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Posts Tagged ‘regulation’

In a state where regulatory issues are driven by “crony capitalism” a  has proposed federal bill could give industry a blank check here in Texas.

The Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) (S. 1606/H.R. 3010) is a radical measure that would severely weaken laws that protect our health, safety and the environment. A new paper from the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, Impacts of the Regulatory Accountability Act: Overturning 65 Years of Law and Leaving Americans Less Protected, reveals how the proposed bill would cripple the federal regulatory process, placing the public in harm’s way.

“The striking examples in this paper show that the Regulatory Accountability Act is designed to undermine our regulatory system, not improve it,” said Katherine McFate, president of OMB Watch. “For decades, agencies have been working to make our air and water cleaner, to improve the safety of the products we buy for our homes and families, and to reduce our children’s exposure to highly toxic lead. This legislation would make their work harder, and everyday Americans would feel the consequences.”

The RAA not only would change procedural and evidentiary requirements, but also would add more delays and set an even higher bar than currently exists for issuing needed protections. In effect, the bill would hamstring all rulemaking agencies and squander their resources, hurting the American people in the process.

The RAA would negatively impact rulemaking in several key ways:

  • Making the “least costly” rule the default choice, instead of promoting the public good
  • Super-mandating cost-benefit analysis even when it would be misapplied
  • Shifting to formal rulemaking processes that thwart appropriate give and take
  • Eliminating hybrid rulemaking that is often the best approach
  • Allowing judicial review of all agency judgments, undermining scientific findings

Agencies have already had unconstructive experiences with similar formal rulemaking procedures and a “least costly” rule provision; industry has used them to interfere with and delay commonsense standards and safeguards.

A classic example of this is the Food and Drug Administration’s “peanut butter” rule, which was developed several decades ago. After a July 1959 press release revealed that the largest brands of peanut butter contained only 20 percent peanuts, the FDA began the rulemaking process according to the formal rulemaking procedures provided in the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The FDA’s proposed rule provided that peanut butter must contain at least 95 percent peanuts; however, after recognizing that consumers preferred peanut butter that spread more easily, the FDA reduced the standard to 90 percent in 1961. The industry petitioned the FDA for a formal hearing (in accordance with the formal rulemaking provisions in the FDCA) to argue for the standard to be set at 87 percent. The formal hearing alone added almost five months to the rulemaking process and resulted in a transcript of approximately 8,000 pages primarily discussing whether peanut butter should contain 87 percent or 90 percent peanuts.

Nine years later, in July 1968, the FDA finalized the standard at 90 percent. Yet, the battle continued for another two years as a result of the industry’s challenge of the rule in the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Ultimately, the court affirmed the agency’s finding, noting that, based on the formal record, even if 87 percent was a reasonable alternative, the FDA’s 90 percent standard was equally reasonable and thus should not be overturned.

The paper highlights many other examples of how the Regulatory Accountability Act would severely impede the federal government’s ability to protect its citizens.

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen added, “The RAA aims to hamstring consumer, environmental and other regulating agencies and empower Big Business to stop agencies from issuing new rules. The bill delivers a clear message: Giant corporations should not be subject to law and order.”

Click here to read the full white paper – Impacts of the Regulatory Accountability Act: Overturning 65 Years of Law and Leaving Americans Less Protected – by the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards.

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As the Texas Sunset Advisory Committee takes a look at our environmental regulatory agencies this interim, perhaps they should consider Texas’ grade in a new report released by the Institute for Policy Integrity – a “D minus” the lowest possible grade of all the states reviewed because of  inadequacies in  how our regulatory decisions are made. The results of that report point to billions of dollars wasted and inadequate protections for Texans.

Institute for Policy IntegrityThe Institute for Policy Integrity, a non-partisan advocacy organization and think-tank dedicated to improving the quality of governmental decisionmaking and sponsored by the New York University School of Law developed fifteen points of evaluation for an ideal regulatory process.  Among them: regulatory review that properly calibrates rules; review that is consistent and buffered from political influence; and review that provides a balanced treatment of costs and benefits.  The Institute took a look at how states routinely regulate industries whose economic footprints climb into the hundreds of millions.

Nearly twenty percent of the American economy is regulated by state governments. But there are major concerns about how regulatory decisions are made. The results of “52 Experiments with Regulatory Review” point to rules that are often made ad hoc and in too many cases yield inefficient results that limit public benefit, wasting billions of dollars and providing inadequate protections for Americans—earning states an average grade of “D+” with the lowest possible grade being a “D-.”  Seven jurisdictions scored a D-, having met none of the guiding principles: Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas. (more…)

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Today the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) continued their decades-long campaign of ineptitude and inadequacy as they approved the air quality permit for the White Stallion Coal Plant proposed for Matagorda County on the Texas Gulf Coast. Their ruling was unanimous despite the fact that the administrative law judges, who spent weeks presiding over and then deliberating the aspects of this case, recommended that this permit should not be issued. On top of that the TCEQ’s own staff at the Office of Public Interest Council (or OPIC) reiterated their position that this permit should be denied.

"Clean coal" is about as realistic and honest as this image.

It seems simple things like common sense and logic are completely absent from the regulatory fantasy world the TCEQ commissioners live in. It is their opinion that the thousands of tons of toxic pollution they have permitted this coal plant to emit are “acceptable,” even though they are likely to lead to the deaths of over 600 Matagorda County residents over the plant’s estimated lifetime, at a price tag of over $5.4 billion in health care costs (according to a report from MSB Energy Associates). Also “acceptable” to these TCEQ commissioners is an air monitor White Stallion used for their air modeling report (a vital part of the air permitting process), despite the fact that it is located outside of Corpus Christi, 100 miles downwind of the proposed site. They may as well have used a monitor in China, as the emissions from White Stallion would likely never head in that direction.

TCEQ commissioners have also completely ignored the fact that the EPA has set new standards for National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and they are not requiring White Stallion to adhere to them, despite the fact that this plant would be on the doorstep of the existing Houston non-attainment region. In fact, once the new EPA ozone standards come into effect, Matagorda County is slated to be included in the Houston non-attainment region. By that time, however, thanks to the expedient and enthusiastic permitting approval by the TCEQ, White Stallion will be “grandfathered” and its effects on a non-attainment region will stand.

The most egregious assault on common sense and logic, however, is this plant is completely unnecessary and dangerous to all of Texas, and in fact the entire world. At a time when we need to be shifting our infrastructure and development to renewable and sustainable forms of energy generation, a CO2 and toxin-belching coal plant is the last thing we should be permitting in Texas. This plant represents not only an assault on the health of Matagorda County citizens, but a furthering of reliance upon these dirty, old methods of power generation. We have the technology now to be shifting to responsibly generated electricity. To fail in this is not just a failure by the TCEQ towards the people of Matagorda, but the failure of the state of Texas to lead this country in the direction we desperately need to go.

In the end, however, we can all take heart in the fact that the ultimate decision on whether this plant gets built or not is not only in the hands of the TCEQ.  That power lies in the hands of the people – both those who are opposing the project and those attempting to build it. This plant still requires a waste water permit from TCEQ, a water contract from LCRA, and another permit from the Army Corps of Engineers before it can operate. It is also expected that this decision from the TCEQ will be challenged at the state courts. Ultimately, as long as the people of Matagorda continue to say “NO” to this plant, and as more and more people rally to help them in their cause, this plant will be defeated.

Go to NoCoalCoalition.org for more information and to get involved in the fight against White Stallion.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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The Texas Progressive Alliance is still somewhat amazed to be living in the year we make contact, and we hope we’re all still going strong when Odyssey Three rolls around.

Texas has most drilling, worst regulation. Texas made national news this week in the ProPublica investigative report and they used pictures provided by TXsharon @ Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

WhosPlayin reports that the local city council is once again considering the question of whether to participate in 287(g) and force its vendors to use E-Verify to check for work eligibility.

BossKitty at TruthHugger found a poignant editorial on Al Jazeera: Weary Soldiers At Risk, They Know This - Why do foreign correspondents have more in depth observations than America’s own Corporate media who follows the money and toes the line for sponsors political perks that promise ’scoops’.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks all kids should be given free, nutritious school meals. Just do it.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson discusses another worthless GOP plan for transportation in Texas, Kay’s transportation plan is a clunker.

The Texas Cloverleaf questions whether or not a Houston City Councilman-elect knows the difference between a campaign website and city resources.

Off the Kuff called out some political gamesmanship over the murder rate in Harris County.

Last week Teddy reviewed the best of the Left of College Station, and looks at the year ahead at Left of College Station. This week Left of College Station will begin coverage of the 2010 campaign season in the Brazos Valley, and report on human trafficking in Houston.

Candidate filings, including Gordon Quan for Harris County Judge and a list of the statewides, appears in PDiddie’s post at Brains and Eggs.

Bay Area Houston hopes the next decade will be better than the last.

Justin at Asian American Action Fund Blog covered Gordon Quan’s campaign kickoff including full video of Quan’s speech.

LibbyShaw puts together the latest throw downs exposing GOP hypocrisy and lies. Check it out : Rachel Maddow Busts Republicans for Cowardice, Hypocrisy and Lies.

At McBlogger, Mayor McSleaze noted with some interest that Marc Katz filed for Lt. Governor. Some, but not much. More important to him was a really nasty prairie dog attack.

Neil at Texas Liberal selected his wife as person of the decade and named his blog—Texas Liberal— as blog of the decade.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Statement of David Power, Deputy Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Seemingly out of concern that competitive renewable energy will damage Big Oil’s bottom line, the Texas Railroad Commission wants to block renewable energy transmission lines that would put affordable energy from west Texas wind farms on an even playing field with the historical titans of Texas energy – oil and gas companies.

A new investment in these transmission lines would save ratepayers $2 billion a year, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 16 percent and create more than $5 billion in economic development benefits for Texas. Ratepayers, companies and organizations with an interest in seeing the further development of renewable energy and green jobs should contact the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) and tell them to deny the Railroad Commission’s request to intervene.

The Texas Legislature authorized these transmission lines in 2008 to address the lack of available transmission lines to deliver wind energy from the panhandle and west Texas to the major metropolitan areas in central Texas where demand is higher. This renewable energy helps reduce costs for ratepayers by providing abundant and inexpensive clean energy that helps offset the volatile price of natural gas.

In its filing with the PUC, the Railroad Commission inappropriately expressed concern for current and future oil and gas development in Texas. In doing so, the commission stepped outside of its regulatory role to promote the interests of Big Oil. While the commission’s stated task is “primary regulatory jurisdiction over (the) oil and natural gas industry,” in this case, it is attempting to pick winners and losers in regards to Texas’ energy future. It is also questionable whether Michael Williams, who sits on the Railroad Commission and who is currently in the running for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s U.S. Senate seat, is acting in the best interest of the public or doing favors for potential campaign contributors.

This is another example of outrageous overreaching by the Railroad Commission on behalf of the same industries it is supposed to regulate. The commission is charged with regulating the oil and gas industries, not with protecting their interests with taxpayer dollars. The Railroad Commission and Mr. Williams need to stick to their own jurisdiction, rather than making an inappropriate power play to earn favors with Big Oil.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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The first step towards greenhouse gas regulation is underway! On Wednesday, the EPA proposed a rule that industries measure and report their greenhouse gas emissions. The rule would apply to 13,000 facilities nationwide, including manufacturers of chemicals, oil, cement, iron and steal, automobiles, electricity generation, and more! Green Inc reports that this will cover 85%-90% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and not just carbon dioxide emissions. The reports will also include emission amounts of those other things we hate to inhale, such as methane, hydrofluorcarbons, and nitrous oxide.

If put into action, emissions tracking will begin in 2010 for reports to release in 2011. Of course, this program would cost a significant amount of cash—$160 million in the first year and then $127 million each year thereafter.

The reports will allow us to pinpoint exactly how much greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere, and from where. Though some firms are already participating in voluntary reporting, this kind of industry-wide reports will provide comparative analysis. With such detailed (and presumably accurate) information, we will also be in a better position to make informed decisions about how emission regulation should be formulated.

CNNMoney.com also reported that this information could be important to investors. For those ill-prepared companies, emission regulation could drastically affect their earnings.

Mindy Lubber, the Director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk stated:

The SEC needs to protect investors from the risks companies face from climate change, whether from direct physical impacts or new regulations. Shareholders deserve to know if their portfolio companies are well positioned to manage climate risks or whether they face potential exposure.

Public release of information would be a powerful tool to prepare companies, especially those that are energy-intensive, to be held accountable for their energy emissions. Or a good kick in the pants to take the next step to become ecologically conscious!

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