While headlines focus on Russia, obstruction of justice, and health care, the Trump administration is working behind the scenes to dismantle consumer protections.
A bill being debated in the Senate, the proposed Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017, would jeopardize the health, safety, and wellbeing of the American public.
Although the act’s stated purpose is to reform the federal regulatory process “to cut red tape so federal programs operate as intended and are effective and efficient,” it actually would hinder the government from carrying out laws that protect Americans from toxic chemicals, predatory marketing practices, dangerous labor conditions, unsafe food and drugs, and more.
Twelve state attorneys general wrote the U.S. Senate leadership Monday expressing “strong opposition” to the act. They said it would bring the federal regulatory process “to a grinding halt.
If passed, the act would hand the regulatory process over to wealthy special interests and would result in needless procedure and endless litigation, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. He calls it “ill-conceived and reckless legislation.”
The attorneys general said there are several troubling provisions of the bill, including those that:
- Increase the likelihood that “high impact” rules and “major” rules will have lengthy and burdensome trial-type hearings that favor special interests over the general public.
- Give the federal agencies unreviewable discretion to determine a rule is “high-impact” or “major,” which would trigger cumbersome new procedural rules and stymie the adoption of critical public safeguards.
- Require proposed rules to undergo a new ill-defined “most cost-effective” standard of analysis that will invite litigation from special interests seeking to block, delay, and weaken proposed federal regulations, whether they’re to a protect the environment, public health, workplaces, or food and drug safety.
The letter provides an example of how a prohibitive standard derailed a decade-long effort to regulate asbestos. In 1989, after studying the regulation of asbestos for more than 10 years and putting together a 100,000-page administrative record, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a final rule banning nearly all asbestos-containing products under the Toxics Substances Control Act. The asbestos industry and its supporters filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s action. While the court agreed with the EPA that “asbestos is a potential carcinogen at all levels of exposure,” it found the agency had failed to demonstrate that it had met the standard for analysis – the “least burdensome alternative” – required by the act, and vacated the rule.
Through the “most cost-effective” standard and many other provisions of the bill, the coalition argues that the act “would introduce unnecessary, unwieldy, and costly impediments into federal rulemaking that would dramatically increase the time necessary to put public safeguards in place, exclude the public from the rulemaking process, and lead to avoidable and prolonged litigation that favors deep-pocketed special interests.”
The letter urges the Senate leadership to oppose passage of the act.
Joining Schneiderman in sending the letter are the attorney generals of California, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.