Why an Unprecedented Effort To Shut Down Safeguards Is A Damaging Idea
Recently, the House voted on a massive safeguard shutdown bill (H.R. 4078), which would freeze the rulemaking process that ensures laws are enacted – including rules that prevent workplace injuries, make food safer, police deceptive and predatory practices in the financial industry, protect the nation’s infrastructure and more.
Despite its sponsors’ rhetoric, the bill contains no provisions that would create jobs, stimulate the economy or help the unemployed. Here are 5 reasons to oppose this misguided piece of legislation.
Reason #1: Consumers will be unprotected from hidden fees and the sometimes predatory practices of the financial industry
The Dodd-Frank law created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), charging the agency with protecting consumers and empowering it to issue new consumer protection rules. Rules that the agency may issue include:
- Requiring mortgage lenders to consider borrowers’ ability to pay;
- Prohibiting banks from charging excessive overdraft fees or suckering consumers into opting into unreasonable overdraft fee harvesting schemes;
- Eliminating forced arbitration provisions in consumer financial contracts, banning unfair practices in the payday loan industry, and prohibiting kickbacks to auto dealers who steer buyers into overpriced loans;
- Stopping student loan companies from tricking students into taking high-priced private loans before they exhaust less expensive federal loans.
This misguided bill would affect people like Belinda Brooks, a small business owner.
Reason #2: Workers will remain unprotected from the hazards of silica and beryllium.
The standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for beryllium and cancer-causing silica are each more than 50 years old. Because both of these hazards cause countless illnesses to American workers, OSHA is working to reform the rules to limit exposure to these dangers to American safety. Delays on updated rules have already had consequences (2 million American workers are exposed to silica dust in the workplace each day, for example), and a safeguard shutdown bill would only harm American workers further.
- The silica rule would prevent 60 worker deaths each year—41 from silicosis and 19 from lung cancer.
- The silica rule would prevent hundreds of cases of nonfatal silicosis annually.
- In the 10 years OSHA has been working on the silica rule, 600 workers have died because of rulemaking delays.
- There are hundreds of silicosis deaths and thousands of new silicosis cases each year.
- If the beryllium rules were enacted nine years ago, they would have prevented 4,194 cases of chronic beryllium disease (a potentially fatal respiratory ailment), 5,413 cases of beryllium sensitization (which often leads to chronic beryllium disease), and 216 cases of lung cancer.
This misguided bill would affect people like Bruce Revers, a factory worker who sufferes from chronic beryllium disease.
Reason #3: Americans would not be protected from faulty blowout preventers, which could cause another oil disaster just like the Deepwater Horizon incident.
Blowout preventers are the last line of defense against a blowout—and major oil spill—in our oceans. When they fail, as the one on the Macondo well did during the BP oil spill, horrific consequences follow. Since the Deepwater Horizon incident, the government has been working to identify how to improve the effectiveness of blowout preventers so that lives are not lost and landscapes and our water are not despoiled. The Department of the Interior is planning to propose new standards on blowout preventers in September. These rules are intended to save lives and to decrease the chances of another event like Gulf Coast oil disaster from happening. The aftermath of the spill includes, but is not limited, to:
- An estimated 170 million gallons of oil flooded into the Gulf of Mexico.
- 8,000 animals were found dead in the six months after the spill.
- 2 million gallons of dispersants were used on the spill, and the damage they caused may not be known for years to come.
- Scientists of have found oil still sitting on the ocean floor.
- Long-term impacts include an unbalanced food web, decreased fish and wildlife populations, and decreased activity in recreational activities that generate revenue for the Gulf area.
Statistics from National Wildlife Federation
Find out from NRDC how H.R. 4078 would make another Deepwater Horizon spill more likely.
Reason #4: Americans will remain unprotected from foodborne illnesses.
Congress passed and the president signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act in January 2011. While some provisions of the law have taken effect, provisions requiring farmers to create checklists to assure that safety procedures are followed in the production, harvesting, handling and packing of produce will not take effect until the FDA issues a rule detailing new requirements for the industry. The law was due to be enacted by January 2012 but the needed rules still have not been released. Delays on these essential food safety rules are making an already flawed system increasingly problematic. Each year we delay the rule causes more suffering.
- There are an estimated 48 million foodborne illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths from food contamination each year.
- Foodborne illnesses wind up costing more than $70 billion dollars each year in health-related costs.
- The delay of the fresh produce rule would result in 9,838,773 food-poisoned Americans per year.
- To learn how delays in the fresh produce rule will affect your state, check out our state factsheets.
Statistics from Pew Charitable Trusts and “Health Related Costs from Foodborne Illness in the United States,” Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University, March 2010
This misguided bill would leave more people unprotected, like Colette Dzaidul, who almost lost her daughter to a salmonella outbreak in cantaloupe.
Reason #5: EPA standards designed to monitor soot pollution will not be updated to keep pace with current pollution levels.
Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) periodically reviews the standards for pollution to assure that they are protecting the public. The EPA is now a year behind in updating its standard for small particle pollution, commonly referred to as “soot.” This delay is costing lives. Soot can lodge deep within the lungs, aggravating asthma and increasing the risk of heart attacks. Those with pre-existing lung or heart disease, diabetics, the elderly and children are most at risk.
Delaying updates to soot pollution standards causes as many as:
- 1.4 million additional asthma attacks among children each year
- 2.7 million days of missed work or school each year due to air pollution-caused ailments
- To learn how delays in soot pollution standards will affect your state, check out our state factsheets.
Statistics from study commissioned by Earthjustice, the American Lung Association, and the Clean Air Task Force with support from the Energy Foundation.
This misguided bill would leave more people unprotected, like Mark Mitchell, who developed asthma as an adult after being exposed to pollution from a fire at a sewage sludge compost facility in his hometown.