Shedding Light on Political Ads: Database Should Be Comprehensive, Easier to Use

On Aug. 26, the Center for Effective Government joined comments by the Public Interest Public Airwaves Coalition and the Sunlight Foundation urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make information about televised political advertisements more accessible. Greater disclosure of political ad spending will strengthen the integrity of our elections by informing voters about who is buying such ads.

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New Clean Water Initiatives Welcome but Highlight Need for More Oversight and Enforcement

August is National Water Quality Month, and efforts to clean and protect water resources have never been more important. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced new initiatives to reduce water pollution and modernize existing clean water programs. In addition, the agency expects to propose improved drinking water standards within the year, according to the latest Unified Regulatory Agenda. Still, EPA has yet to address a number of serious health and safety risks related to water quality.

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Means-Testing Would Undermine the Medicare Program

President Obama has proposed increasing "means-testing" within the Medicare program as a way to reduce the federal budget deficit; in other words, higher-income seniors would pay more for their health care under the program. This is one of the worst ways to achieve savings through cuts to Medicare and could impose significant costs on middle-income seniors, reduce health care coverage, and undermine political support for the effective program.

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Fixing Chemical Security after West, Texas

In the aftermath of the West Fertilizer explosion in April, Congress and the Obama administration are looking for ways they can better address chemical plant security and safety. A congressional hearing on Aug. 1 focused on how the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) chemical security program missed problems at the West Fertilizer plant. On the same day, President Obama issued a new executive order instructing federal agencies to form a working group to identify and fix any regulatory or informational loopholes.

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Medicare Savings: Cut Benefits to the Elderly or to Big Pharma's Windfall Profits?

Potentially central to any fiscal deal later this year are savings in the government's popular Medicare program that currently helps about 52 million Americans obtain health care. However, the way those savings are achieved will have vastly different consequences for older Americans.

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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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