The Regulatory Accountability Act: Trump’s New Method for Keeping the Asbestos Industry Alive

by Sokolove Law

The first week of 2017 saw the Congressional introduction to of a deceitful, poisonous bill entitled the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017 (H.R. 5, officially, or “RAA” for short) by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH).

Fast-forward to the second week of May, and the bill has already passed painlessly through the House and moved straight to the Senate floor where it currently awaits senatorial voting.

RAA, which attacks long-standing industry regulations and rules, often enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), inherently favors the wellbeing of businesses over that of ordinary American citizens.

Of course, for many of us keeping up with the news these days, such a stratagem shouldn’t prove terribly shocking, really; In Trump’s first 100 days in the Oval Office, he has slashed the EPA’s budget by $2.4 Billion and forced thousands of government employees out of their jobs. The FDA, too, is looking toward a future in which more budget slashes are one of the main fiscal goals of the Trump administration.

To Set the Stage….

Last year, Congress unanimously passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which President Obama shortly thereafter signed into law. The bill was a long-overdue and much-needed update of the antiquated Toxic Substance and Control Act (of 1979).

Among its many goals was tasking the EPA with the job of better controlling, testing, and monitoring chemicals for carcinogenic properties and overall safeness, and to pave the way for a full ban on asbestos – goals that offer serious, but achievable, protections to the American public.

What the RAA does then, is seek to undo all of that progress, by creating a slew of new rules for federal agencies (such as the EPA) to follow that would make it nearly impossible to pass any further regulations.

Many scientific experts across numerous industries – health, food, and chemical – are saying the bill would create “an unprecedented regulatory gauntlet” that would only A) keep things just the way they are and B) mire any meaningful changes to industry regulation in mountains of paperwork and “necessary” procedures designed to stall progress.

Re: Consumer Safety – the Lies and the Truth

Pitched by President Trump and the Republican Party as a bill that would safeguard industries and job security for millions of American people, the RAA, in reality, would impede any progress toward the development of additional and much-needed federal regulations that would keep money-hungry industries in check; such as the food industry, which suffers from a lack of regulation, and the chlor-alkali industry, which is responsible for not only tens of thousands of toxic chemicals, but the 1,000 metric tons of asbestos the U.S. imports each and every year.

When it comes to asbestos, a lethal mineral that is recognized as a “known carcinogen” by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the EPA, most Americans think that it’s long been banned.

This is not true. Asbestos is, in fact, still at-large in the U.S., even though it is completely banned in over 55 countries worldwide (including Canada and most of Western Europe). Moreover, this carcinogenic mineral kills over 15,000 Americans annually – a figure that is just completely unacceptable.

Still, even in spite of this knowledge, Trump has been a long-time supporter of asbestos, going so far as to claim that the World Trade Center towers “would never have burnt down” if they’d been built with asbestos. We simply cannot expect industries like the asbestos industry to change for the better on their own, especially when they have a good friend in the White House.

Industry Could Essentially Get Itself a “License to Kill”

Besides stalling out any and all proposed new regulations, what else would this bill do were it to become law? Lots. And all of it harmful. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Proposed new industry regulations would suffer through an “endless loop” of studies upon studies and subsequent studies to verify the findings of previous studies;
  • Regulatory agencies tasked with making decisions would be forced to do so based on whatever would prove least costly to industries;
  • Limitations would be placed on the scientific data that regulatory agencies have at their disposal in order to make informed new rules;
  • Judges, regardless of any political affiliation or lack of scientific knowledge, would be able to overturn regulatory actions taken by federal agencies;
  • Before any rules take effect – say, an outright ban on asbestos recommended by the EPA – strict approval of Congress (both House and Senate) would be required.

As plain as day, these are all proposals that would favor the profitability of industry. With no new regulations to come their way, what repercussions – if any – should they fear? Their profits would remain steady, their business agendas, toxic as they are, would be unadultrated.

Simple: Industry wins, people lose.

For these reasons, and more, the Center for American Progress (CAP) has taken to calling the RAA the “license to kill” bill, because that’s exactly what it would do: Cut regulations that keep us safe, and safeguard the lack of regulation in industries that keep us unsafe.

A Poisonous Bill That Will Legally Allow the Deaths of Countless Americans

If the Senate passes the RAA, it means that they have turned their back on Americans, and that they are signing off on a bill that will continue to allow 15,000 annual deaths from unregulated asbestos, 3,000 deaths from unhealthy or unsanitary food, and countless other deaths from dangerous workplaces and unregulated chemicals, substances, and hazards – including those present in our children’s toys.

According to Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Executive Director, this bill would also:

“Threaten every existing and future law protecting consumers from unsafe food, dirty water and air, dangerous toys, toxic chemicals and so on…. If it passes, it could mean that our modern microbial meat inspection program could be tossed out in favor of the dark days of ‘poke and sniff’ inspections — if even that.”

Not to mention, this bill would also, in a way, “put science on trial,” by allowing scientifically-verified information, such as, say, the safety and health risks associated with a certain substance or chemical, to go up-for-debate in court.

Scientifically-produced facts would become generally disputed – and, worse, red tape would become the law-of-the-land when using science as the basis for proposing new regulations designed to keep Americans safe.

So, What’s in Store for Americans?

Something bad, it seems. At least if things continue to carry on in this way. As Alex Formuzls, the Senior Vice President of Communication and Strategic Campaigns at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) points out:

“Seat belts. Two pilots in every cockpit. Cribs that don’t strangle infants. These federal rules, and many others, have saved a lot of lives over the years. In the process, they’ve made American consumer products better and given customers more confidence in their purchases.”’

Whether we like it or not, we rely on regulations like these to keep society and all of us safe; and the reality is, as apprehensive as some folks are, we need more of them in order to stop companies driven solely by profit and a desire to appease shareholders from taking advantage of our health, safety, and general wellbeing.

Until we allow the EPA and the FDA to operate as they are intended, Americans will continue to die tragic, preventable deaths. But if the current Congress keeps the Trump MO of “deconstructing the administrative state” and putting profits-ahead-of-people, we cannot expect any real change; the Trump administration is not a fan of anything that hinders profit.

If the RAA passes the Senate and becomes law, there’s no telling how many people will suffer, for we cannot place our safety in the hands of businesses.

All that the RAA can promise is that consumer safety would never – ever – be the same. And that’s a pretty shameful outlook; one that Republicans and the President should be very ashamed of for having supported.

Recommended Reading: