OMB, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hold Forum on Trade Agreements and Regulations

On April 10, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) co-hosted a two-day stakeholder session with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of its annual High Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum. The forum provides an opportunity for members of the business community to tell American and European officials how they would like the standards and safeguards that regulate their activities to be "harmonized." For the business community, "harmonization" is generally viewed as an opportunity to move to the lowest standards, or in the language of free trade, to remove or reduce "trade irritants." The exchange at the forum was between business and government; few public interest representatives were allowed to participate.

read in full

We Need Protection from Industrial Hazards in Our Communities

On Wednesday, a fire at the West Fertilizer Co. in West, TX, caused an explosion so powerful it registered 2.1 on the Richter scale and leveled significant parts of this rural community.  As many as 15 people died and around 200 were injured, many gravely.  We still do not know what caused the explosion or whether it could have been prevented with better safety practices and regulatory oversight.

read in full

President Obama’s Budget Proposal Assumes Flawed Poultry Inspection Rule Will Be Finalized

Yesterday, the president released the proposed budget for funding the federal government in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. The budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) assumes savings from finalizing a controversial proposed rule to change the way chickens and other poultry are inspected in processing plants.

read in full

Protections for Miners Long Overdue

Three years ago, 29 miners were killed in the infamous Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia. Regrettably, there have been few substantial changes to prevent future mining tragedies since then.  In fact, eight other miners were killed on the job just this year.

Efforts to better protect miners with new legislation have been repeatedly blocked. Last month, the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act was introduced for the third time.

read in full

Sunstein’s “Simpler Government” Is Legally Suspect, Overly Secretive And Politically Unaccountable

By Lisa Heinzerling
Originally posted on Think Progress

In his new book, “Simpler: The Future of Government,” Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein writes about his nearly four years as President Barack Obama’s “regulatory czar.” As the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (known as “OIRA”) within the Office of Management and Budget, Sunstein oversaw the regulatory output of the many agencies of the executive branch. Rules on worker health, environmental protection, food safety, health care, consumer protection, and more all passed through Sunstein’s inbox.

read in full

Long-Term Chemical Hazards Pose Significant Challenges for Workplace Safety Agency

The New York Times published a front-page story over the weekend focusing on the problems the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) faces in trying to protect workers from latent hazards posed by chemical exposures at work.

read in full

Tragic Grain Silo Deaths Highlight Need for Stronger Workplace Safety Enforcement

For anybody concerned about worker safety, recent stories by NPR, the Center for Public Integrity, PBS Newshour, and the Kansas City Star are must-reads. These news reports highlight the recent, tragic deaths of two teenagers who were suffocated in grain storage bins while "walking" the grain (breaking it up so it could flow more easily out of the silos).

read in full

Anti-Regulatory Forces Target Agency Science to Undermine Health and Safety Standards

As committees of the 113th Congress begin to implement their agendas, it is increasingly apparent that environmental and health standards, and the science serving as the basis for these protections, will remain a favorite target of anti-regulatory legislators. Last session's industry-supported proposals to change scientific assessment programs would undermine environmental, health, and safety standards, yet they are likely to reappear. Meanwhile, new investigations underscore that these measures ignore the real impediments to improving the credibility and usefulness of agency science and risk assessments.

read in full

Stronger Standards for Hazardous Chemicals Benefit the Public and Spur Innovation

Stronger standards for hazardous chemicals not only protect human health and the environment, but can also spur innovation and benefit the economy. A recent report, Driving Innovation: How stronger laws help bring safer chemicals to market, examined the impact of laws governing hazardous chemicals and found that the prospect of stricter laws on toxic chemicals sparked the invention, development, and adoption of alternatives. The demand for these alternatives is growing globally.

read in full

More American Workers Will Die as Silica Rule Delayed

Silica has long been known to cause silicosis, a progressive, irreversible, but preventable lung disease that kills people. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that in 2007, 120 workers died from silicosis; 180-360 new cases of the disease are reported each year. Recent evidence shows that silica exposure also causes lung cancer. OSHA estimates that a lower allowable limit on silica in the workplace would prevent 60 deaths each year.

read in full