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Tom Conway

Trump’s EPA Is Selling Out Safety

In January 2017, the EPA issued the Chemical Disaster Rule, which provided sweeping new safeguards for workers, first responders and communities where dangerous plants are located. It would have forced operators to address unsafe practices and keep their equipment up to date. However, Donald Trump became president before the new requirements took effect. Corporations that own chemical and petrochemical plants complained about the requirements, and shortly after Trump took office, his business-friendly EPA abruptly decided to sit on them. Now, after delaying implementation of the Chemical Disaster Rule for two years, Trump’s EPA just killed most of it. Corporations don’t want the cost or inconvenience of tougher standards, even when those changes would save lives. They don’t want to be told that they have to consider safer methods of production. They don’t want to share hazard information with the public. They don’t want to answer to anyone. And instead of standing up for workers, the EPA capitulated to the industry it’s supposed to regulate. It sold out safety. It put corporations over workers. But the fight isn’t over: The United Steelworkers, in partnership with state governments and community and environmental groups, plans to go back to court to save the rule. The USW and its allies will take this action to protect workers and communities.

Tom Conway is president of USW, the United Steelworkers.

'Presidents Are Not Kings': WH Aides Must Testify

Federal judge says former White House counsel Donald McGahn must testify to Congress, judge rules. CNN: "The former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II must testify before House impeachment investigators about President Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry, a judge ruled on Monday, saying that senior presidential aides must comply with congressional subpoenas and calling the administration’s arguments to the contrary 'fiction.' The 120-page decision by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia handed another lower-court victory to House Democrats in their fight to overcome Mr. Trump’s stonewalling. 'Presidents are not kings,' wrote Judge Jackson, adding that current and former White House officials owe their allegiance to the Constitution. 'They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.' The Justice Department, which is representing Mr. McGahn in the lawsuit, will appeal, a spokeswoman said. Still, the ruling by Judge Jackson, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, could have broader consequences for the investigation into the Ukraine affair. A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know. In rejecting the Trump administration’s sweeping claim that top presidential advisers, as Mr. McGahn was, are absolutely immune from being compelled to talk about their official duties — meaning they do not even have to show up — the judge said the same is true even for those who worked on national security issues."

SCOTUS May Further Gut Regulatory Agencies

Brett Kavanaugh’s latest opinion should terrify Democrats. Vox: "Beginning in the latter half of the Obama administration, Federalist Society gatherings grew increasingly fixated on diminishing the power of federal agencies to regulate businesses and the public — an agenda that would severely weaken seminal laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. On Monday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh signaled that he is on board with this agenda. Kavanaugh’s opinion is not especially surprising. The Trump appointee to the Supreme Court keynoted the Federalist Society’s annual banquet earlier this month and he spent much of the Obama years frustrating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies. But his opinion is nonetheless significant because it shows that there are almost certainly five votes on the Supreme Court to slash agencies’ regulatory power. Last June, in Gundy v. United States, all four of Kavanaugh’s Republican colleagues indicated they want to limit agency regulation. Kavanaugh, however, did not participate in the Gundy case because he was not a member of the Court when it was argued. On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would not hear Paul v. United States, a case asking whether a federal law delegates too much authority to the Justice Department to determine whether certain sex offenders need to register with the government. Kavanaugh, however, took the unusual step of releasing an opinion explaining why he thought the Court should not hear Paul. His brief opinion praises Justice Neil Gorsuch’s effort to toss out decades of settled law regarding the power of agencies to regulate. Indeed, if anything, Kavanaugh’s Paul opinion suggests that he would restrict federal power even more than Gorsuch would. It’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of this issue. Countless federal laws, from the Clean Air Act to the Affordable Care Act, lay out a broad federal policy and delegate to an agency the power to implement the details of that policy. Under Kavanaugh’s approach, many of these laws are unconstitutional, as are numerous existing regulations governing polluters, health providers, and employers."

New UNEP Report Says Climate Catastrophe Imminent

Countries are not doing enough to keep Earth's temperature from rising to near-catastrophic levels, a UN report says. CNN: "A new United Nations report paints a bleak picture: The commitments countries pledged to limit the climate crisis are nowhere near enough to stave off record-high temperatures. Delaying change any further will make it impossible to reach desired temperature goals. The time for 'rapid and transformational' change to limit global warming is now, the report says. The UN Environment Program (UNEP) 2019 Emissions Gap report calls on countries to strengthen the commitments made in the 2015 Paris Agreement to stall climate change. Current measures will not keep global temperature increases within the 1.5-to-2-degree Celsius range (a "safe" level to which temperatures can rise and not cause devastation, though 1.5 degrees is preferable), according to the report issued Tuesday. Greenhouse gases reached a record high in 2018 with no sign of peaking, according to a World Meteorological Organization report released Monday. Carbon dioxide levels reached 407.8 parts per million, a unit used to measure the level of a contaminant in the air. At the current rate, temperatures are expected to rise 3.2 degrees Celsius (5.8 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, the UNEP report states. The changes the UNEP suggests are extreme: To get Earth back on track to the 1.5-degree goal, countries must multiply their commitment level, or the level at which they pledge to reduce their emissions, five times the current rates outlined in the Paris accords. That means global greenhouse gas emissions must fall at least 7.6% every year to remove 32 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Incremental change is no longer enough to stall off the potentially devastating effects of a changing climate, the report's authors write. What the world needs now, they say, is 'rapid and transformational action.'"

NY Dems Try To Quash Working Families Party

New York Democrats try to take Working Families Party off the ballot. The Intercept: "On Monday a commission created to implement New York’s public campaign finance system voted to pass a proposal that would make it significantly more difficult for alternative political parties to operate in the state. The proposal would change party qualification rules and, combined with an earlier measure to end fusion voting, is seen as part of a larger set of attacks by state Democrats, led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on Cuomo’s nemesis: the Working Families Party. In doing so, state Democrats go against national party leaders, who have spoken out against attempts by the state party to end the WFP’s ballot line. Both party leaders and the WFP say the change would also build a structural advantage for Republicans in swing districts across the state by eliminating the WFP’s margins and boosting numbers for the state’s biggest minor party, the right-leaning Conservative Party. New York Democratic Party Chair and Public Campaign Finance Commissioner Jay Jacobs’s change would increase by threefold the number of votes political organizations need to qualify as a party. Currently, a party has to petition to get on the ballot, and then receive 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election in order to qualify as a party for the next four years, without having to go back through the arduous petition process. Jacobs’s latest proposal would raise that threshold to 2 percent of total voter turnout every two years in a gubernatorial and presidential races, or 130,000 votes, whichever is higher. In a typical gubernatorial election, that’s around 130,000 to 150,000 votes. In a presidential race, that’s around 160,000. The new proposal would go into effect in 2020, which would keep WFP off the ballot in 2022 if they don’t reach the new threshold in 2020. Cuomo is up for reelection in 2022. In that case, the WFP says, it would continue to focus on primary challenges and organizing in the state. According to the WFP, the move could jeopardize a handful of blue seats in Congress and the state Senate. WFP New York state director Bill Lipton called the Monday vote a 'power grab' and said that 'Cuomo and Jay Jacobs were hell-bent on punishing the WFP for our independence.'"

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