Tag Archives: Clean Water Act

The Government Regulations They Love To Hate

The Republicans have catch phrases which have been very handy for their purposes for the last forty years, “burdensome regulations,” are among them. Rarely do they want to identify upon whom the burden rests. Often they are fond of calling the regulations “job killing.”  Nearly always the “regulations” are amorphous, and highly generalized.

Let’s get specific.  Senator Rob Portman will be introducing a bill which, in its present form, would limit the ability of federal agencies to promulgate rules until every last lawsuit against them is completely litigated. In other words, NEVER.  So, what nefarious regulations would people like to have eliminated?

How about eliminating the regulations associated with the Clean Water Act?  One regulation has already fallen — the one limiting toxic sludge emptied into freshwater.  Is this going to make drinking water any safer? Will this encourage the development of tourism based activities in coal country to diversify their economy by adding more hunting and fishing opportunities?  Will elimination of these rules make the drinking water in Flint, MI and other American cities safer for children, and adults?  Do we really want to go back to the not-so-good old days when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland, OH?

Or perhaps people would like rules associated with the Clean Air Act eliminated?  What’s wrong with breathing a little smog — other than creating public health issues like an increase in the incidence of asthma? Respiratory diseases? Lung cancer? What’s wrong with creating a country of people walking around with face masks as they do in Beijing?

How about eliminating consumer protection regulations?  Gee, what could go wrong, other than a replication of Wells-Fargo’s egregious practice of opening accounts people didn’t know about and then charging fees on those accounts?  Other than predatory lenders charging unimaginable rates for pay day loans to working people, and even members of the US Armed Forces?  Other than mortgage servicers failing to notify customers who held their mortgages and failing to properly record documents with local governments? Other than obviously dangerous products being available for sale to unwitting customers, customers without the ability to check online to see if products for infants, children, and others are safe and free of deadly defects?  Other than allowing financial advisers being able to tell retirees to purchase financial products which benefit the adviser far more than they would benefit the retirees?  Other than making it easier for the Wolves on Wall Street to indulge in Casino play with investment funds?  Were these the “burdensome” rules of which we wish to be relieved?

It’s interesting, that Republicans are only too pleased to speak of those regulatory burdens in highly generalized terms, but when brought down to cases, they tend to sputter that “No, it’s not Those” regulations of which they speak.

Who is in favor of providing federal funds to schools that allow bullying and discriminatory behaviors in their buildings? Who is in favor of making it more difficult to determine if lending institutions are cheating their customers?  Who is in favor of dirty air and filthy streams?  Who is in favor of making it more likely that food sold to the public won’t be properly inspected? Let’s guess it’s NOT the average American member of the public at large.

Someone is in favor of removing these, and other obstacles, to free wheeling unrestrained and unregulated corporate practices, and in this Congress they are finding significant support.

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Filed under Economy, financial regulation, Politics

The Unsportsmanlike Act

Duck StampThe Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363) sailed through the first cloture roadblock on an 82-12 vote [roll call 218] and then sank in the mire of Senate obstructionism.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled the plug in the face of Republican squabbling over amendments. [The Hill]  What started out as a simple two title bill got entangled in …. Guns.

Title I of the original bill would have allowed hunters to get duck stamps online, and allowed target practice on federal lands, among other improvements for those who truly are into hunting. Title II concerned conservation of various habitats. [S. 2363]  And then things got complicated.

Guns Galore!

Thirty eight amendments were offered to the bill.  Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) wanted to add his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, which would have gutted gun regulations in the District of Columbia, and just about everywhere else for that matter. [CR S4283]  He also proposed allowing firearms in postal facilities. [CR S4283] Nothing like encouraging the customers to, in a phrase from a bygone era, “go postal?”

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) joined Senator Paul in his efforts to add the proposed “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, [CR S4283]  and he, too, wanted to extend firearm privileges in postal facilities. Lee’s three amendments essentially proposed the same extensions of Paul’s expansion of gun ‘rights.’

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TX) offered his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the original bill, and Senator Jefferson Beauregard Session (R-Old South) chimed in with his rendition.  Not to be outdone, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) wanted a “Second Amendment Enforcement Act included in the three amendments he filed, as did Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo, Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in three amendments, and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and Nevada’s own Senator Dean Heller.

There’s nothing new about this “Second Amendment Enforcement Act,” it was drafted by the National Rifle Association, and was introduced by Senators McCain (R-GreenRoom) and Tester (D-MT) as a response to gun regulations in the District of Columbia. [OV.com] By the lights of the NRA there shouldn’t be any.  It also showed up in the 110th Congress (2008) in the form of H.R. 6691.  It appeared in Representative Mike Ross’s H.R. 645 in 2011 [NRA] where it died in Committee in February 2011. [GovTrack]

If the fish can’t live in the water, why are you fishing there?

Senator Heller also signed on to Senator Barrasso’s amendment which deviated from the chorus of ‘gun rights’ and headed into the Clean Water Act.  SA 3453 took the regulation out of regulations concerning the identification of waters protected by the Clean Water Act:

“SEC. 1__XX. IDENTIFICATION OF WATERS PROTECTED BY THE CLEAN WATER ACT.
(a) In General.–Neither the Secretary of the Army nor the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall– (1) finalize the proposed rule entitled “Definition of `Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act” (79 Fed. Reg. 22188 (April 21, 2014)); or
(2) use the proposed rule described in paragraph (1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.).  (b) Rules.–The use of the proposed rule described in subsection (a)(1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) shall be grounds for vacation of the final rule, decision, or enforcement action.”

That’s simple, if the Army and the EPA can’t finalize rules regarding the definition of protected water under the Clean Water Act, there’s no clean water? This unpleasant notion was also put forward by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), and  Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).

It’s rather difficult to imagine a bill intended to encourage hunting and fishing including a proposal to allow more pollution of hunting and fishing realms. However, several Republican Senators managed to do it.  This “Polluted Waters Act of 2014” didn’t quite mesh with Senator Cardin’s (D-DE) amendment to enact the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.  Nor does it seem particularly appealing to someone like myself who thoroughly enjoys fly fishing — imagine all the fun of standing in a mountain stream watching what gray slime doesn’t attach to the waders float along downstream?

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was disappointed there wasn’t an “amendment process,” [The Hill] but with the “Second Amendment Solutions” attached, and the specter of the Dirty Water Fishing Act of 2014 included, we shouldn’t be too disappointed that this little bill didn’t make it past the Senate Obstruction Machine.

It would have been nice if the hunters could have gotten their duck stamps online…

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Filed under Congress, ecology, Gun Issues, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

Amodei’s Magical List

AmodeiRepresentative Mark Amodei (R-NV2), ever faithful to his corporate masters, and ever ready to follow the lead of that (not-quite-so) compassionate leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), would have us believe the 112th Congress passed “27 bipartisan jobs bills” [Amodei] and more in the 113th, yielding some 40 “jobs bills.”   These are sadly jammed in that Upper Chamber of Horrors, a Democratically controlled Senate — well, maybe not too sad. Let’s dig deeper into Representative Amodei’s sequaceous sycophancy.

Representative Cantor helpfully provides a web site to list all these wonderful measures intended to “empower” small business owners from sea to shining sea.  Uh, not quite.

There is a huge chunk of House passed measures which is nothing more than a further gallop down the  DEREGULATION Trail.   That led to such wonderful results with regard to the American financial sector as of 2008 — we should want more of it?  Let’s take a look at a few bits of legislation on the Amodei/Cantor list:

H.Res. 72 calls for standing committees of the Congress to review every past, present, and proposed regulation — “That each standing committee designated in section 3 of this resolution shall inventory and review existing, pending, and proposed regulations, orders, and other administrative actions or procedures by agencies of the Federal Government within such committee’s jurisdiction.”    If you believe that this is supposed to alleviate the “burden” on small garage owners, I have some real estate for you…. This is about bringing succor to the international energy giants who are annoyed by environmental regulations, about comfort for the Wall Street Wizards who don’t want enforcement of the provisions of the Dodd Frank Act, especially the part wherein the big banks have to conform to some prohibitions against truly egregious behavior.  It’s also about further confounding efforts to enforce the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed in the wake of the Enron Debacle, governing the actions of corporate management.   This passed the House, but as a House resolution the Senate doesn’t deal with it.

H.R. 874 “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act,”  actually only reduces some very particular regulations.  “Amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act [CWA]) to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or a state from requiring a permit under the CWA for a discharge from a point source into navigable waters of a pesticide authorized for sale, distribution, or use under FIFRA, or the residue of such a pesticide, resulting from the application of such pesticide.

In short, neither the EPA nor the environmental authorities in any state can require a permit for discharging insecticides, fungicides, or rat poisons… or any chemical covered by the Clean Water Act… into our waters.  So, if I decide to dump &%#@! into the local river or creek, I don’t have to get a permit — what could possibly go wrong?

H.R. 2018:  Elegantly titled as the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011”  isn’t exactly cooperative, in fact it’s the reverse of the federal system.  Here’s a bit from this legislation; which effectively places environmental regulations in state hands — some states will be cooperative, and as we can well imaging some states will be delighted to exploit and pollute to their heart’s content – “(1) promulgating a revised or new water quality standard for a pollutant when the Administrator has approved a state water quality standard for such pollutant unless the state concurs with the Administrator’s determination that the revised or new standard is necessary to meet the requirements of such Act; (2) taking action to supersede a state’s determination that a discharge will comply with effluent limitations, water quality standards, controls on the discharge of pollutants, and toxic and pretreatment effluent standards under such Act;….”   In short, if any state doesn’t want to follow the Clean Water Act rules, it doesn’t have to.  How cooperative! (not)

H.R. 1315, happily titled the “Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act of 2011” is really simple:

“(Sec. 102) Amends the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to authorize the Chairperson of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to issue a stay of, or set aside, any regulation issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) upon the affirmative vote of the majority (currently, two-thirds) of Council members, excluding the Chair of the Commission of the CFPB (as provided for in this Act).”

This is a “jobs” bill?  What it obviously does is gut the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to prevent payday lenders from gouging their victims, to restrain some of the most egregious mortgage marketing practices known to man from devastating American families, and halt the sale of highly dubious financial products  cheating American workers and their families.   The only “jobs” saved or created by this bill are those for the less desirable elements in the financial sector.   Are these the ‘jobs’ Representative Amodei is anxious to save?

H.R. 2587, “Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act,” is a beauty, at least in the eyes of the right wing corporate perspective of Freedomworks.  “…the bill would prohibit the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from ordering any employer to close, relocate or transfer employment under any circumstance. The Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act would help ensure that the government agency does not over step their bounds by dictating decisions made by private sector companies. ” [Fdwks] This isn’t about “all jobs” it’s about Boeing jobs, Boeing moving jobs to a right to work state, Boeing trying to cut labor costs.  And, there IS another explanation for H.R. 2587:

“H.R. 2587 would remove the only meaningful remedy available to workers if a company illegally moves operations or eliminates work because workers engaged in protected activities such as organizing a union. An employer can outsource for any reason, except for an unlawful reason. Retaliating against workers for exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act is one unlawful reason.” [NCL]

Once again, this bill isn’t about “job creation,” it’s quite simply union busting. Little wonder old Freedomworks was so enthusiastic.   The House tried another NLRB gutting, labor bashing, anti-union measure, H.R. 3094, which is also stuck in the Senate because union bashing, and the eliminating the protections of the NLRB aren’t so popular in that body.

Meanwhile back at the Pollution Party, H.R.2273 — the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, “H.R. 2773 eliminates EPA’s authority under the Resource Conservation and Recovery (RCRA) Act to set minimum federal standards to ensure the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals (coal ash).  Instead, the bill allows states to establish their own programs without requiring them to meet any standard of protection for public health, public safety, or the environment. ” [DemE/C]

There are reasons people get nervous about the dumping of coal ash in close proximity to their homes and businesses:

“Coal ash pollution contains high levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium, and hexavalent chromium. The public health hazards and environmental threats to nearby communities from unsafe coal ash dumping have been known for many years, including increased risk of cancer, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, birth defects, reproductive failure, asthma, and other illnesses.” [SCOrg]

How lovely, this isn’t a ‘jobs bills’ it’s a death warrant.

However, the crowning jewel in the deregulation diadem was the not-so-job-creating H.R. 10, the REINS Act.

“Requires a joint resolution of approval of major rules to be enacted before such rules may take effect (currently, major rules take effect unless a joint resolution disapproving them is enacted). Provides that if a joint resolution of approval is not enacted by the end of 70 session days or legislative days, as applicable, after the agency proposing the rule submits its report on such rule to Congress, the major rule shall be deemed not to be approved and shall not take effect. Permits a major rule to take effect for one 90-calendar day period without such approval if the President determines it is necessary because of an imminent threat to health or safety or other emergency, for the enforcement of criminal laws, for national security, or to implement an international trade agreement.”

We could say all this in one sentence — no one from the President to any executive, or quasi-judicial regulatory agency — can promulgate a rule, any rule, without Congressional approval.   Herein we have the Ultimate Deregulation Act.   No more interference from the FDA about marketing drugs, no more interference from the Consumer Product Safety Commission about flammable infant pajamas, no more interference from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with unscrupulous pay day lenders…

These examples from the Republican list of “jobs bills” have little or nothing to do with actual jobs, instead they have everything to do with further deregulation — deregulation of polluters, deregulation of bankers, deregulation of the financial sector.

Somehow, we are encouraged by the Republicans in Congress to believe that unfettered corporate activities are necessary to “create jobs.”   It is, by their lights, acceptable to recreate the conditions which caused the 1948 Donora, Pennsylvania smog disaster, or the day in June 1969 when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland, Ohio.  Unfettered capitalism requires, by GOP reasoning, we accept the fate of Times Beach, Missouri, evacuated in 1983 because of dioxin pollution.

JOBS! will be created if we allow a replication of the Enron Debacle? The collapse of Lehman Brothers? The Financial Crisis of 2007-2008?

Recession job lossWhat deregulation (especially in the financial sector) creates are Bubbles.  Unrestrained by any prohibitions on their reckless enthusiasm or their unalloyed greed, financialism enhanced by deregulation eventually spawns disaster.   The Republicans in the House of Representatives have evidently confused the needs of Main Street with the desires of Wall Street.  The legislation they tout as Job Creating doesn’t do anything for the average Main Street enterprise, but seeks to do everything for even  the most modest Wall Street hedge fund.   The graph above illustrates the Bubble in the housing sector — during which all manner of jobs appeared in order to feed the demand from Wall Street for ever more mortgages to package and repackage into ever more complex and devious financial products.  When the Bubble burst, jobs were LOST, many still vacant, most not yet replaced five years later.

Meanwhile, the American Jobs Act, is stalled in the House of Representatives, a bill which would create 1.9 million jobs [Moody’s] and would add about 1.5% to our GDP. [WSJ]

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Filed under ecology, Politics, pollution