Monday, November 17, 2003

Is Eliot Spitzer the Only Activist Having Fun These Days?

Everyone complains to me that this Blog is too depresssing. I agree. Here's some good stuff.

If you haven't heard of New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, start paying attention. You'll be hearing more about him in the future (When't the next election for Governor of New York?)

I first met him testified in support of a particularly controversial section of the federal ergonomics standard -- work removal protection. Opponents claimed that the OSHA proposal, which would have required pay to people unable to work due to ergonomcs injuries, was a violation of the OSH Act which prohibits OSHA from affecting state workers compensation practices. Spitzer not only came down to Washington to testify at the OSHA hearing, but organized a whole group of state Attorneys General to sign a statement supporting the ergonomics standard.

He has been regularly featured for going after Wall St. firms who violate the law, but are not prosecuted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He has an op-ed in the New York Times today that talks about the failure of the Bush Administration's regulatory enforcement and the need for the states to pick up the slack.

Much of the piece deals with weak SEC enforcement, but he also addresses the administration's environmental failures:
With two decisions in the last two weeks, the Bush administration has sent its clearest message yet that it values corporate interests over the interests of average Americans....It is not surprising that the commission would sanction a deal that ignores consumers and is unsatisfactory to state regulators. Just look at the Bush administration's decision to abandon pending enforcement actions and investigations of Clear Air Act violations.

Even supporters of the Bush administration's environmental policy were stunned when the E.P.A. announced that it was closing pending investigations into more than 100 power plants and factories for violating the Clean Air Act — and dropping 13 cases in which it had already made a determination that the law had been violated.

Regulators may disagree about what our environmental laws should look like. But we should all be able to agree that companies that violated then-existing pollution laws should be punished.

Those environmental laws were enacted to protect a public that was concerned about its health and safety. By letting companies that violated the Clean Air Act off the hook, the Environmental Protection Agency has effectively issued an industry-wide pardon. This will only embolden polluters to continue practices that harm the environment.

My office had worked with the agency to investigate polluters, and will continue to do so when possible. But today a bipartisan coalition of 14 state attorneys general will sue the agency to halt the implementation of weaker standards. In addition, we will continue to press the lawsuits that have been filed. We have also requested the E.P.A. records for the cases that have been dropped, and will file lawsuits if they are warranted by the facts.
And as promised:
A coalition of 14 states plus the District of Columbia filed papers in federal court today in an effort to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from introducing a new rule that the states say will seriously weaken the provisions of the Clean Air Act and send more pollution into the atmosphere.


The 14 states states that sued today want the new rule to be put on hold while the case is brought to trial to determine whether or not the regulations are legal. The new rule "violates the plain language of the Clean Air Act, conflicts with Congressional intent, and contradicts longstanding court rulings," the states said in a statement today.

"It is a sad day in America when a coalition of states must go to federal court to defend the Clean Air Act against the misguided actions of the federal agency created to protect the environment," the New York attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, said. "But in this matter, the E.P.A. is standing with polluters instead of with the people it is supposed to protect, and the states have no choice but to take this action."