In the waning days of the Bush Administration, officials are rushing to roll back critical regulations protecting the rights of Americans in the workplace, at home, and in their communities.
1. INCREASED POLLUTION FROM POWER PLANTS
The Bush EPA wants to allow increased emissions from older power plants while also rolling back existing air quality regulations for national parks and wilderness areas. The result: more pollution and decreased air quality and visibility.
BACKGROUND: The changes to older power plants were originally proposed in Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2001 energy plan, written by energy industry lobbyists.
QUOTE: The Washington Post condemned this "ill-advised rule that would allow old, pollution-spewing power plants to increase deadly emissions without restriction…yet another astonishing decision by an administration that insists that its record on the environment and climate change is misunderstood and underappreciated." [EPA, "Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Nonattainment New Source Review: Emission Increases for Electric Generating Units," 72 Federal Register 26201, 5/8/07; EPA, "Prevention of Significant Deterioration New Source Review: Refinement of Increment Modeling Procedures," 72 Federal Register 31371, 6/6/07; McClatchy News, 10/27/08; Washington Post, 10/28/08]
2. UNDERMINING THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
Proposed regulatory changes to the Endangered Species Act would "undo more than 30 years of progress," according to experts.
BACKGROUND: The proposed rule would allow federal agencies to ignore the views of scientists and other experts on the impacts of major actions and even forbid government officials from assessing the impact of project emissions on global warming.
QUOTE: According to John Kostyack of the National Wildlife Federation, "These changes take unbiased, professional wildlife biologists out of the equation and put decisions in the hands of political appointees." [73 Federal Register 47868, 8/15/08; NBC, 10/22/08]
3. JEOPARDIZING AMERICANS’ CIVIL LIBERTIES
Americans’ privacy rights could be severely undermined by a Department of Justice proposed rule that would empower state and local police to collect, share, and retain sensitive information about Americans, even when no underlying crime is suspected.
BACKGROUND: Law enforcement agencies could potentially share sensitive, personal information with employers and landlords which could result in a person being fired from a job or evicted from an apartment.
QUOTE: According to the Brennan Center for Justice: "They will….eliminate important safeguards against false or misleading information being disseminated, retained, and acted upon." [DOJ, "Criminal Intelligence Systems Operating Procedures," [73 Federal Register 44673, 7/31/08; Brennan Center for Justice, 8/27/08]
4. REDUCING RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES
The Department of Justice’s proposed rule would make dramatic changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act – weakening accessibility standards and reducing enforcement efforts.
BACKGROUND: Despite requests for an extension, organizations were given just 60 days to comment on the Department of Justice proposed rule changes to the ADA. The rule would reduce accessibility to state and local government facilities by allowing a single facility to fulfill the obligation under the law – for example, a school district could provide just one accessible elementary school within a district of 30 elementary schools and still be considered compliant. The rule would also remove the requirement that all complaints of discrimination against state and local governments be investigated – dramatically reducing enforcement efforts.
QUOTE: The Arc of the United States and United Cerebral Palsy commented on the proposed single facility standard: "This standard is neither workable nor reasonable. This proposed new standard would be discriminatory because it would result in unequal access for persons with disabilities, and it would also have the effect of segregating disabled and nondisabled persons." [DOJ, "Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities," (73 FR 34508, 6/17/08); Comments on proposed ADA regulations by The Arc of the United States and United Cerebral Palsy, 8/18/08]
5. RESTRICTING ACCESS TO CRITICAL CARE FOR MEDICAID PATIENTS
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed a rule that would restrict outpatient hospital services Medicaid would cover for our nation’s most vulnerable Americans.
BACKGROUND: Under the new rule, Medicaid would be prohibited from covering certain services provided to Medicaid patients through outpatient hospital clinics – a common way states have provided health care to low-income communities and reduced emergency room use.
QUOTE: New York Gov. David Paterson: "At a time when states are so desperately in need of fiscal relief, the last thing we can afford is onerous federal regulations that curtail existing avenues of federal support for critical services." [HHS/CMS, "Medicaid Program; Clarification of Outpatient Clinic and Hospital Facility Services Definition and Upper Payment Limit," RIN 0938-AO17 (72 FR 55158, 9/28/07); Paterson testimony before the House Committee on Ways & Means, 10/29/08]
6. INCREASING ROAD HAZARDS BY WEAKENING TRUCK DRIVER LIMITS
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is again planning to expand by 10percent the number of hours a truck driver can drive without adequate rest, threatening the safety of all drivers.
BACKGROUND: Despite losing twice in federal court, the Bush Administration is moving ahead with this rule.
QUOTE: Daphne Izer, founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers: "These new hours of service are not just taking a toll on the safety of truck drivers and everyone who shares the roads with big rigs, but have severe, adverse impacts on the health of truck drivers." [DOT/FMCSA, "Hours of Service for Drivers," RIN 2126-AB14; CNN, 12/21/07; Izer's testimony before Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee, 12/19/07]
7. FAMILY PLANNING UNDER FIRE
Millions of women can see their health threatened under the Bush Administration plan.
BACKGROUND: The plan would threaten to cut off funding to organizations and health facilities which decline to hire people who refuse to provide birth control. The proposed rule also could effectively define many types of birth control, including oral contraception, as "abortion."
QUOTE: Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, says the proposed rule would allow "health-care providers to decide that they will withhold essential health care treatment for women because of their own moral beliefs, not because of the medical considerations involved." [HHS, "Ensuring that Department of Health and Human Services Funds Do Not Support Coercive or Discriminatory Policies or Practices In Violation of Federal Law," 73 Federal Register 50274, 8/26/08; Bloomberg, 8/8/08]
8. EXPOSING CHILDREN TO MORE WORKPLACE HAZARDS
14- and 15-year-olds who would be allowed to work under a Department of Labor rule could face life- and health-threatening dangers.
BACKGROUND: The rule could lead more young children to be exposed to dangerous chemicals and machinery. Additional changes would be made to the Hazardous Protection regulations for working 16- and 17-year-olds.
QUOTE: Linda Golodner, co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition, warns that the rules "will put our youngest workers at risk of even greater dangers than they currently face." [DOL, "Child Labor Regulations, Orders and Statement of Interpretation: Nonagricultural Occupations; Employment of 14- and 15-year-olds,"(72 Federal Register 19337, 4/17/07) and "Occupations Particularly Hazardous for or Detrimental to Health or Well-Being of Employees under 18 years old,"(72 Federal Register 19328, 4/17/07); Child Labor Coalition, 7/18/07]
9. "SECRET RULE" UNDERMINES HEALTH PROTECTIONS FOR WORKERS
80 noted scientists have questioned a Department of Labor rule – developed in virtual secrecy – because it could potentially damage workers’ health.
BACKGROUND: The "Secret Rule" undermines how occupational health risk assessments are conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The scientists called for Labor Sec. Elaine Chao to withdraw the rule.
QUOTE: Dr. Celeste Monforton of the George Washington University School of Public Health told a September 2008 Congressional hearing that the proposed changes "will impede, not improve, health protections for workers." [DOL, "Requirements for DOL Agencies' Assessment of Occupational Health Risks," 73 Federal Register 50909, 8/29/08; Letter to Labor Secretary Chao from 80 scientists and experts, 8/14/08; Monforton's testimony before House Education and Labor Committee, Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, 9/17/08]
10. FINANCIAL ADVISERS ALLOWED TO PROVIDE INVESTMENT ADVICE – REGARDLESS OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST
This Department of Labor proposed rule would jeopardize the retirement security of millions of American workers because it would allow investment consultants to conceal their conflicts of interest.
BACKGROUND: This rule would allow investment consultants to offer advice to workers with 401(k)s and IRAs despite the consultants’ conflicts of interest in providing those recommendations. Especially in light of investment shenanigans by so many in the financial services industry, employees must be assured they are receiving sound and independent information for their retirement investment decisions.
QUOTE: According to Norman Stein of the Pension Rights Center, "We all know that there will be winks and nods and bonuses that will be discretionary. If conflicts are possible, they’re going to happen." [DOL, "Proposed Class Exemption for Investment Advice to Participants and Beneficiaries of Self-Directed Individual Account Plans and IRAs," 73 Federal Register 49924, 8/22/08; Workforce Management, 9/8/08]
11. UNDERCUTTING THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT
Fifteen years after the enactment of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), this Department of Labor proposed rule would make it more difficult for workers to exercise their leave rights.
BACKGROUND: Among the changes, employees could be coerced into signing a waiver of their FMLA rights and can be required to take a full day of leave when only a portion of intermittent or reduced schedule leave is needed.
QUOTE: Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families: "These are regulations that will make it harder to take advantage of the law. You will end up having more people not protected by the law." [DOL, "The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993," 73 Federal Register 7875, 2/11/08; Washington Post, 2/19/08]