EPA pulls Proposed Ozone Standard due to Economic Considerations

[tweetmeme]Citing the importance of “reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty,” President Obama took EPA’s proposed ozone standard off the table for the time being.

In a statement touting the actions the current EPA has taken under the leadership of Lisa Jackson, the president said that he cannot support the burden the proposed standard would impose as the economy recovers and requested that Jackson withdraw the draft ozone standard that would have tightened the ozone standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 60 ppb.  The EPA will revisit the ozone standard in 2013

Ozone (O3) is a gas composed of three oxygen atoms. It is not usually emitted directly into the air, but at ground-level is created by a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. Ozone has the same chemical structure whether it occurs miles above the earth or at ground-level and can be “good” or “bad,” depending on its location in the atmosphere.

According to many environmentalists this is a huge win for ‘corporate polluters’ and a huge loss for public health.  However business leaders such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others contend there’s no doubt that the standard would have thrown large swaths of the country into non-attainment, requiring businesses to obtain costly permits or technologies to comply.  The EPA’s proposal would have cost $19 billion to $90 billion, according to the White House.

“Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered,” Obama said in a statement.

For more information:  http://www.epa.gov/air/ozonepollution/

 

 

Congress proposes to merge the departments of Commerce and Labor

[tweetmeme]As the White House is putting its finishing touches on its initial proposal to reorganize parts of the government, seven Senators introduced a bill Thursday to merge the departments of Commerce and Labor into the Department of Commerce and the Workforce (DOCW). Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and six co-sponsors, want to build off the Government Accountability Office’s March report on duplication across government and President Obama’s deficit commission recommendations to consolidate parts of the government.

“This common-sense approach reduces duplication by combining offices with similar functions within these two agencies and would streamline our approach to comprehensive economic policy,” Burr said in a release. Joining Burr in sponsoring the bill are Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Dan Coats (R-Ind.). The Office of Management and Budget is expected to release its plans by June 9 for how it will consolidate efforts around trade, exports and competitiveness.

The deficit commission recommended a broader reorganization by moving the Small Business Administration to Commerce, and transferring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from Commerce to the Department of the Interior. Burr said the new merged DOCW would promote economic growth and workforce protections, and preserve the independent functions of both agencies and would not make changes to specific policy.

He added the bill also would combine the support and administrative offices of the two agencies, thus saving more money by consolidating 35 offices into 12 and eliminate or reduce the funding of seven programs or initiatives.

There is no House companion bill.

 

Read more at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?sid=2400116&nid=35

Southern States Buck National Trend with Smoking Bans

[tweetmeme] Secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure causes lung cancer and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in nonsmoking adults and children, resulting in an estimated 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths among U.S. nonsmoking adults each year, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Perhaps as a direct result of this startling statistic the study concludes that  if smoking-ban laws in the U.S. keep up at the rate they have been going for the past 10 years, the entire nation will have heavy restrictions on smoking by 2020—or sooner.

More than half of all states have laws against smoking in places that are major sources of secondhand smoke, like indoor areas of private sector worksites, restaurants and bars. In just the past 10 years, 25 states have jumped on the non-smoking bandwagon.  However it is interesting to note that all of the southern states lack statewide laws that prohibit smoking in worksites, restaurants, and bars. However, many communities in these states have adopted comprehensive local smoke-free laws. 

President Barack Obama signed the nation’s strongest-ever Federal anti-smoking bill in 2009 and praised it for providing critically needed protections for future generations.  Of course his own struggles to quit smoking have been well documented.  In 2010, a surgeon general’s report reported that no level of exposure to tobacco smoke is safe, and can lead to organ damage. It can also negatively affect your DNA

Read More:  http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6015a2.htm?s_cid=mm6015a2_w

Roofing Association Lose Appeal to Stop OSHA re:Fall Protection

[tweetmeme]Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s December 2010 directive on the use of fall protection in residential construction was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit after being challenged by the National Roofing Contractors Association.

OSHA’s new directive, standard 03-11-002, rescinded the Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction installed in 1999.  Prior to the issuance of this new directive, employers were allowed to engage in certain residential construction activities using specified alternative methods of fall protection rather than the conventional fall protection.  With the issuance of the new directive, all residential construction employers must comply with 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1926.501(b)(13).  

Construction and roofing companies have until June 16, 2011 to comply with the new directive.  Of course where residential builders can demonstrate that traditional fall protection is not feasible, 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13) still allows for alternative means of providing protection.

The National Roofing Contractors Association contended in their suit that the 2010 Directive must be issued as a new Standard; because it subjects employers to requirements that they have not had to meet since mid-1999.

However the Court found that the 1999 Directive to allow the alternative fall protection did not alter the original regulation; it just allowed OSHA to exercise prosecutorial discretion in enforcing the regulation. For example, the alternative Directive indicated that if a contractor that uses a slide guard rather than one of the regulation’s methods now faces administrative litigation and may be found in violation if a defense based on the exception fails, when for the previous 10 years a slide guard was a sure way to “avoid liability”; it does not say this will “comply with the regulation.”  Therefore this new change is simply OSHA enforcing the original Regulation which had remained unchanged in 1999, yet not enforced by under previous administrations.

Read more at www.leagle.com or OSHA

EPA to Impose Stricter Pollution Regulations for Public Waters

[tweetmeme]The Obama Administration recently announced that it will impose stricter pollution regulation for millions of acres of wetlands, and tens of thousands of miles of streams, to prevent the dumping of mining waste and discharge of industrial pollutants into waters that feed swimming holes and drinking water supplies. Questions regarding which streams and wetlands qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act have been in dispute for years.

EPA Administrator Lisa. P Jackson says that while the new rules will expand the waterways that fall under federal protection, it is not a massive increase. The policy change will likely affect tributaries that flow into bodies like the Chesapeake Bay. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md, the chair of the water and wildlife subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, says the proposed guidance is intended to address the Supreme Court’s concerns in a way that will protect waters that are important to fish and wildlife habitats, flood protection, and drinking water. Once finalized, the new regulations will apply federal water quality standards to a variety of waterways, including the headwaters of lakes, as well as rivers and intermittent streams.

Some groups, including livestock owners and home builders, have argued that the new regulations would impose an economic burden. The Obama Administration will accept comments on its proposed guidance for 60 days before drafting binding rules.

read more: Washington Post

OSHA Spared Congress Cost Cutting Axe…For Now!

[tweetmeme]Last Saturday, Congress agreed to again extend federal spending by passing a short-term continuing resolution – allowing the federal government to continue operating for one additional week while details were worked out on a federal budget for the remaining six months in the FY11 federal budget.  On Tuesday, Congress began providing details on the remainder of the FY11 budget – both spending limits and cuts that would take place.

The bill provides OSHA with last year’s funding level of $558.6 million. The original proposal would have cut $99 million or 18 percent from the agency’s budget. However, while OSHA was spared from major cuts, agency will take a cut of $1.2 million because of the “across the board” 2 percent cut in federal spending. According Aaron Trippler, Government Affairs Director for AIHA, there has also been word from several OSHA insiders that the 2012 budget will encompass huge cuts, perhaps taking the agency back to 2006 spending levels.

Other Agencies according AIHA Happenings on the Hill Report:

EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency is facing a huge cut of $1.6 billion, or 16 percent. Added to that is the 2% rescission will be in addition to this.

MSHA

The bill provides MSHA with $363.8 million, an increase of $6.5 million over last year.  MSHA may also hit with the 2% across the board reduction.

NIOSH

NIOSH will take a $49 million hit for the reminder of this fiscal year.  There was some concern that this $49 million would come from the ERC and the AFF program funds.  However, sources say most of the $49 million in cuts are World Trade Center related and will not impact ERC or AFF funding.  NIOSH is also expected to face the across the board 2% cut in spending.

Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule may be Short Lived

[tweetmeme]American businesses have a common enemy: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency!  They too have a common ally: Rep. Darrell Issa (R) who happens to Chair the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.  After the November elections, Rep. Issa requested from business and industry a list of rules his committee should investigate as impediments to economic recovery.  Over half of the 111 regulations cited by over 160 respondents, in the survey dealt with the EPA (click here to see the list), including those controlling greenhouse gas emissions.  But also mentioned were a range of other agency rules covering air toxic controls for industrial boilers, Clean Water Act pesticide permits, dust regulation, mountaintop mining, Chesapeake Bay pollution and ground-level ozone, or smog.

Some also want a “review and investigation” of the EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rules, which according to some “pose a major obstacle for a [housing] market recovery.”  The rule requires renovation work that disturbs more than six square feet on the interior of a pre-1978 home to follow new lead safe work practices supervised by an EPA-certified renovator and be performed by an EPA-certified renovation firm.  According to the respondents to Rep. Issa’s request implementation of the LRRP rules has resulted in the following:

  • Not enough training opportunities for renovators to become certified and therefore not enough certified renovators at the time of implementation;
  • Inadequate lead test kits producing over 60 percent false positives and an EPA-estimated $200 million in unnecessary additional compliance costs;
  • Ineffective and insufficient consumer awareness programs; and
  • Woefully underestimated costs for compliance with the LRRP Rule, particularly for small businesses.

All of which has thrown the residential renovation world into chaos.  Additionally the “Opt-out” provision in the original rule was removed by EPA which by some estimates “doubled” the amount of homes subject to the rule.  The “Opt-out” provision would have allowed home owners to waive compliance with the rule, if there were no pregnant women or children under six present in the home.  This is particularly important because the lead-based paint rules currently in place by Federal and most state agencies only apply to child occupied or target housing, and not general housing.

All of this adds up to the very real possibility that the LRRP rules may be thrown out in the name of economic recovery.  Last month, President Obama issued an executive order that called for a top-to-bottom review of federal regulations to get rid of rules that are outdated and harmful to the economy.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee responded to the executive order by calling the man who is leading up that effort, House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Cass Sunstein, to testify at the panel’s first hearings, entitled “Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation,” which was aimed at policymakers to hear important testimony from the front lines of our economic recovery.

“If there are rules on the books that are needlessly stifling job creation and economic growth, we will fix them,” Obama said in a recent address to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Rep. Issa described his efforts as a congressional complement to what Obama is trying to do. 

Although this issue will revolve around the economy for sure, others insist that health and safety aren’t to be thrown out with the bath water.  “The American people sent us here not only to create jobs, but also to protect their health, welfare, and safety,” according to oversight panel ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Stay tuned….

DOL sues to shut down Massey Energy Coal Mine

[tweetmeme]CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) –The U.S. Department of Labor is suing to shut down a Massey Energy coal mine in Kentucky it says has failed to address dangerous conditions. The agency has filed a request with a federal judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky to close the energy giant’s Freedom Mine No. 1 in Pike County, citing years of safety hazards that have put the lives of its workers at risk.

Lawyers for the Obama administration’s Department of Labor say the mine has been engaged in a “pattern of violation of mandatory health and safety standards” since 2008, and should be closed until the company is in compliance, according to court documents obtained by National Public Radio.

The government said the Massey mine had inadequate ventilation and charged that the company had failed to prevent roof collapses, according to The Associated Press.

Senate passes spending bill: OSHA/NIOSH/MSHA get a raise

[tweetmeme]The Senate has just passed a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending measure, sending the bill to President Obama for a signature.

The bill passed on a largely party line vote, 57-35. Three Democrats voted against the bill: Bayh (Ind.), McCaskill (Mo.) and Feingold. They were balanced out by the three Republicans who voted “yes”: Collins (Maine), Shelby (Ala.) and Cochran (Miss.)

OSHA/NIOSH/MSHA all due to receive additional funding.  OSHA biggest increase comes in the form of request for increased enforcement.  Specifically the hiring of an additional 100 or so compliance officers.