I spent Columbus Day speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Opinion Journalists, the folks who write the opinion pages of newspapers. I was joined by Andy Rosenberg with the Center for Science & Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Dave Gallo with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Cory Dean of the New York Times and Jim Ludes, Executive Director of the Pell Center for International Relations & Public Policy. My presentation, which you can read here, discusses how electric power plants use 41% of America’s fresh water. That’s because 88% of our electricity is generated by super-thirsty nuclear and fossil fuel power plants. With looming water shortages in North America over the next generation, we need to become smarter about our water consumption—and that means getting away from centralized nuclear, coal and natural gas power plants and moving towards rooftop solar and energy efficiency. My presentation also outlines the extensive water use of the oil & gas sector, particualry fracking.
Tyson Slocum is Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. Follow him on Twitter @TysonSlocum
The impact of the government shutdown varies from agency to agency: 52 percent of workers at the Department of Health and Human Services are furloughed, for instance, while at the Environmental Protection Agency, 94 percent are at home, off the job.
The shutdown is highlighting the importance of health, safety, environmental and consumer regulations. They help ensure we have clean air and water, safe food and toys, workplaces free of hazards and so much more. Even die-hard anti-government politicians are realizing that safeguards are popular with the public. That’s why, for instance, the GOP tried to pass a measure that would put food inspectors back to work.
What happens when you take worker safety inspectors off the beat? When environmental regulators aren’t able to do their work?
Here’s some of the best reporting from the past couple days on the impacts of the shutdown:
• Bloomberg: Furloughed Inspectors Leave Gaps in Safety Oversight
The partial shutdown of the U.S. government has sidelined thousands of inspectors who monitor everything from air and water pollution to safety hazards at factories and the condition of nursing homes.
News today of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chair Gregory Jaczko’s pending resignation is a terrifying example of industries trying to wreak havoc on those who regulate them – and winning.
Jaczko sought to create tougher rules for the nuclear industry in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima disaster last year. But the nuclear industry wanted Jaczko gone from Day One. Jaczko stood alone.
Jaczko did all he could to stand up to the political and economic influence of the nuclear industry and set commonsense reforms to make the industry safer post-Fukushima. But it wasn’t enough. The other commissioners didn’t want to be so tough on industry.
It is essential that the NRC’s new chairperson prioritizes public health and safety over the influence of the nuclear power industry. The new NRC chair must come from outside the agency. The public interest community has zero confidence in one of the existing four commissioners to ascend to be chair.
You can view video of Jaczko’s appearance at Public Citizen here.
Tyson Slocum is Public Citizen’s Energy Program director. You can follow him on Twitter @TysonSlocum.
Last year, in the 175 days that the U.S. House of Representatives was in session, it passed more than 190 anti-regulatory bills. Not one of them created a new job. Unfortunately, those in Congress who favor profits over public safety are still at it.
Next up is H.R. 4078, the “Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act of 2012,” an absurd bill that calls for a halt on public protections until the unemployment rate reaches six percent. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up the bill on Tuesday, March 20.
Congress should be focusing attention on scandalously high unemployment, but it should be getting to the heart of the matter, not repeating tired falsehoods and reinforcing misleading assumptions about public protections. Let’s remember that regulation did not cause the jobs crisis, and it’s not a significant obstacle to job creation.
In reality, public protections strengthen the economy and make our country stronger, safer and more secure. Our nation has made advancements beyond the wildest dreams of our Founders, due largely to the standards put in place that protect everyone.