Archive for the ‘Regulation’ Category

by David Arkush

Next week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold field hearings in Denver, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., on the carbon pollution rule it proposed on June 2. The EPA calls it the Clean Power Plan. We care a lot about the rule, and you’ll be hearing more about it in the coming year. Also, Public Citizen members, activists and staff will be attending and speaking at the hearings. You’ll hear more about that next week.

Right now, I just wanted to note something odd in this story from The Hill: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky.) is complaining about the ID requirements to get into the federal buildings in which the hearings will take place. The ID requirements mean that some of his constituents won’t be able to attend!

Ahem. Voter ID laws, anyone? It’s really rich to hear a Republican leader complaining about ID requirements in a disenfranchisement-y way. Also, the requirements are from the 2005 REAL ID Act, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican president.

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When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its relatively modest carbon emission limits proposal, preemptively opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it was reported that many Chamber members and utilities didn’t actually stand with the Chamber on its opposition to climate progress.

A new survey of small businesses, “Small Business Owners’ Views on Climate & Energy Policy Reform,” indicates the U.S. Chamber is even more isolated in its regressive anti-science position. Especially considering the Chamber’s frequent attempts to claim small businesses as a part of its constituency, the clear call by small business owners to address climate change, evidenced in this report, is remarkable.

Among the major findings:

  • 87 percent of business owners named consequences of climate change as potentially harmful to their businesses;
  • 64 percent of businesses believe government regulation is needed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants; and
  • 57 percent of businesses said that the biggest carbon emitters should make the biggest reductions in carbon emissions and bear most of the costs of reduction efforts.

The findings came from a scientific, national phone survey of 555 small business owners (2 to 99 employees). Significantly, more respondents identified as Republican or independent-leaning Republican (43 percent total) than as being or leaning toward any other group. The report was produced by the American Sustainable Business Council.

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A joint op-ed by Public Citizen’s Lisa Gilbert with libertarian Cato Institute’s Mark Calabria was published recently in USA Today.

The unlikely pair – considering Public Citizen’s progressive perspective and Cato’s libertarian stance – call Attorney General Eric Holder to task for the Department of Justice’s timid treatment of criminal banks.

Acknowledging the Credit-Suisse guilty plea that Justice recently obtained, Gilbert and Calabria write, “we certainly applaud the DOJ’s action, a criminal guilty plea from a foreign bank doesn’t erase the many non-prosecutions and deferred prosecutions of the too-big-to-fail banks at the heart of the financial crisis.”

Advocates and activists on the left and right demand action. What can Justice do to start restoring faith in a system that imprisons low-income lawbreakers but allows Wall Street’s worst to walk free?

Gilbert and Calabria offer a next step:

Crimes require the action of individuals. The DOJ has yet to articulate why proceeding with criminal prosecution against individuals would undermine the safety of the institutions at which they work or the broader economy.

We are not advocating criminalizing irresponsible behavior after the fact or abandoning due process protections. We are advocating a justice system that treats all equally, regardless of size or importance to the broader economy.

[…]

Holder wants to be “very, very, very, very clear,” that no bank that commits crimes is too big to jail. To ensure that clarity, we should enhance transparency on the process.

Read the full USA Today op-ed here.

Rick Claypool is the online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

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Last week, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law House Bill 951 which requires the state to convene a work group to study the benefits of implementing a safety and health questionnaire and rating system as a part of the state funded public works projects.  We applaud the Maryland Senate and House for their unanimous decision to send this important worker safety and health legislation to the Governors’ desk.

Keeping construction workers safe on the job should be a top priority. However, safety and health can be a distant thought for some contractors. Maryland has not been able to escape this reality; in 2012 seventeen construction workers died on the job and an additional 5,000 reported workplace injuries.

The legislation was inspired by a 2012 Public Citizen report that showed safety shortfalls cost the state $712.8 million between 2008 and 2010. During that time, Maryland recorded 18,600 construction industry accidents in the state. Additionally, 55 construction-related fatalities were reported in those years.

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A photograph of Robert Weissman and Elizabeth Warren

Public Citizen’s president, Robert Weissman, with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) at Public Citizen’s 2014 gala

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Note: Public Citizen honored Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) with the “Golden Boot” award on May 14 at Public Citizen’s 2014 gala.

“In every fight to build opportunity in this country, in every fight to level the playing field, in every fight for working families, the path has been steep.

“Throughout our history, powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor. From tax policy to retirement security, the voices of hardworking people get drowned out by powerful industries and well-financed front groups, those who have the power to fight to make sure that every rule tilts in their favor and everyone else gets left behind.

“Just look at the Big Banks. They cheated American families, crashed the economy, got bailed out, and now the five largest financial institutions in America are 38 percent bigger than they were in 2008, at the time of the crash. They still swagger through Washington, blocking reforms and pushing around agencies.

“Let’s be clear: a kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot goes to jail, but a big bank breaks the law on laundering drug money, and no one even gets arrested.

“The game is rigged, and it isn’t just the banks.

“The rich and powerful have lobbyists, lawyers, and plenty of friends in Congress. Everyone else, not so much.

“So we can whine about it. We can whimper about it. Or we can fight back.

“Me, I’m fighting back.”

Add your name to Public Citizen’s petition supporting Sen. Warren’s bipartisan 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act.

Rick Claypool is the online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

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