Accelerating Approvals of U.S. Natural Gas Exports Increases Risks of Environmental Disasters and Rising Energy Costs

Long before Russia's annexation of Crimea last month, companies and trade associations that support exporting U.S. liquefied natural gas called for accelerating the existing export review and approval process. With mounting concerns that Russia will continue its incursion into Ukraine, through which major Russian natural gas pipelines travel, U.S. export proponents are seizing the opportunity to repackage their agenda by framing it as a strong signal to Russia that its power over the global liquefied natural gas market is diminishing. However, significantly expanding U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas overseas has major economic and environmental risks, and proposals to accelerate the approval process for export projects in response to the crisis in Ukraine would only enhance these threats.

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EPA’s Farmworker Protection Standard Proposal -- An (Insufficient) Step Forward

On March 19, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its proposal to revise the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS), which was first announced by the agency on Feb. 20.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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