Outsourcing Public Jobs Undermines the Middle Class

An excellent new study by In the Public Interest, Race to the Bottom: How Outsourcing Public Services Rewards Corporations and Punishes the Middle Class, makes the important connections between outsourcing public services and public-sector jobs, the shrinking of the American middle class, and the increase in economic inequality in the United States.

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UPDATE: California Leads Nation on Limiting 'Erin Brockovich' Chemical in Drinking Water

UPDATE (6/12/2014): California has finalized its long-awaited standard limiting the permissible level of hexavalent chromium (sometimes called “chromium 6”) in drinking water. The standard was set at 10 parts per billion (ppb), equivalent to about five teaspoons of the toxic chemical in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Once the standard takes effect on July 1, California will be the first state to impose a limit on this harmful contaminant in drinking water, taking action even before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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Illinois Bans Microbeads in Consumer Products; Congressman Introduces National Legislation

Illinois has become the first state to ban the manufacture and sale of consumer products containing synthetic plastic microbeads, frequently found in facial scrubs, body washes, and cosmetics. The state passed the ban to address an increasing water pollution problem in Lake Michigan and other waterways across Illinois.

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2014 OMB Report Shows Substantial Public Protection Benefits Achieved at Low Cost

With little fanfare late last month, the Office of Management and Budget released its 2014 draft annual report to Congress on the costs and benefits of regulations. The report, required under the Regulatory Right-to-Know Act, summarizes the benefits and costs of major federal rules – those anticipated to have an annual economic impact of $100 million or more and subject to review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at OMB – for the 2013 fiscal year, as well as for the previous decade. The report finds that once again, the nation achieved significant health, safety, environmental, and other benefits at a relatively low cost.

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Agencies Should Cooperate with Freedom of Information Ombudsman, Administrative Conference Says

Federal agencies should do more to cooperate with the government's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ombudsman, according to recommendations approved June 5 by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS). The recommendations also called for the ombudsman, known as the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), to continue efforts to assist people who make FOIA requests. The recommendation is a positive step for helping people access public information under FOIA.

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Chemical Safety Report Opens Door for Improvements, but Strong Requirements Still Needed

On June 6, the interagency working group that President Obama formed in the wake of the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion released its report to the president, conveying its recommendations for improving chemical facility safety and security. The report outlines many of the significant problems facing chemical facility safety in this country, including limited information sharing, incomplete and incompatible regulations, and the need for greater use of safer technologies. The recommendations on these problems point in the right direction but leave the details to the individual agencies to resolve as they move forward on possible regulations and policy changes.

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EPA Proposes Limits on Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Existing Power Plants

On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its long-awaited proposal to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.

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$3 Million Awarded to Texas Family Harmed by Fracking Toxins

A recent court decision out of Dallas County, Texas has made national headlines after a jury awarded $2.925 million in damages to a family harmed by Aruba Petroleum's intentional release of air toxins from fracking wells located near the family's home.

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Spring 2014 Unified Agenda: Agencies Expect Lengthy Delays of Critical Safeguards in Year Ahead

On May 23, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) quietly published its semi-annual agenda of federal agencies’ regulatory plans for significant actions expected during the upcoming year. Unfortunately, the Spring 2014 Unified Agenda does not send a strong message that the administration expects to finalize many critical safeguards, some pending for years, over the next 12 months.

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President Obama Wants More Drone Transparency, Congress Misses an Opportunity

On May 28, President Obama acknowledged the need for increased transparency about the administration’s national security activities, particularly with regard to lethal strikes by drone aircraft. However, Congress recently missed an opportunity to bring about such disclosure.

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