New Posts

Feb 8, 2016

Top 400 Taxpayers See Tax Rates Rise, But There’s More to the Story

As Americans were gathering party supplies to greet the New Year, the Internal Revenue Service released their annual report of cumulative tax data reported on the 400 tax r...

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Feb 4, 2016

Chlorine Bleach Plants Needlessly Endanger 63 Million Americans

Chlorine bleach plants across the U.S. put millions of Americans in danger of a chlorine gas release, a substance so toxic it has been used as a chemical weapon. Greenpeace’s new repo...

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Jan 25, 2016

U.S. Industrial Facilities Reported Fewer Toxic Releases in 2014

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data for 2014 is now available. The good news: total toxic releases by reporting facilities decreased by nearly six percent from 2013 levels. Howe...

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Jan 22, 2016

Methane Causes Climate Change. Here's How the President Plans to Cut Emissions by 40-45 Percent.

  UPDATE (Jan. 22, 2016): Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its proposed rule to reduce methane emissions...

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Growing Furor over CPSC Vacancy

As Reg Watch blogged last week, a commissioner vacancy has weakened the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) has introduced legislation to fix the problem, and a recent Washington Post column and New Standard article are drawing more attention to the issue. Public interest groups are going on the record and the public is realizing America needs a fully-functioning CPSC to protect citizens from hazardous products. When will President Bush respond by making the commissioner appointment and ending the manipulation of this independent agency?

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FDA Drug Approval Process under Scrutiny

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is facing renewed criticism over the process by which it approves drugs for market. Recent reports indicate many drugs are approved before they are proven safe, and problems with the agency's structure and processes prevent it from fulfilling its mission. Subsequently, Congress has started using its oversight powers to scrutinize the agency, and the clamor for FDA reform is growing louder.

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Bipartisan Tobacco Regulation Bills Introduced

As promised, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), last week introduced legislation that would dramatically improve the regulation of tobacco products. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Tom Davis (R-VA) introduced a companion bill in the House. Among other provisions the legislation would:
  • Place tobacco regulation under the purview of the FDA;
  • Crack down on tobacco advertising targeted at youths;
  • Increase the size of warning labels;
  • Prohibit the use of the terms "light," "low," and "mild;" and
  • Prohibit the sale of "cigarettes characterized by strawberry, cinnamon, grape, chocolate, cocoa, coffee, vanilla, mint and other flavors" (presumably menthols).
Currently, tobacco is one of the few industries that is largely unregulated. A recent Harvard study found tobacco levels in cigarettes are steadily rising, thus proving America needs government regulators to step in. The bills are a common sense approach to solving some serious problems, and already enjoy bipartisan support. This legislation should quickly move through Congress and immediately be signed by President Bush.

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White House Disregard for Product Safety

We have become used to President Bush appointing friends and others of like-minded ideology to important agency posts. Now it seems as though the White House has made a new friend — vacancy. As BNA news service (subscription) reports this morning, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) — an independent agency charged with protecting the American public from dangerous products — can no longer promulgate new regulations. CPSC has been dealing with a commissioner vacancy since July 2006 and, under agency rules, no longer possesses the voting quorum necessary to regulate on behalf of public safety. President Bush hasn't nominated a new commissioner, severely diminishing CPSC's power. This lapse, combined with proposed budget cuts to CPSC, tells the American people that product safety is not a priority of this administration. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is pushing for legislation to allow CPSC to operate without a quorum for another six months, but this will only be a temporary fix. The White House ought to be ashamed of its underhanded attempts to delay product safety regulation.

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Congressional Democrats Push for Better Food Safety

Today, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Safe Food Act. Among other things, the legislation would create a new agency in charge of food safety and labeling. According to the Center for Science and the Public Interest, "Currently, food safety monitoring, inspection, and labeling functions are spread across 12 federal agencies." The bill would also improve the ability of regulators to trace back food borne illnesses to their source.

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FDA Helpless in Regulating Drug Industry

The New Standard reports that neither the FDA nor the pharmaceutical industry have proven the safety of hundreds of drugs already approved for the market. How does such a regulatory gaff occur? From the article by Michelle Chen: Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA can approve drugs despite unresolved safety concerns, but it can also require further studies by the manufacturer once a drug is released onto the market. The problem is manufacturers aren't holding up their end of the bargain. According to an FDA notice in the Federal Register, for FY 2006, 71 percent of the required further studies are pending and 3 percent are delayed. Meanwhile, only 15 percent are ongoing and a mere 11 percent have been submitted.

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Bush Budget Attacks the Environment and Product Safety

Yesterday, President Bush released his budget for FY 2008. Many of the president's budgetary priorities are hostile toward Americans, but three will particularly hinder the federal government's ability to regulate.
  • Bush is calling for a $300 million slash in the EPA's budget. In a press statement, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson defended the cut, proving he is more interested in toeing the administration line than sticking up for his own agency or protecting the environment.
  • Bush is also continuing his war on climate science by cutting the budget of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) by seven percent, according to BNA news service (subscription).
  • Finally, Bush is calling for only a nominal increase in the budget of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the independent agency that is charged with recalling potentially dangerous products. The increase amounts to a budget cut when adjusted for inflation. According to BNA, the proposal includes calls for the lowest staffing levels in the agency's history.

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NY Times and Washington Post Cover Bush Regulatory Amendments

Almost two weeks ago, President Bush amended the federal regulatory process in an attempt to delay regulations and take power out of Congress's hands. Now, the mainstream media has picked up the scent. A front page story in today's New York Times and a column in today's Washington Post both cover the story.

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Oversight of Tobacco Will Be Pushed by Kennedy

The New York Times and Washington Post report today that Sen. Ted Kennedy will reintroduce legislation calling for regulation of the tobacco industry. Kennedy first introduced the bill in 2004 when it was passed by the Senate but stalled in the House. The bill proposes to place tobacco industry — which for years has been largely unregulated — within the regulatory view of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA would be able to have a say in advertising, packaging, and content, according to the Washington Post. The rise in attention to this issue comes in response to a Harvard study concluding nicotine levels have been steadily rising in cigarettes. This bill is a common sense approach to regulating a dangerous product; and should be considered reasonable by all parties, even tobacco farmers, who will be offered hefty compensation. It is a measure that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should ardently support.

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President Bush's Changes to Rulemaking Process Undermine Public Protections

Read OMB Watch's preliminary analysis here.

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Resources & Research

Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race, and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards

People of color and people living in poverty, especially poor children of color, are significantly more likely...

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A Tale of Two Retirements: One for CEOs and One for the Rest of Us

The 100 largest CEO retirement funds are worth a combined $4.9 billion, equal to the entire retirement account savings of 41 percent of American fam...

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