week by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

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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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