Public Safeguards Given Little Weight at Conference on Natural Gas Expansion

On July 25, the Bipartisan Policy Center hosted an event to explore the impact of the rapid expansion of shale gas on the U.S. economy, trade, and geopolitics. Most of the discussion from panelists focused on the economic opportunities that exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) abroad would create for U.S. firms. But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), in a keynote speech, highlighted the importance of strong public protections as the U.S. maps out its energy future. He cautioned that the United States needs to "look before we leap" as we make choices about expanded energy development.

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With New Leader in Place, EPA Can Recommit to Its Environmental Agenda

On July 18, the Senate confirmed Gina McCarthy to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ending a 136-day delay. Nominated by President Obama in March, McCarthy was finally cleared by a bipartisan vote of 59-40.

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Updated Database Reveals Significant Chemical Risks Are Distributed Across the Country

The latest data on chemical storage risks shows that over 50 billion pounds of toxic and flammable chemicals are stored at 12,761 facilities nationwide. As the tragic explosions at the West, TX fertilizer plant and a Geismar, LA chemical plant have demonstrated, these facilities pose serious threats to workers and communities throughout the country. The distribution of high-risk chemical facilities – i.e., those that handle significant quantities of 140 dangerous chemicals – are available at a website the Center for Effective Government created and maintains through the Right-to-Know Network (RTKNET.org).

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President's Spring Agenda Signals Continued Delays on New Rules

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) quietly published its highly anticipated Spring 2013 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions (Unified Agenda) on July 3. The spring agenda, like the previous fall agenda, does not show a strong commitment to advancing public health, safety, or environmental protections. Rather, it shows only slight progress on rules that have been under development for years and does not suggest the administration will address the pervasive delays or lack of transparency that currently plague the rulemaking process.

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As Negotiations Begin, Advocates Decry Secrecy and Substance of U.S.-EU Trade Agreement

On July 8, negotiators from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the European Union began meetings on the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), also known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The negotiations are largely focused on reducing so-called "regulatory trade barriers" and "non-tariff issues," meaning they will target important consumer and environmental protections. Citizen groups and consumer advocates continue to warn the public about the threats TAFTA poses to public protections and democratic rights.

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Agribusiness Subsidy Cuts Could Save Food Stamps in the Farm Bill

Last week, the House broke with four decades of congressional tradition and narrowly passed a federal Farm Bill, 216-208, without any Democratic support. The break in tradition came when the House stripped nutrition programs – notably food stamps, vital to nearly one in seven struggling Americans – out of the bill after many Republicans voted against an earlier version because they felt it did not cut enough out of the food stamp program.

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Key Transparency Fund Threatened Again in House Budget

A key fund for government transparency programs is once again facing cuts. On July 10, the House Financial Services and General Government appropriations subcommittee approved a bill that provides no funding for the Electronic Government Fund (E-Gov Fund), the driving force behind many recent open government innovations. Instead, the bill merges the E-Gov Fund with another fund and cuts their combined funding level 15 percent from last year.

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Obama Vows to Finalize Carbon Standards, Other Safeguards in Climate Change Plan

In a press conference on June 25, President Obama revealed his plan to address climate change. Delivering on a promise he made nearly four months ago during his State of the Union address, the president said that if Congress failed to protect future generations from the impacts of climate change, he would.

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Congressional Briefing Debunks Anti-Regulatory Myths Behind "Reform" Bills

Last week, members of the House hosted an expert panel discussion to set the record straight on recurring anti-regulatory myths and dangerous legislative proposals. Aptly titled "Anti-Regulatory Myths: What Regulatory Critics Don't Tell You," the congressional briefing highlighted the importance of much-needed safeguards and debunked the most common misconceptions surrounding the regulatory process and the impacts of rules.

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Transparency and Trade Agreements: If the Public Wouldn't Like It, Don't Sign It

On June 7, a panel of federal judges ruled that international trade deals can be exempted from federal disclosure laws. This decision, coupled with the unprecedented secrecy surrounding the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which kicks off the 18th round of negotiations in two weeks), strips the American people of their voice and overrides the principle that public support or opposition of such agreements should guide U.S. policy.

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