Regulatory Shutdown Proposal Is Unprecedented, Would Harm Millions, Lawmakers and Public Interest Groups Say

U.S. Reps. Cummings, Waxman and Markey Join Americans Who Would Be Harmed in Denouncing Bill to Block New National Safeguards for Clean Air, Safe Food and Workplaces, Secure Financial System and More

July 23, 2012

Contact: Gisele McAuliffe, Public Citizen, (202) 285-3340 or gmcauliffe@citizen.org
Brian Gumm, OMB Watch, (202) 683-4812 or bgumm@ombwatch.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Republican proposal to shut down the nation’s regulatory system – thereby blocking critical new health, environmental, safety and other safeguards – is an unprecedented attack that would cause harm to millions, said lawmakers, public interest groups and others today. Those affected range from hunters and asthmatics to factory workers and veterans.

In a telephone press conference, U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) joined the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards and several people who would be harmed by the proposal. The “Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act” (H.R. 4078) would place a moratorium on all new significant federal rules until unemployment drops to 6 percent. This would block many critical rules, including those designed to:

  • Make sure power plants, cement plants and industrial boilers comply with the Clean Air Act;
  • Ensure food produced on large farms and foreign farms is safe for consumption;
  • Protect workers in electronics, nuclear and metalwork industries from toxic beryllium;
  • Boost the energy efficiency of a wide range of products;
  • Ensure Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans receive compensation owed to them for extended deployments;
  • Track medical devices so patients can be made aware of recalls;
  • Establish the rules for bird-hunting season; and
  • Protect people from another Wall Street meltdown.

“The problem is that the Republican approach is based on a faulty premise—that regulations kill jobs,” Cummings said. “This myth has been widely discredited by economists on both sides of the aisle. The time has come for Congress to work together to focus on creating jobs and protecting the health and safety of American families. We do not have to choose one or the other.”

Added Waxman, “The Republican assault on clean air, safe food and public health defies belief. House Republicans are engaged in a reckless and relentless effort to undermine bipartisan laws that prior generations of Republicans helped pass. The Republican proposal the House considers this week would shut down our regulatory system.  It would block rules designed to ensure that our food supply is safe, efforts to reduce tobacco use, especially among our children, and programs that would reduce pollution from motor vehicles and save families money at the gas pump. The Republicans are out of touch with what the American public wants – sensible safeguards to protect public health and safety.”

Said Markey, “GOP now stands for ‘Gut Our Protections.’ That’s what this is all about, and their corporate contributors are grinning, as they know that they will not have to protect ordinary Americans from the worst effects of the policies of these corporations. The American public needs to look at how extreme this legislation is and understand that it will undo countless national safeguards that protect the health and the safety of all Americans. They call this the Red Tape Reduction Act – it would be better called the Black Lung Promotion Act or the Deep Brown Sea Act.”

Also participating in the press conference were a Montana bird hunter, the mother of a Florida child sickened by tainted cantaloupe and an asthma sufferer who became stricken with the disease as an adult following exposure to pollution produced by a fire at a sewage sludge plant in his hometown of Hartford, Conn.

Colette Dzaidul, of Viera, Fla., is the mother of a young girl, Dana, who was severely sickened by cantaloupe in 2001 at age three. Dana became so ill that doctors told her parents she might not live; today, at age 14, she suffers from reactive arthritis as a result of her illness. “As the mother of a daughter who almost died, it is heartbreaking and frustrating to continue to hear about the number of Americans continuing to be stricken by foodborne illness and dying from it,” Dzaidul said. “Three thousand Americans die every year from the simple act of eating and the Food Safety Modernization Act was designed to reduce these alarming statistics. Without any action, we will continue to see people die.”

Mark Mitchell M.D., MPH, became stricken with asthma as an adult after being exposed to pollution produced by a fire at a sewage sludge compost plant in his hometown of Hartford, Conn. Up to 800 diesel truckloads of trash, recycling and waste are shipped to Hartford incinerators and transfer stations each day. “Asthma is one of the few diseases that you can legislate,” Mitchell said. “You can determine how many asthma attacks will occur a region relative to air pollution, how many elderly people will die from poor air quality, how many children will be absent from school, how many parents are going to miss work and how much it will cost society. You can control those statistics by legislation and regulation.”

Jay Gore, a retired biologist, bird hunter and the former national grizzly bear habitat coordinator for the U.S. Forest Service said, “The regulatory shutdown bill would hurt the economy and probably cut jobs because it would halt bird hunting and the millions of dollars bird hunters spend each year in communities across the country visiting restaurants, hotels and outdoor recreation businesses. It would prevent the implementation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 that issues regulations each year telling hunters what bird species they can hunt and how much they can harvest.” (See: The Migratory Bird Hunting: Late Seasons and Bag and Possession Limits for Certain Migratory Game Birds.)

H.R. 4078 would:

  • Halt all “significant regulatory action” until the national unemployment rate falls below 6 percent;
  • Gut a key environmental protection statute and make it easier for companies to acquire energy permit approvals without addressing critical environmental concerns related to a project, increasing the likelihood of another major U.S. environmental disaster;
  • Halt key financial reforms designed to address the causes of the 2008 Wall Street financial collapse and prevent a similar economic crisis;
  • Shut down work at regulatory agencies as soon as a new U.S. president is elected. At any given time, including after a presidential election, there are many rules that have been under development for months, if not years. These rules would be blocked because their finalization date falls at the end of a president’s term.

“HR 4078 is a gift to the corporate criminal and wrongdoer lobby, pure and simple,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, one of the leaders of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards. “We need tighter controls over the big banks that are fixing markets, ripping us off and resuming risky practices that threaten economic stability. We need stronger rules to prevent the epidemic of needless death and injury from workplace hazards. We need far-reaching rules to avert catastrophic climate change. We need rules to ensure the safety of our food supply. And we need the government to perform its everyday functions. H.R. 4078 would block all of those efforts, in the interest of protecting Wall Street and the polluters, reckless employers and corporations that put dangerous products on the market.”

For a list of some specific rules that would be affected, visit here. For more information about the importance of safeguards, visit www.SensibleSafeguards.org.

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The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards is an alliance of consumer, small business, labor, scientific, research, good government, faith, community, health, environmental, and public interest groups, as well as concerned individuals, joined in the belief that our country’s system of regulatory safeguards provides a stable framework that secures our quality of life and paves the way for a sound economy that benefits us all. For more information about the coalition, go to www.sensiblesafeguards.org.