Target and Walmart made headlines in 2013 when both companies pledged to phase-out certain hazardous chemicals from their supply chains, good news for the millions of Americans who rely on these stores for household and personal care products. But discount retailers known as "dollar stores" have yet to follow suit, putting the communities they serve at risk of toxic chemical exposures.
Drilling companies nationwide have been keeping the identities of many fracking chemicals a secret by simply stamping them "confidential business information," also known as "trade secrets." In Wyoming, regulators had long accepted these claims with little validation, and residents were left in the dark about the toxic chemicals being injected into the ground near their homes, schools, and water supplies. A recent settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed by public interest groups, including the Center for Effective Government, will change this practice.
Media coverage of the Keystone XL pipeline is coalescing around a single narrative. It goes like this: environmentalists oppose the pipeline because of climate change concerns, and U.S. construction companies support the pipeline because it creates jobs. Environmentalists warn that tar sands crude oil has three times the global warming potential of conventional crude. Oil industry interests shrug and say Canadian companies will continue to extract tar sands, with or without the pipeline. Pipeline opponents then counter: fewer than 50 permanent jobs will be needed to staff the pipeline, a few thousand temporary construction jobs to build it. But this rendering of the debate misses the larger picture.
On Jan. 7, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 185). This measure would cripple our process for issuing and enforcing the rules that ensure we have clean air and water, safe food and consumer products, fair wages and safe workplaces, stable financial markets, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and so many other essential protections.
Don’t be surprised if you missed hearing about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual report on its compliance and enforcement efforts for fiscal year (FY) 2014. The report, released the week before Christmas with little public or media attention, highlights what has become a disturbing downward trend over the past several years. Reductions in enforcement can mean less compliance with pollution control requirements and more exposure to toxic chemicals, putting human health and natural resources at risk.
Today is the birthday of the Clean Air Act, legislation signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon forty-four years ago. This law is the centerpiece and platform for protecting the quality of the air we breathe. It took decades of work to get clean air laws passed, and over time amendments have been added to strengthen our air quality standards and to respond to new risks. This is the story of how we established standards to protect a public good that we all need, but most of us take for granted.