Welcome to "The Watchdog," which will keep a close eye on regulatory agencies and how their actions impact the lives of everyday Americans. Though the rules and regulations they write -- from determining how much arsenic is allowable in your drinking water to whether your favorite TV show can drop the F-bomb in primetime -- affect all of us, their deliberations and the way that lobbyists influence their decisions receive very little coverage. To make sense of these debates, follow the implementation of health care and financial reform and decipher the minutia of the Federal Register, "The Watchdog" is on the case. If you have any tips, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The head of the Air Traffic Organization at the Federal Aviation Administration resigned today in the wake of recent reports of air-traffic controllers sleeping on the job. Hank Krakowski submitted his resignation Thursday morning to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, who said he accepted it, reports the Washington Post. After several incidents of controllers falling asleep or being unreachable, the FAA also identified 26 airports where they will immediately assign a second controller to the overnight shift. "I am totally outraged by these incidents," thundered Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
• Watch live today's international forum on safe offshore energy development, convened by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. It will "focus on how to strengthen containment capabilities for potential deepwater oil and gas well blowouts and on developing global solutions for offshore containment technologies," according to the meeting agenda. In addition, some top risk science experts will discuss how the Deepwater Horizon spill is affecting the health of workers and residents of the Gulf states in a webcast by the University of Michigan.
• The Treasury Department paid million in legal fees to get professional advice during the bailout, but its lax oversight of its contracts with five law firms, especially Venable LLP, created an "unacceptable risk" that taxpayers were overpaying for those services, says Neil Barofsky, the former Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. (Hat tip to the invaluable Project on Government Oversight blog.)
• Insurance brokers are seeking to change one of health care reform's most significant provisions -- requiring insurers to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of their funds on actual medical care -- by seeking to exempt payments to brokers and agents from administrative overhead calculations through a bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.).
• Despite the fact that the sugar industry, dominated by the Fanjul-family-owned Flo-Sun, helped cause the environmental destruction of the Everglades through pollution from fertilizer runoff, taxpayers are footing most of the bill to clean up the ecosystem, reports the American Independent.
• The Nuclear Regulatory Commission lets industry help write the rules -- portions of the agency's guides rely on material from the industry's leading trade group, the Nuclear Energy Institute, reports ProPublica. That pattern mirrors what happened at the Interior Department, where regulators allowed oil industry trade group, the American Petroleum Institute, to write the rules governing offshore drilling.
While regulators took a dozen years and jumped through administrative hoops to finalize a relatively uncontroversial rule to boost safety for crane and derrick workers, more than 750 construction workers died from crane-related incidents, says a new report from Public Citizen.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the new rule would have saved about 220 of those lives if it had taken effect in 2000 instead of 2010; the delay also cost more than 0 million.
“If ever there was a rule that seemingly should have breezed to adoption, this was it,” said Taylor Lincoln, director of research for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and one of the report’s authors. “Problems with the existing standard were widely acknowledged, the urgency of preventing avoidable deaths and injuries was clear, and the regulated industries were among the loudest advocates for a new standard.”
Read the report here.