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Updated by drosen on Jul 25, 2022
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Latest Regulatory News 2021

Biden Lauds Delay in 5G Deployment, Says It Ensures Flights Won't Be Disrupted

President Biden on Tuesday commended the decision by two telecommunications giants to delay 5G technology deployment, saying doing so will ensure there won’t be disruptions in air operations over the next two weeks. Verizon and AT&T announced on Monday an agreement to delay deploying 5G by two weeks, following pressure from the White House and airline industry over concerns the deployment would cause flight delays and interruptions. The 5G deployment is now set to take place on Jan. 19, pushed back from the originally schedule deployment on Wednesday. Holiday travelers have faced thousands of canceled and delayed flights due to the COVID-19 surge impacting airline crews and major snowstorms.

Enron’s Collapse 20 Years Later—Lessons Not Learned

Twenty years ago in December 2001, the wunderkind energy company Enron collapsed spectacularly, destroying $67 billion in assets held by mutual funds, retirees and individual stock investors. Some commentary 20 years later has focused on how Enron heralded the first of companies making money by “disruption"—even as some of this disruption also led to negative impacts on society. there is no doubt that, like Facebook, even Enron’s legitimate money-making enterprises had some negative spillovers as a side effect of wealth creation by innovation. But the problem isn’t with the idea of seeking innovation or testing disruptive ways of doing things; the problem is that government regulators, then and now, have been starved of their ability to effectively channel market forces and private innovation to wealth creation while avoiding negative externalities. Truly supporting the private sector, innovation, and wealth creation, requires more government regulation, not less.

Congress Must Reform the Safe Drinking Water Act to Guarantee the Public Right-to-Know

In yet another extreme drinking water incident, U.S. Navy personnel in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii recently suffered stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea before laboratory analyses found gasoline and diesel products in their water. More than 3,000 residents were forced from their homes, most for the holidays. With the Flint, Michigan water crisis in the nation’s rearview mirror, contaminants in drinking water have become a mere fact of American life: toxic PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances) in Newburgh, NY; the industrial solvent 1,2,3-Trichloropropane in Ceres, California; the heavy-metal lead in Benton Harbor, Michigan; and scores of other incidents across the nation. Frightened water consumers ask why they are not alerted before toxins reach their homes — a cry in the wilderness of government agencies scrambling for answers. The aging 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act is at fault. Congress must reform the law to guarantee the public’s right to know the quality of their drinking water in advance, and foster the technologies that will protect that right.

FDA Authorizes COVID-19 Boosters for 12- to 15-Year-Olds

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday authorized Pfizer booster shots for people aged 12 to 15 years, another expansion in the population eligible for the third shots. Booster shots are seen as a key tool to fight the omicron variant, which has shown a heightened ability to infect people who have received two shots, though vaccinated people still have important protection against severe disease. The FDA also shortened the time for all adults to get their booster shots, down to five months from six months after the initial shots.

Biden Administration Reverses Trump Rule Allowing More Powerful Shower Heads

The Energy Department on Tuesday announced a rollback of a Trump-era rule that had loosened restrictions on water flow in showerheads. The new rule restores 2013 regulations on how much water can be carried through showerheads. Under the earlier rule, the entire shower was considered under rules restricting flow to 2.5 gallons per minute. The Trump revision changed the definition of “showerhead” to every nozzle in a single product, meaning a single shower fixture could carry two or three times the previous limit in some cases. The restoration is not projected to have major impacts on the showerhead market. The earlier revision came not as a result of the industry lobbying but rather frequent complaints from Trump himself that current showerheads did not carry enough water.

Court Reinstates Health Worker Coronavirus Vaccine Mandate in Half of U.S.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday effectively revived a Biden administration vaccine mandate for health workers at hospitals that receive federal funding in roughly half of the U.S. The procedural ruling by the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit temporarily scaled back a nationwide injunction put in place by a Louisiana-based federal judge late last month. The move notched a modest and tentative win for the Biden administration following a series of legal setbacks to efforts to blunt the effects of a global pandemic that has killed roughly 800,000 people in the U.S.

High Hopes for FDA Regulation of CBD Products

In March 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter to Cannafyl, a cannabis product company, because it marketed its products containing cannabidiol (CBD) as products that could prevent or cure COVID-19. These products are still available for purchase, but Cannafyl’s website now contains a disclaimer noting that its CBD products “are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” When the landscape for products in the food or health sectors changes, FDA often decides which products are safe for Americans. But recent developments show that markets tend to move faster than regulators, raising questions about what products FDA should leave the market free to make available to consumers.

Transportation Department Issues Rules to Protect Maritime Cadets From Sexual Assaults at Sea

The Transportation Department announced late Wednesday an overhaul of policies designed to prevent U.S. Merchant Marine Academy cadets from suffering sexual abuse while at sea and plans to resume training on commercial vessels next week. The rules, called Every Mariner Builds a Respectful Culture, or EMBARC, set out detailed measures that shipping companies and the academy must take to help keep cadets safe.

Business Lobby Targets FTC Enforcement Measures in $2T Bill

Business lobbying groups are pushing senators to strip measures that would grant new enforcement powers to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) out of Democrats’ $2 trillion climate and social spending bill. They’re targeting provisions in the Build Back Better Act that would provide additional funding to the FTC to investigate data protection and antitrust issues and give the FTC the authority to levy new civil penalties against companies that engage in unfair or deceptive trade practices.

Environmental Groups Call on EPA to Take Stronger Action on Reports of Falsified Chemical Safety Assessments

Six environmental organizations on Tuesday called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take more aggressive action in response to reports that an agency office manipulated assessments of chemical safety. The allegations, first reported in July by The Intercept, originated from four whistleblowers in the EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT). The scientists alleged managers have rubber-stamped industry's submissions for new chemicals, called pre-manufacture notices (PMNs), despite internal warnings of high toxicity for many of the submissions. Since then, the EPA has announced two internal advisory councils and new senior-level advisory position in the office, but the organizations warned this would not properly address the issue. Signers of the letter called on the EPA to take further actions, including public condemnation of the alleged conduct, allowing public airing of scientific disputes without reprisals and an end to the practice of exclusively sharing draft assessments with submitters.

Air Pollution Still Disproportionately Harms Communities of Color, Study Says

While the air in the United States has gotten cleaner since 1990, people of color are still exposed to six major air pollutants more than white people, according to research published today. The study by University of Washington researchers, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, is one of the most comprehensive looks to date at the racial and ethnic disparities in air pollution exposure nationwide. It comes as President Biden seeks to prioritize environmental justice by steering federal investments in clean energy toward communities that have borne the brunt of pollution for decades, including low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Elizabeth Warren Asks SEC to Investigate Fossil Fuel Executives’ Pay

Sen. Elizabeth Warren called on the country’s top securities regulator to examine the pay practices of large energy companies, citing a report in The Washington Post that revealed how some fossil fuel giants reward executives for meeting environmental goals even in years when their companies caused significant environmental harm.

DOJ Environment Boss to Target Corporate Employees for Jail Time

The Justice Department will prioritize prosecuting individuals who commit corporate environmental crimes, a top agency official said in what one attorney called a departure from traditional prosecutorial practice. DOJ won’t restrict its criminal enforcement to environmental statutes and will consider Title 18 crimes of fraud, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice when committed alongside environmental violations.

Fatal Amazon Warehouse Collapse Spotlights Safety Concerns

The fatal collapse of an Amazon facility in Illinois after a tornado swept the heartland on Friday is putting a spotlight on concerns that critics have raised about worker safety at the e-commerce giant’s warehouses. Workers have painted a grim and hectic picture of the Edwardsville, Ill. facility on Friday night — escalating advocate’s calls for the company to rethink dangerous policies and leading the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to open an investigation.

Senate Whistleblower Report Alleges Oversight Problems With Aerospace Industry Safety

A Senate whistleblower report released on Monday alleges a number of oversight problems involving safety in the aerospace industry. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation released a report after speaking with seven identified whistleblowers from the aerospace industry, including a Boeing senior engineer, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) engineer, two former FAA engineers, a former Boeing engineer, a former Boeing senior manager and a former GE Aviation engineer. In its report, the Senate committee said the FAA’s certification process had suffered because of "undue pressure on line engineers and production staff," and that line engineers who had technical expertise were sometimes ignored during the certification process for the Boeing 737 Max program follow two high-profile crashes involving those planes and 787 programs. The committee also found that the FAA did not equip its office in Seattle, which was overseeing the Boeing Organization Designation Authorization, with enough safety engineers. That organization designation authorization is reportedly the most complex one in the country.

Biden’s 2,700-Item To-Do List Targets Climate, Mental Health

President Joe Biden released his second regulatory to-do list Friday, detailing almost 2,700 agenda items that define his ambitions to change the environment, transportation, and mental healthcare through the federal government’s rulemaking power. Regulations cutting down on climate super-pollutants in refrigeration, lowering greenhouse-gas emissions from light- and heavy-duty vehicles, and improving sidewalk designs for people with disabilities are on the agenda, Sharon Block, the top political official in the White House regulations office, said in a statement. Biden officials will also consider how to improve insurance coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment, Block said.

Officials Underestimating 'Forever Chemicals' Lurking in U.S. Food: Scientists

The American food supply is likely riddled with far more dangerous toxins than the average consumer would anticipate, and scientists say they lack sufficient, streamlined data about the “forever chemicals” lurking in food packaging and farmlands. While state and federal agencies have improved data collection for PFAS — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — in drinking water, only “anecdotal evidence” exists for other exposure sources, such as ingestion of food, inhalation of dust and dermal uptake, Elsie Sunderland, an environmental chemistry professor at Harvard University, told the Subcommittees on Environment and Research and Technology.

OSHA Probes Amazon's Fatal Warehouse Collapse

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is launching a probe into the fatal collapse of an Amazon facility in Illinois after it was hit by a tornado, the agency said Monday. OSHA has had compliance officers at the complex in Edwardsville, Ill., since Saturday to provide assistance, according to agency spokesperson Scott Allen. Six people died and one was transferred to a regional hospital after a tornado hit the 1.1-million-square-foot delivery center on Friday, according to officials. OSHA has six months to complete its investigation, including issuing citations and proposing monetary penalties if safety or health violations are found, Allen said.

A Century of Tragedy: How the Car and Gas Industry Knew About the Health Risks of Leaded Fuel But Sold It for 100 Yea...

On the frosty morning of Dec. 9, 1921, in Dayton, Ohio, researchers at a General Motors lab poured a new fuel blend into one of their test engines. Immediately, the engine began running more quietly and putting out more power. The new fuel was tetraethyl lead. With vast profits in sight – and very few public health regulations at the time – General Motors Co. rushed gasoline diluted with tetraethyl lead to market despite the known health risks of lead. They named it “Ethyl” gas. It has been 100 years since that pivotal day in the development of leaded gasoline. As a historian of media and the environment, I see this anniversary as a time to reflect on the role of public health advocates and environmental journalists in preventing profit-driven tragedy.

Chief Justice Roberts Rejects Bid to Block Mask Mandate on Airplanes

Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday rejected a request to block a federal mask mandate for air travel. The emergency request was filed by a Florida man on behalf of himself and his 4-year-old autistic son, who both claim to be medically incapable of wearing masks for extended periods, according to court papers.

FDA Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech Coronavirus Vaccine Booster Shots for 16- and 17-Year-Olds Amid Omicron Threat

Federal regulators Thursday authorized booster shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds, a step that officials said would bolster protection against delta, the variant behind surging infections in parts of the United States, and could help tame the emerging omicron version. The Food and Drug Administration’s decision came the day after new data from the companies suggested that boosters may play a critical role in helping to control the omicron variant by raising virus-fighting antibodies to block the pathogen, which echoed a finding by leading scientists in South Africa released earlier this week.

Hospital and Doctor Groups Sue Biden Officials Over Surprise Billing Rules

The American Medical Association (AMA) and American Hospital Association on Thursday sued the Biden administration over regulations to prevent patients from getting stuck with “surprise” medical bills, escalating a fight over the rules. The lawsuit illustrates the intense lobbying battle that has been playing out among industry players over a major reform to the health care system that is intended to protect patients from getting massive unexpected medical bills.

Could Biometric Tracking Harm Workers?

What if your boss used your heart rate to infer your stress level and decided not to promote you? According to a recent article by Elizabeth A. Brown, a professor at Bentley University, your boss should be punished for violating the law. But no current regulation prevents employers for using health data in this way. Brown argues that employees need greater legal protections, particularly with employers collecting increasing amounts of biometric information, such as DNA, fingerprints, eye scans, and facial images.

Climate Can't Wait: Biden Must Use His Power to End New Fossil Fuel Leasing

To stand any chance of avoiding the worst consequences of catastrophic climate change, there is broad scientific agreement that there can be no new fossil-fuel extraction. Not on public lands or in federal waters, not anywhere. Not one more acre. But the Interior Department’s long-awaited review of federal oil and gas leasing said virtually nothing about climate change and nothing about scaling back — let alone ending — leasing, despite President Biden’s pledge during the campaign that he would do so. The Biden administration even failed to recommend environmental analyses before new leases are sold. Such analyses could weigh just how much harm burning more fossil fuels will do to our rapidly warming world and, one would hope, rely on that good science to reject the leases.

Wage Rule Aimed at Federal Infrastructure Projects Nears Release

The U.S. Department of Labor has asked the White House to review a regulatory proposal that could affect the billions of dollars in new infrastructure projects Congress has approved. The proposed rule would update the Davis-Bacon Act, a 1931 law requiring workers on federally funded construction projects to receive wages and benefits on par with similar local jobs. Building trades unions, who have long complained about how Davis-Bacon has been administered and enforced, covet the regulation. Details of the regulation’s scope have been kept under wraps, but the final version could redefine how employers determine what constitutes the “prevailing wage” they must pay workers when the federal government finances a building project.