Advancing Ballot Measures in Michigan and Arizona

In Arizona, we are advancing the ARIZONA FAIR ELECTIONS ACT, which would:

  • Remove barriers to voting and ensure equal access
  • Safeguard elections against partisan interference
  • Fight corruption and promote better representation

In Michigan, we are advancing the PROMOTE THE VOTE ballot initiative, which would:

  • Prohibit intimidation or interference of voters
  • Increase the number of drop boxes, absentee ballot postage, and more
  • Create 9 days of early in person voting
  • Allow online absentee ballot tracking

We are fighting for the right to vote and to expand access to the ballot box!

Working With The Not Above the Law Coalition to Call for January 6th Justice

Trump Republicans are waging an ongoing campaign to sabotage American elections and attack our freedom to vote. They engaged in a criminal conspiracy in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election and incited the violent attack on our country on January 6th. Americans have to stop them.

Public Citizen, along with the dozens of organizations in the Not Above the Law Coalition, are coming together to call for justice and accountability following the events leading up to and on January 6th. No one is above the law – especially not the President.

Driving climate chaos down the fairway

June 28, 2022

By East Peterson-Trujillo

Last Wednesday, I woke up at the crack of dawn with a mission: pay a visit to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship to spread the word about tournament sponsor American International Group’s (AIG) irresponsible inaction on the climate crisis. Despite our long-running campaign, AIG has yet to rule out insuring and investing in fossil fuel expansion projects that are wrecking our planet. This event was the perfect opportunity to tell the company to stop teeing up climate chaos and insure our future instead. 

In the early morning hours before golfers teed off, we placed 40 lawn signs along the route to the tournament entrance. As spectators entered the event, they saw our calls for AIG to stop insuring fossil fuels. 

Fossil fuel companies need insurance coverage to finance and build new projects. AIG is one of the world’s top insurance providers to the oil and gas sector—enabling the industry’s dangerous expansion in the midst of a climate emergency.

AIG has yet to end all insurance for and investments in fossil fuel expansion, despite the fact that scientists and world leaders agree that there is no room for additional fossil fuel production in a net-zero future. Meanwhile, 10 of AIG’s peers, including some of the world’s largest insurance companies, have restricted insurance for new oil and gas projects.

AIG has also failed to rule out insurance for the Trans Mountain Pipeline, a project opposed by Indigenous peoples. The company was listed on the project’s last publicly available insurance certificate. AIG must establish robust due diligence and verification mechanisms to ensure clients, like Trans Mountain Corporation, fully respect and observe all human rights, including the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent–meaning that Indigenous peoples have a right to “to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories,” according to the United Nations.

Earlier this year, AIG announced its first ever climate commitments: it now restricts insurance for the coal sector and has committed to a phase out of fossil fuels and to adopting science-based emissions reduction targets, among other policies.

Yet since announcing these targets, AIG has refused to elaborate on them. Public-facing commitments like these without a roadmap toward implementation amount to greenwashing. Public Citizen decided that this AIG-sponsored tournament was a good chance to let AIG executives—and the spectators—know that the company has yet to commit to the urgent climate action the planet needs.

My colleagues and I returned to the tournament two days later to find our original signs gone, a police presence, and resistance to our protest. We staked more signs and held our banner to grab the attention of attendees as they arrived on shuttle buses. Despite standing on a public road, tournament security instructed us to vacate the premises after 10 minutes, and immediately tore down our signs after we left. 

Luckily, we had more up our sleeves: we did a quick outfit change and then entered the tournament and placed flyers in the bathroom stalls and on spectators’ cars in the lot. 

Until AIG strengthens its vague climate commitments, we’ll call the company out at sponsored sports events, recruiting fairs, and company headquarters for continuing to insure oil and gas expansion. 

Join us in ramping up the pressure on this massive oil and gas insurer.

Send an email to AIG executives now telling them to insure our future, not fossil fuels!

Boiling Point

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Key Findings

Fifty years ago, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) called for rules to protect workers from unsafe heat. Five decades later, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has still failed to put such rules in place, although it finally began work on creating a standard in 2021.

With the climate crisis shattering heat records each summer, heat stress is a rapidly worsening threat for workers across the country, demanding immediate action.

  • Environmental heat is likely responsible for 170,000 work-related injuries every year, and possibly many more. If documented accurately, environmental heat would rank as high as third among causes of occupational injuries and illnesses.
  • Heat exposure is responsible for 600-to-2,000 worker fatalities, annually, ranking it among the top three causes – and possibly the top cause – of occupational fatalities.
  • Farm workers – the vast majority of whom are immigrants, many undocumented – are the most vulnerable to heat-related injury and death.
  • Worker heat-stress tragedies disproportionately strike workers who are poor, Black or Brown.
  • The central elements of a heat protective workplace standard are very simple: providing adequate water, shade and breaks.
  • A heat-safety standard issued by California reduced injuries by 30%. This suggests that at least 50,000 injuries and illnesses could be avoided nationwide if OSHA adopted a simple heat standard.

In light of the severity of the environmental heat crisis and the known efficacy of protective measures, OSHA should issue an Emergency Temporary Standard while it continues the slow process of proposing and finalizing a permanent standard.

Executive Summary

Extreme heat is endangering the lives and well-being of workers – disproportionately Hispanic/Latino or African-American – who work under the midday sun or in stifling indoor conditions. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health identified heat stress as significant workplace hazard 50 years ago; the problem is growing far more severe due to the ravages of the climate crisis.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is required by law to ensure that American workers are provided with “safe and healthful” conditions. In 2011, Public Citizen and others petitioned OSHA to issue a long overdue rule to protect workers from environmental heat. The agency denied the petition. Public Citizen and allies petitioned again in 2018 for a permanent rule, and for an emergency temporary standard in 2021. In 2021, OSHA announced it was starting the process to issue a permanent rule, but that process is anticipated to take six-to-eight years.

Estimates contained in this report place heat among the highest-ranking causes of injuries and fatalities for American workers.

Taking action will protect workers. A heat-safety standard in California resulted in a 30% reduction in heat-related injuries and illnesses. These results suggest that a national standard would prevent more than 50,000 heat-related injuries and illnesses a year.

Abundant research indicates that the sorts of protections that workers need to function safely are not complicated. Items such as access to water and periodic rest breaks in a cool location top the list.

Such commonsense steps might seem so obvious that no standard is necessary. But until OSHA requires them in a legally binding rule, employers’ implementation of them will be inconsistent – and tens of thousands of workers will continue to suffer senseless injuries and deaths.

I. Rising Temperature Are Demolishing Previous Records

Changes to the Earth’s climate ordinarily occur in tiny increments over hundreds, thousands or, even, millions, of years. But marked changes to temperatures are seemingly occurring before our eyes.

Globally, average temperatures for each of the past 45 consecutive years have exceeded average temperatures for the 20th century. The nine years spanning 2013 to 2021 were all among the 10 hottest years since record keeping began in 1880.[1] The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says there is a greater than 99% chance that 2022 will be among the 10 hottest years on record.[2]

June 2021 was the hottest June ever recorded in the United States,[3] as was the entire summer of 2021.[4] July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth.[5] In addition to the 1,238 daytime heat records set in June of 2021 in the U.S, more than 1,500 nighttime heat records were broken.[6] Notably, a heat wave is defined by the how much it cools down at night.[7]

Canada experienced new all-time high temperature records for three consecutive days in June 2021, peaking at 121 degrees in a British Columbia village. Portland, Ore., and Seattle also experienced all-time highs in this period. Portland’s 115 degree reading was nine degrees higher than the previous record.[8]

These conditions are dangerous for anyone who is not protected from the elements. Approximately 1,200 people are believed to have died in the June 2021 Pacific Northwest heat wave.[9]

Extreme heat waves, like the one that occurred in the Pacific Northwest in June 2021, now occur five times more often than they did prior to 1900.[10]

Climate change has also resulted in devastating storms, droughts and wildfires. Eight of California’s 10 largest wildfires have occurred in the last five years.[11] Two of those wildfires burned areas larger than Rhode Island.[12]

The dangers of extreme heat are greatest for people who are poor, elderly and/or forced to labor in unsafe temperatures for their livelihood. Those at risk, including the workers, are disproportionately people of color.

II. Soaring Temperatures Have Created a Crisis for Workers

The human body has a complex regulatory system designed to keep our core temperature about 98.6 degrees. Heat stress refers to strain on that system as it tries to keep the body cool. The heat comes from both external environmental conditions and the heat generated inside our bodies, or metabolic heat.[13]

The amount of physical effort needed for peoples’ workloads increases their metabolic heat production. The ambient temperature and radiant heat sources like direct sunlight and heat-generating machinery add to heat stress.[14]

An important strategy for the body to dissipate heat is to use evaporative cooling through sweat. Another mechanism is to increase blood flow to the skin, where it can be cooled by releasing body heat into the cooler surrounding environment.[15]

Environmental conditions can hamper the regulatory system’s ability to keep the body cool. As temperatures rise, heat exchange acts in the opposite direction. Instead of heat being released from the body when blood flows to the skin, more heat is introduced into the body. That leaves only evaporative cooling as a mechanism to regulate temperature.

High humidity limits evaporation of sweat. For this reason, ambient temperature may not effectively convey the heat stress danger. It’s more useful to rely on the heat index, or apparent temperature, which combines ambient temperature and relative humidity to describe what it feels like to our bodies. Heat, humidity and other modifying factors can have a dramatic impact on the health and safety of workers, whether indoors or outdoors.

As the body struggles with excessive heat stress, we experience heat strain.[16] When a worker is pushed beyond a safe heat exposure for the workload, a range of dangerous illnesses may result:

Heat exhaustion — Working in high temperatures can lead to headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, and elevated body temperature.[17] Heat exhaustion can contribute to workplace accidents.

Heat syncope — Dizziness, light-headedness, or fainting with prolonged standing or sudden rising within a hot environment puts workers at great risk of injury.[18]

Rhabdomyolsis — Prolonged physical exertion in hot weather, coupled with dehydration, can lead to muscle cramps and, in severe cases, a life-threatening rapid breakdown and death of muscle tissue that can lead to acute kidney injury.[19]

Acute Kidney Injury — High workloads and limited access to adequate hydration can cause a reduction in kidney function.[20]

Heat stroke If heat exhaustion becomes severe, then heat stroke, a life-threatening medical emergency, can occur. During a heat stroke, the body rapidly loses the ability to regulate temperature and is no longer able to sweat. The body’s temperature can rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes, and if immediate medical attention is not secured, death can come quickly.[21]

A. Environmental Heat Is One of the Greatest Causes of Workplace Injuries and Deaths in the United States

Official data on workplace injuries and illnesses is disseminated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which bases its conclusions on surveys of employers. This data is notoriously unreliable because it relies on self-reporting, and less than half of employers even maintain the required records.[22]

Data estimating injuries and illnesses from heat is further hampered by the difficulty of deeming “exposure to environmental heat” (the relevant BLS category) to be the chief cause out of hundreds of category choices when an injury or illness potentially caused by heat occurs.

Further, despite the use of the term “injuries and illnesses” in the categorization of heat-related worker harms by both BLS and OSHA, the data only reflect heat illnesses, not the injuries that are caused by the effects of heat stress. OSHA’s guidance on record-keeping regarding adverse outcomes from heat only references illnesses caused by excessive heat “such as heat illness, heat stroke, kidney injury and rhabdomyolysis.”[23] In reality, heat may be a determinative factor in many injuries. For example, if an employee becomes dizzy from high temperatures and falls off a ladder, her injury would be reported to the BLS under the heading of “Falls, Slips, Trips.” As the contents of this report show, higher temperatures are correlated with greater numbers of injuries.

For what it’s worth, which is not much, the BLS data indicate that there were about 3,400 workplace heat-related injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work per year from 2011 to 2020.[24] Over the same 10 years, BLS estimates show an average of 40 heat-related fatalities per year in the workplace.[25]

OSHA acknowledges, “the estimates provided [by BLS] on occupational heat-related illnesses, injuries, and fatalities are likely vast underestimates.”[26]

1) Extrapolations of Data From California Workers’ Compensation Claims Suggests That Heat Is Among the Top Causes of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses in the U.S.

An analysis of more than 11 million workers’ compensation injury reports in California from 2001 through 2018 found that working on days with hotter temperatures likely caused about 20,000 injuries and illnesses per year in that state, alone — an extraordinary 300 times the annual number injuries and illnesses that California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) attributes to heat.[27]

The results of the California study are instructive in estimating the extent of uncounted heat-related injuries nationwide. If California’s workers suffer approximately 20,000 heat-related injuries and illnesses per year, a simple extrapolation based on the worker population of other states[28] suggests that the number suffered by all U.S. workers is likely in the range of 170,000 heat-related injuries and illnesses per year.[29]

That would make environmental heat one of the greatest causes of occupational injury and illness nationwide. Table 1, below, shows the top 10 causes of injuries and illnesses requiring days way from work by average per year since 2011. At 170,000 annual cases per year, environmental heat would rank third on this list.

Table 1: Average Number of Events or Exposures Causing Days Away From Work in the U.S., 2011-2020
Event or Exposure Cases
1. Overexertion involving outside sources 240,998
2. Falls on same level 185,724
Exposure to environmental heat 170,000*
3. Struck by object or equipment 151,116
4. Other exertions or bodily reactions 85,119
5. Exposure to other harmful substances 65,344^
6. Falls to lower level 58,155
7. Struck against object or equipment 57,993
8. Slip or trip without fall 45,909
9. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle 43,031
10. Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects 36,314
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics and Public Citizen.
† BLS injury and illness records are broken into seven broad categories, which carry one digit codes. Under those categories are 46 discrete causes of injuries and illnesses, which carry two digit codes. More than 300 three-digit and four-digit subcategories fall under those. Table 1 lists the top causes of injuries and illnesses among the two-digit categories. The official BLS category “Exposure to environmental heat” is a three-digit category.
^ The 2020 BLS reported cases for this category were unusually high due to COVID cases. Recorded cases in 2020 were more than 20 times the average for the previous nine years.
* Estimate by Public Citizen using extrapolation from findings in an academic study on workplace injuries.

This estimate and methodology come with a caveat: Just as applying a more focused lens on estimates of injuries and illnesses from workplace heat results in a significantly higher estimate of annual cases, the same would likely be true for many other events and exposures. They are likely undercounted as well. What this exercise shows is not necessarily that environmental heat is the third-greatest cause of workplace injuries, but that it is a very significant cause, whatever its specific rank might be.

2) Heat Is Also Likely Among the Greatest Causes of Occupational Deaths in the U.S.

The BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries indicates that 400 U.S. workers died from occupational heat stress between 2011 and 2020, an average of 40 per year.[30]

We know this number grossly underestimates actual heat-related occupational fatalities. Determination of the cause of death relies rely primarily on the conclusions recorded in death certificates and the judgment of medical professionals making those findings.[31] This information is notoriously problematic in the case of heat stress.[32]

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are approximately 700 annual heat-related deaths among the general population, i.e., including fatalities occurring outside of work settings as well as on the job.[33] The estimates rely on data collected from death certificates that listed heat as the underlying or contributing cause of death.[34]

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also attempts to estimate heat-related fatalities. Its analysis, which covers a longer timeframe, arrives a similar but slightly lower estimate of about 600 heat-related fatalities per year. Importantly, the EPA has said, “It has been well documented that many deaths associated with extreme heat are not identified as such by the medical examiner and might not be properly coded on the death certificate.”[35] EPA notes that deaths from heart conditions and respiratory diseases with heat stress as a contributing factor are much more common than deaths from heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.[36] But exposure to excessive heat often may not be identified as the underlying reason for the death.

Recent research is instructive in estimating the extent of the undercount of workplace heat-related deaths.

A compelling 2020 study (Weinberger et al.) cross-referenced a decade’s worth of fatality data by date and location with corresponding temperature data to arrive at an estimate of excess fatalities due to high temperatures. The study examined data in 297 U.S. counties across 44 states and the District of Columbia, encompassing 62% of the total U.S. population.[37]

The study estimated that 5,608 deaths per year in those jurisdictions were attributable to heat.[38] The diversity of climates in the studied counties makes it reasonable to expand the study’s findings to the entire U.S. population. This results in an estimate of 9,079 heat-related fatalities per year.[39] The study used data from 1997 to 2006. If it used more recent data, it would almost certainly have arrived at a higher estimate of heat-related deaths because temperatures in the United States have risen significantly in recent years.

Another study published in 2020 (Shindell et al.) compared temperature and mortality data from 2010 to 2019 in 10 cities across the United States. Incorporating location-specific climate data, the study identified the relative risk of premature fatalities associated with incremental changes in temperature for each city. Using the findings from the 10 cities, the study estimated 12,000 heat-related fatalities occur each year in the entire United States.[40]

The estimates of the Weinberger et al. and Shindell et al. studies do not provide direct insight into the number of workplace heat-related fatalities. But it would be possible to derive an estimate of the number of heat-related workplace fatalities from the studies if the ratio between heat-related workplace and total fatalities were known. One way to estimate this ratio is to divide the BLS-calculated workplace heat-related fatalities by the CDC-calculated total heat-related fatalities. The heat-related fatality estimates by these two government agencies are derived using similar methodologies using death certificates and, thus, offer a credible lens into the ratio of workplace heat-related fatalities to total such fatalities.

Here’s how the math works out. The BLS-calculated workplace heat-related fatalities per year is 40. The CDC-calculated total heat-related fatalities per year is 702. Boiling down the fraction of 40/700 yields 1/17th. This means that the government’s data suggests that one-in-seventeen heat-related fatalities is work related.

To apply the findings of Weinberger et al., we then take 1/17th of the estimated 9,076 annual heat-related fatalities suggested by their study. This yields an estimate that 605 occupational heat-related fatalities occur every year. Applying the same extrapolation to the Shindell et al. study, we take 1/17th of the estimated 12,000 heat-related fatalities posed by their study. This yields an estimate of 706 occupational heat-related fatalities every year. [Table 2]

Table 2: Estimated Annual Heat-Related Workplace Fatalities Derived by Applying Academic Estimates on Total Heat-related Fatalities to Federal Data on Work Vs. Total Heat-related Fatalities
Study Estimate of Total Heat-related Fatalities Ratio of Workplace-to-Total Heat-related Fatalities in Government Data Annual Workplace Heat-related Fatality Extrapolation
Weinberger et al. 9,079 1:17 605
Shindell et al. 12,000 1:17 706

A separate but analogous way to use the Weinberger et al. and Shindell et al. studies in concert with other studies is to compare the number of heat-related injuries reported in the 2020 Park et al. study to the heat-related injuries reported by BLS. If the discrepancy in fatalities can fairly be assumed to match the discrepancy in injuries, the Park-to-BLS injury ratio could used to derive estimates on the number of fatalities.

Again, here’s the math. The Park et al. study concluded that there are about 20,000 annual heat-related injuries in California. This extrapolates to about 170,000 nationwide. The BLS reports an average of 3,400 annual heat-related illnesses and injuries nationwide. Thus, Park et al. concluded that the actual incidence of heat-related illnesses and injuries is about 50 times higher than reported (i.e., 170,000 ÷ 3,400 = 50). If the same ratio were applied to actual-versus-reported workplace fatalities – using the BLS’s officially reported 40 heat-related deaths per year – that would yield an estimate of 2,000 fatalities per year (i.e., 50 x 40 = 2,000). [Table 3]

Table 3: Estimated Annual Heat-Related Workplace Fatalities Derived From Ratio of Academic-to-Government Estimates on Total Heat-related Injuries
Part 1: Calculate ratio of Park et al. to BLS estimate of heat-related workplace injuries.   Part 2: Apply Park et al. / BLS ratio on injuries to BLS estimate on heat-related workplace fatalities.
Source of Workplace Injury Estimate Estimated Injuries Attributable to Heat Ratio Park et al. / BLS Estimate of Injuries Park / BLS Ratio BLS Fatality Estimate Updated Estimated Total of Heat-related Fatalities
Park et al. 170,000 50:1     50             x            40       =         2,000
BLS 3,400

According to official BLS data, there are about 5,000 on-the-job deaths each year across all categories of causes. In 2020, the most recent year for which data is available, the total was 4,764. The category accounting for the most fatalities that year was “Transportation,” at 1,778. “Exposure to harmful substances or environments,” the heading under which the subcategory of heat-related causes falls, was reported to account for 672 deaths.

Our estimates, above, place the number of occupational fatalities from environmental heat, alone, at 605 to 2,000 a year. At the low-end of this spectrum, deaths from environmental heat would rank fourth among discrete causes of workplace fatalities in 2020. At the high-end, environmental heat would rank as the number one cause of occupational fatalities. [Table 4]

Table 4: Causes of Workplace Fatalities Published by BLS, 2020
Event or Exposure Cases
Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle 1,038
Intentional injury by person 651
Falls to lower level 645
Struck by object or equipment 468
Exposure to other harmful substances 448
Pedestrian vehicular incident 330
Non-roadway incident involving motorized land vehicles 206
Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects 142
Falls on same level 136
Exposure to electricity 126
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
† BLS fatality records are broken into seven broad categories that carry one-digit codes. Under those categories are discrete causes of fatalities that carry two-digit codes, with subsets of causes listed under subordinate three-digit and four-digit codes. In 2020, the BLS reported at least one fatality pursuant to 22 two-digit categories. The top 10 such causes of fatalities are listed in Table 4. The category “Exposure to environmental heat” carries a three-digit code, listed under “Exposure to temperature extremes.”

As with our estimates on heat-related injuries and illnesses, our estimate on heat-related fatalities is imprecise. We do not know, for instance, if the California study accurately calculated the true number of heat-related injuries occurring annually or if the ratios of reported versus actual cases of fatalities would be the same as for injuries.

What we do know is that even at the official number of 40 per year, heat-stress accounts for an unacceptable number of fatalities. We also know that the officially reported 40 deaths per year represents a huge undercount compared to reality, as OSHA has recognized.

The actual number of heat-related occupational deaths is probably somewhere between 40 and 2,000 per year. Wherever the number lies, OSHA is obliged to take action to lower it.

B. Studies Consistently Associate Higher Temperatures With Workplace Injuries (as distinct from illnesses)

As mentioned above, one of the reasons that the BLS data fails to provide a true measure of workplace injuries is because it does not take into account the effect of high temperatures causing injuries, as distinct from illnesses. Research has shown that hotter temperatures increase fatigue and adversely affect cognitive performance,[41] decision-making,[42] and balance and motor skills.[43] Heat illnesses cause a wide range of symptoms that can limit an individual’s ability to safely carry out work functions such as dizziness, weakness, irritability, excessive sweating, muscle cramps and fainting. It goes without saying that these physical and mental effects of heat strain can cause falls and mistakes in the use of kitchen equipment, cutting tools, power tools, conveyor belts, pesticides and dangerous machinery. Many studies have looked at the correlation between temperatures and injuries.

A meta-analysis of 17 studies worldwide also showed an average 1% increase in occupational injuries for every 1 degree C above 20.9 degrees C (69.6 degrees F). Increases were highest, up to 1.7% increase in injuries per 1 degree C, in humid subtropical climates, such as the southeastern parts of the U.S.[46] A study of agricultural workers in Washington State found the odds of traumatic injuries in cherry harvesters, primarily from ladder falls, increased 1.53% for every 1 degree C above 25 degrees C (77 degrees F).[47]

Overnight low temperatures have an impact on heat-related injuries as well. Our natural bodily cooling systems are heavily strained on a very hot day. Those systems need to cool down and recover overnight.[48] A home without air conditioning or adequate ventilation can hinder the necessary bodily cooling, lessening the body’s ability to manage heat strain the next day and increasing susceptibility to heat-related illness.[49] The overnight heat may also increase workplace injuries by interrupting sleep and decreasing vigilance the following day.[50] A study of 47,000 workers’ compensation claims in Australia between 2002 and 2012 found a 1% increase in all acute injuries that resulted in 10 or more days of absence from work or high medical costs for every 1 degree C increase in daily minimum temperatures — overnight lows the night before the injury.[51]

Interestingly, studies have also shown a significant increase in acute occupational injuries occurring up to two days after the high heat exposure day,[52] including a study of nearly 2.3 million workers’ compensation claims in Italy between 2006 and 2010.[53] There is little research on the lingering effects of working under high heat stress; however this finding alludes to the possibility of heat stress symptoms continuing longer than one day and potentially causing injuries in following days.

III. Worker Heat-Stress Tragedies Disproportionately Strike Workers Who Are Poor, Black or Brown

The dangers of occupational heat stress are overwhelmingly borne by low-income workers, with the lowest-paid 20% of workers suffering five times as many heat-related injuries as the highest-paid 20%.[54]

Heat stress also disproportionately burdens workers of color. A recent review by Columbia Journalism Investigations of records relating to workplace heat injuries — including workplace inspection reports, death investigation files, depositions, court records, and police reports — found that since 2010, Hispanics/Latinos[55] have accounted for a third of all heat-related fatalities, despite representing only 18% of the U.S. workforce.[56]

These disproportionalities are visible in state datasets as well. In Washington state, an analysis of workers’ compensation claims found that while only 13% of the overall racial/ethnic composition of the state’s workforce in 2017 was Latino, they accounted for 21% of the claims for heat-related illness.[57] Similarly, while 4% of the population was Black, they accounted for 8% of the heat-related illness claims.[58]

The fact that workers who experience the highest rates of heat illness are disproportionately Hispanic/Latino or Black is largely due to the fact that these workers are over-represented in occupations that expose them to high levels of heat. About 30% percent of U.S. workers are Black or Hispanic/Latino but these workers account for about 40% of outdoor workers.

They make up more than 50% of laundry and dry-cleaning workers, cooks, dishwashers, industrial truck and tractor operators, telecommunications line installers and repairers, warehouse and storage workers, brick masons and cement masons. They account for about 65% of roofers.[59] Practitioners of these industries are at higher-than-normal risk of complications from heat stress. [Figure 1]

Hispanics make up approximately 78% of farmworkers nationwide,[60] and more than 90% in California.[61] While farmworkers suffer a strikingly high number of heat-related fatalities, the impact of ethnicity goes beyond over-representation in this highly risky occupation. Even within the agriculture industry, Hispanics die at a rate 3.5 times higher than non-Hispanics.[62]

Similarly, Black construction workers are 51% more likely to die from heat exposure than construction workers as a whole.[63] Mexican-born construction workers born are 91% more likely to die from heat exposure than the average of all construction workers.[64]

IV. Workers in Certain Industries, Such as Agriculture and Construction, Are at Extreme Risk of Harms from Unsafe Heat

As is the case for people of different demographic profiles, occupational risks fall unevenly on Americans based on their occupations. Those most at risk perform work that involves physical labor, often, though not exclusively performed outdoors.

A. Agricultural Workers

Agriculture workers die from heat stress at a rate 35 times greater than the rest of the U.S. workforce.[65]

Heat stress risk is exacerbated by structural vulnerabilities faced by farmworkers, including the fact that 70% of agricultural workers are foreign-born, and only 56% are legally authorized to work in the U.S.[66] Workers who are not authorized to work in the U.S. have almost no leverage to insist on adherence to proper workplace standards. Further, nearly a quarter of agriculture workers hold H-2A visas, temporary visas that make them rely on an employer’s sponsorship.[67] This dependence gives such employees little ability to demand safe working conditions.

Migrant farmworkers are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illness and injury.[68] The nature of their working conditions is exacerbated by cultural and language barriers, food insecurity, high poverty, and often substandard living conditions in labor camps and employer-provided housing.[69] Unfortunately, it is common for employer-provided housing to lack air conditioning or even fans.[70] A lack of basic health services and social support increases the chances that heat illness and injury go untreated.

To protect workers from heat illness, dehydration, and kidney injury, workers must drink plenty of water. Unfortunately, migrant farmworkers may not have sources of clean drinking water at home, and many employers may not provide it either.[71] Adequate clean, safe and easily accessible bathroom facilities with hand-washing stations are also essential to maintain worker hydration.[72] Without this kind of access, workers may intentionally reduce water intake in order to avoid the need to urinate.[73] The problem is exacerbated for women workers as sexual harassment and sexual assault may be more likely to occur near bathroom facilities in unsafe locations.[74]

In addition, many agricultural employers utilize payment structures — such as piece-rate payment (in which workers are paid based on the amount of crops they pick) – that push employees to work harder and minimize breaks out of a concern for lost wages.[75] Piece-rate pay systems may discourage workers from drinking necessary water or force workers to take drastic and humiliating measures like wearing diapers to avoid stopping for bathroom breaks.[76]

There is a growing body of evidence that heat stress is linked to both acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease in farmworkers.[77] Heavy sweating from difficult manual labor in the sun can cause the body to lose dangerous amounts of water. Without adequate replacement, acute kidney injury can occur, which can lead to kidney failure or chronic kidney disease. Muscle damage due to heat-induced rhabdomyolysis, and toxins, such as pesticides and contaminated drinking water, are also contributing factors to kidney disease.[78]

It is estimated that, due to their outdoor jobs, 2.3 million U.S. workers are at risk for acute kidney injury or chronic kidney disease.[79] As many as one-third of migrant farmworkers in the U.S. experience acute kidney injury.[80] One study found a 47% increase in the likelihood of acute kidney injury among migrant farmworkers in Florida for every 5 degrees increase in heat index.[81] And a meta-analysis of heat stress in migrant farmworkers found piece-rate work to be significantly associated with kidney disease.[82]

The poor working and living conditions for farmworkers reflect both social injustice and racial/ethic injustice. The myriad issues facing these workers is inextricably entangled with inhumane and irrational immigration policies. Their vulnerability makes the protection of OSHA critical for these workers.

B. Construction Workers

Construction workers make up about 6% of the U.S. workforce, but they accounted for 36% of the total heat-related deaths across all industries between 1992 and 2016, as reported by the BLS.[83]

The construction industry has the second highest heat-related fatality rate. The industry itself is remarkably diverse with a wide range of trades and skill sets. Some jobs leave workers much more vulnerable to heat stress than others due to differences in heavy manual labor, cooling opportunities and exposure to radiant heat sources (e.g., direct sunlight, asphalt, concrete, machinery), among other factors. Cement masons have the highest fatality rate, 10 times the rate of construction workers broadly.[84] The heat-related fatality risks for roofers and construction helpers are nearly seven times that of the general industry.[85] Brick masons, construction laborers and heating/air conditioning/refrigeration mechanics also have higher than average heat-related fatality risks when compared to construction workers as a whole.[86]

The common presence of dangerous machinery and tools in construction workplaces, as well as working on roofs and scaffolding, increase the chance of heat-related injuries from accidents and falls. Many construction workplaces also put workers in close proximity to dangerous chemicals and solvents which create a unique risk of heat-related illness. Heat stress can increase worker susceptibility to these agents by increasing absorption rates and toxicity.[87]

C. Indoor Workers

While heat stress is often associated with outdoor jobs such as farming and construction, indoor workers are also at risk from dangerously high temperatures. Indoor heat stress is prevalent in enclosed workplaces or workplace sections without climate control or adequate ventilation. It’s also common in workplaces with heat-generating machinery like ovens, kilns, and machinery for making textiles, among many others. Obviously, indoor heat stress can be a problem year-round. Common workplaces that experience high indoor temperatures all year round include warehouses, factories, electrical utilities, bakeries, commercial kitchens, laundries, chemical plants, glass manufacturers and metal refineries/ foundries.[88]

The complaints to Oregon OSHA during the June 2021 heat wave reveal an interesting, perhaps unexpected, pattern — the vast majority of the complaints were about indoor heat. Of the 116 heat-related complaints filed with Oregon OSHA from June 24 to June 30, 2021, 91 described inadequate protections for excessive indoor heat.[89] This is a remarkable 5.7 times the number of complaints filed against employers for inadequate protections for outdoor workers — only 16 complaints were filed against outdoor employers. [Figure 2]

For example, restaurant workers had to meet dramatically higher service demands as the public tried to evade the heat by avoiding the use of stoves and ovens in their own homes.[90] Unfortunately, this left restaurant workers to labor at high speeds and swelter in the heat created by the workplace cooking equipment combined with inadequate cooling from strained air conditioners.

D. First Responders

Climate-induced and heat-related fires put large numbers of firefighters and rescue personnel in danger of serious heat stress, complicated by smoke inhalation, as they risk their lives to protect others. For example, on a single day in August 2021, more than 13,500 firefighters warred with California wildfires.[91]

Other first responders, like police officers and ambulance drivers, have to cope with critical heat-related emergencies, as well. For example, first responders have to manage urgent heat-related health emergencies and heat strokes that increase during heat waves and high heat days.[92] With increasing wildfires, victims of fire, heat and smoke inhalation need urgent medical care, while wildfire evacuations require police management. The work of first responders can be made even more dangerous when combined with other extreme weather associated with climate change, like strong storms that cause flash flooding.[93] And as global warming continues, these trends will be exacerbated.[94]

E. Infrastructure and Utility Workers

Heat waves can create public needs that require workers to devote long hours in the heat, often working at a very fast pace with little or no breaks. HVAC employees have to work long hours trying to meet the needs of customers who require urgent repairs to air conditioning units and installation jobs also increase.[95] Utility workers may have to respond to power outages caused by overextension of the energy grid due to high air-conditioning use.[96] During the 2021 heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, road workers, rail workers and construction laborers had to provide a quick response to repair the buckled roads and melted railway and streetcar power cables in Portland that crippled public transportation.[97]

V. Workers at Risk of Suffering Heat-Related Injuries Are Much Less Likely to Have Health Insurance or Qualify for Workers’ Compensation

Many of the workers most exposed to excessive heat on the job lack health insurance or access to workers’ compensation. This both leaves workers vulnerable to financial catastrophe from injuries and illnesses caused by on-the-job heat and increases the likelihood that an easily treatable condition will progress to a more serious illness or death.

States have different rules about when employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance and which workers it must cover.[98] These rules often leave the workers that are most susceptible to heat-related illness, injury and death without access to workers’ compensation benefits. For example, employers are exempt from providing workers’ compensation for farmworkers in 16 states.[99] And, as already noted, more than a third of farmworkers are undocumented.[100] While many state laws require workers’ compensation benefits for undocumented workers, many state laws do not.[101] And Texas doesn’t require non-governmental employers to have workers’ compensation insurance at all.[102]

Another large gap in workers’ compensation benefits for workers in occupations with significant heat hazards is an exemption for casual workers and independent contractors.[103] Casual workers are defined by their limited relationship to the employer. They often include day laborers and temporary helpers, [104] roles commonly seen in construction and seasonal outdoor employment. Workers classified as independent contractors receive no workers’ compensation benefits from the employer who hired them.

Many workers categorized as independent contractors might be miscategorized. Definitions of what constitutes an independent contractor vary from state to state. [105] And in many states, those definitions are hazy or not adhered to. This has led to a great deal of confusion and, because employers generally have a financial incentive to categorize a worker as an independent contractor, there is a lot of misclassification. The problem is particularly prevalent in the construction industry.[106] A study finding that only 5% of injured construction workers had their medical expenses covered by workers’ compensation also found that a third of the construction workers were improperly classified as independent contractors.[107]

Even when workers have access to workers’ compensation, they may have difficulty receiving benefits for heat-related illnesses and injuries. An employee must show that a heat-related illness or injury occurred at work. Unless an employee collapses at work or is sent for medical treatment directly from the workplace, that can be difficult to prove. As has been discussed above, some acute conditions may be a delayed response to heat stress. Heat stress often triggers other illnesses and injuries such as a heart attack or kidney failure.[108] The medical treatment and records may neglect the role of excessive heat in precipitating the condition being treated.[109]

All of these issues make it less likely that workers, or their families, will be able to demonstrate that the illness, injury, disability, or even death was due to excessive heat conditions on the job. Unfortunately, the concern that the cost of health care may not get covered by workers’ compensation may discourage workers from seeking the medical help they need for injuries or conditions that may lead to dangerous complications over time.

Given the limited protection offered by workers’ compensation, it’s especially critical that workers have health insurance. Unfortunately, many of those with high heat hazard jobs lack access to affordable insurance or care.[110] Only 48% of farmworkers have health insurance, a number that drops to 41% for migrant farmworkers and 22% for unauthorized workers.[111] There is a racial disparity in health care use, as well.

Lack of health insurance is a big problem across the construction industry. Of the 20 occupations in the United States least likely to have health insurance, 11 of them are occupations in the construction industry, including the the top five jobs with the highest heat-related death rates within the industry — cement masons (39% uninsured), roofers (50.5% uninsured), brick masons (39% uninsured), construction laborers (37.5% uninsured) and construction helpers (43% uninsured).[112] [Figure 3]

Workers navigating high heat in commercial kitchens also make it into the top 20 jobs least likely to have health insurance, specifically cooks (38% uninsured) and dishwashers (47% uninsured).[113] Nearly 38% of ironing and pressing machine operators have no health insurance.[114] Grounds maintenance workers and loggers make it into the top 20 least insured occupations as well, with uninsured rates of 39% and 35%, respectively.[115]

VI. Why OSHA Should Issue an Interim Heat Standard and What Should Be in It

Fifty years ago, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) studied the effects of heat stress on workers and recommended that OSHA adopt an occupational heat standard. But OSHA has never done so.

Last year, in response to a petition submitted by Public Citizen and more than 100 other groups, OSHA finally began working on a heat-safety standard.[116] But the process for creating new safety standards has become so cumbersome that it now takes the agency an average of eight years to complete one, and can take far longer.[117]

This theoretically leaves OSHA with two choices to protect workers before a permanent standard is adopted. The first is to rely on its General Duty Clause, which calls for employers to furnish their employees with conditions that are free of hazards “that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” But this is not practical. Taking enforcement action pursuant to the General Duty Clause is time-consuming and often vulnerable to legal challenges. In fact, an Administrative Law Judge and the full Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, in recent years, have thrown out several attempts by OSHA to sanction employers under the General Duty Clause for subjecting their employees to unacceptable risks due to heat.[118]

A second option would be for OSHA to create an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). An ETS can be created and adopted in months and carries the same force as a permanent standard. A limitation regarding an ETS is that it only lasts for six months. It has not been determined if OSHA would be able to extend an ETS in a situation in which a hazard remains and a permanent standard under development is not finalized. Nonetheless, the agency should issue an emergency standard as soon as possible to address the crisis of the moment, and figure out how to deal with possible challenges to the standard’s duration or extension if they arise.

A. Conditions Justify Creating an Emergency Temporary Standard to Protect Workers From Heat Stress

To issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), OSHA must determine that workers are being exposed to a grave danger and that adequate evidence exists that an ETS is necessary to protect workers from such danger.[119]

These are not difficult hurdles to clear. Heat stress kills workers. All occupational heat-related deaths are preventable and an effective and enforced heat ETS will unquestionably save lives.

Two states have already found a critical need to issue emergency temporary standards. In direct response to the fatal June 2021 Pacific Northwest heat wave, both Oregon and Washington adopted emergency temporary heat standards.[120] As Andrew Stolfi, director of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, which includes Oregon OSHA, said, “In the face of an unprecedented heat wave in the Pacific Northwest – and tragic consequences – it is absolutely critical that we continue to build up our defenses against the effects of climate change, including extreme heat events.”[121]

He went on to say that “the risks of working in high heat are not going away this, or any, summer.”[122] Speaking about the heat standard that Washington already had in place prior to issuing the new emergency temporary heat standard Gov. Jay Inslee said, “The real impacts of climate change have changed conditions since those rules were first written and we are responding.”[123]

The new normal of fatal heat waves and record-breaking summers poses a grave danger to workers. While high temperatures have always posed a potentially fatal hazard to workers, the problem is rapidly intensifying. OSHA agrees. The agency has stated that “workplace exposure to heat is a significant hazard and will become more critical as the impacts of climate change progress over time.”[124]

Given our changed reality of deadly, record-breaking heat waves every summer,[125] increasing extreme heat days,[126] and the tragic death tolls they produce, there is substantial and compelling evidence that occupational heat exposure poses a grave danger to workers.

B. An Emergency Temporary Standard Will Reduce The Grave Danger Of Occupational Heat Illness And Injury

Recent research on heat-related injuries in California from 2001 to 2018 found that the increase in injuries on hot days was cut by approximately 30% in the years following California’s issuance of a state occupational heat standard in 2005.[127] This clearly demonstrates the potential for a federal heat rule to significantly reduce the effects of heat on worker safety and health.

Based on the results in California, a federal ETS similar to California’s heat standard would prevent more than 50,000 heat-related injuries annually. Since California’s limited standard only covers outdoor workplaces and exempts numerous industries from implementing high-heat procedures,[128] a strong federal standard covering both outdoor and indoor workplaces could prevent significantly more injuries and fatalities. The high number of preventable heat-related injuries easily demonstrates a necessity for a heat ETS.

C. Recent Rulings Cast Doubt on OSHA’s Ability to Protect Workers in the Absence of an Occupational Heat Standard

While OSHA can cite companies for heat exposure violations under its General Duty Clause, several rulings of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), an administrative court, since 2018 demonstrate that the lack of a standard specifically focused on heat hinders OSHA’s ability to hold employers accountable for dangerous heat hazards. For example, an OSHRC Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued five substantially identical decisions in similar cases in which OSHA alleged the United States Postal Service, in multiple locations, exposed its employees to unmitigated excessive heat as they delivered the mail.

In each case, the ALJ vacated OSHA’s citation, finding that OSHA had not met its burden to establish that a condition in the workplace presented a hazard, even in the face of evidence of heat indices as high as 109 degrees and workers medically diagnosed with heat illnesses.[129]

The ALJ, noted that “without a temperature- or heat index-specific standard, it is difficult for employers to know when heat is ‘excessive,’”[130] and referenced OSHA’s failure to provide such a standard, stating, “OSHA has been urged to promulgate a heat stress standard since shortly after the [OSH] Act went into effect.”[131] Due to legal precedent and given the absence of a standard, the ALJ stated that it is “difficult to establish” that excessive heat is a cognizable hazard under the general duty clause.[132]

D. What Should Be in an Emergency Temporary Standard to Protect Workers from Heat Injury, Illness and Death

Every workplace injury and fatality caused by heat stress is avoidable, and relatively simple preventative measures have proven extremely effective at protecting workers. It is both the social and legal responsibility of employers to create a work eenvironment safe from heat hazards.

OSHA should create an Emergency Temporary Standard delineating required preventative measures that include the following:

Temperature Thresholds: An OSHA heat standard must provide clarity to employers and workers in order to ensure effective comprehension and implementation of the standard. This is particularly important for small businesses, where reliance on complicated formulas for decision-making may be cumbersome. Identifying clear temperature thresholds that trigger certain minimum employer requirements under the standard will protect both workers and employers.

Workload and Pace: Employers should empower workers to work at their own pace whenever possible. Workload should be reduced or suspended in times of extreme temperatures.

Mandatory Rest breaks: Employers should be required to give workers a 15-minute break for every two hours of work when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees. Scheduled breaks should increase with temperatures based on the work/rest schedule recommended by NIOSH with a clothing adjustment. Workers should be permitted and encouraged to take unscheduled breaks when they feel overheated or experience any symptoms of heat illness.

Indoor and Outdoor Cooling: Indoor workplaces should be air-conditioned or well-ventilated to keep temperature below 80 degrees. Or, at a minimum, include a cool space for breaks. Delivery trucks should be air conditioned whenever possible. Outdoor workplaces should provide a cool space for breaks.

Hydration: Employers should be required to provide workers at least one liter of cold drinking water every hour. Water should be easily accessible and, preferably made continuously available. With very heavy workloads at high temperatures workers also should be provided drinks with electrolytes.

Heat Stress Plan: Each employer should use the information available from OSHA, NIOSH, industry-specific guidance and other expert sources to create a written heat stress plan that is appropriate for use at their unique worksites. The plan should be comprehensive and available to employees in a language they can understand.

Emergency Response: Employers should be required to have an emergency action plan (EAP) that includes training personnel to identify workplace heat illnesses and to provide appropriate cooling strategies at each worksite. Designated employees or managers should be trained in specific workplace medical responses. The EAP should include information on when to call an ambulance, including guidance to call an ambulance when in doubt.

Heat Acclimatization Plan: All workers beginning work in high-heat environments, or who will be working in hotter conditions than usual (e.g., during a heat wave), must be gradually acclimatized to the work over a period of at least 7 to 14 days.

Environmental Surveillance and Hazard Notification: At outdoor worksites, employers should be required to monitor environmental conditions at each worksite and notify. employees of hazardous heat conditions in English and any languages spoken by at least 20% of workers.

Worker Information and Training: Employers must be required to provide all employees with heat stress training when they are hired, as well as annually in the employees’ primary language.

Record Keeping: Employers should be required to maintain and properly handle accurate records of 1) heat illnesses, including those treated onsite with first aid; 2) accidents or injuries potentially related to heat strain, including recording the workplace temperature and protective clothing worn by the worker for every workplace injury; 3) environmental and metabolic heat exposures; 4) acclimatization procedures; 5) all medical and physiological monitoring; and 6) modifications to engineering and administrative controls, as well as changes to personal protective equipment.

Non-retaliation Policy: Workers should be vigorously protected from all forms of employer retaliation for reporting unsafe conditions that could lead to heat illness or injury. An OSHA heat standard must include comprehensive whistleblower rights.


Workers are facing unacceptable risks due to soaring temperatures. It is OSHA’s duty to ensure that workers are provided with safe conditions. The solutions to protect workers from dangerous temperatures are simple. OSHA must take action immediately to ensure that employers follow these commonsense steps.

[1] Assessing the Global Climate in 2021, National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), National Centers for Environmental Information (Jan. 13, 2022),

[2] State of the Climate: Monthly Global Climate Report for February 2022, NOAA, National Centers for Environmental Information (March 2022) (accessed on June 7, 2022),

[3] June 2021 Was the Hottest June on Record for U.S., NOAA (July 9, 2021),

[4] Chris Dolce, Summer 2021 Was the Hottest on Record in the Contiguous U.S., NOAA Says, (Sept. 9, 2021), Assessing the U. S. Climate August 2021, NOAA (Sept. 9, 2021),

[5] It’s Official: July Was Earth’s Hottest Month on Record, NOAA (Aug. 13, 2021),

[6] Aatish Bhatia and Winston Choi-Schagrin, Why Record-Breaking Overnight Temperatures Are So Concerning, Nights Are Warming Faster Than Days Across Most of The U.S., With Potentially Deadly Consequences, The New York Times (July 22, 2021),

[7] Climate Change Indicators: Heat Waves, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (accessed on June 22, 2022), In this analysis, a heat wave is defined as two or more consecutive days when the daily minimum heat index (overnight lows) exceeds the 85th percentile of historical July and August temperatures (1981–2010) for that area.

[8] Jason Samenow and Ian Livingston, Canada Sets New All-Time Heat Record of 121 Degrees Amid Unprecedented Heat Wave, Washington Post (June 29, 2001),

[9] Dora Totoian, Farmworker Dies in Willamette Valley Record Heat, Statesman Journal (June 29, 2021),; Morgan Romero, Oregon OSHA Investigating Death of Walmart Warehouse Worker in Hermiston, KGW8 (July 9, 2021),; Monica Samaha, Hillsboro Construction Worker Latest Workplace Heat Death, Oregon Public Broadcasting (July 21, 2021).; Amelia Templeton and Monica Samayoa, Oregon Medical Examiner Releases Names of June Heat Wave Victims, Oregon Public Broadcasting (Aug. 6, 2021),

[10] IPCC, 6th Assessment Report (2021).

[11] Top 20 Largest California Wildfires, Cal Fire (accessed May 13, 2022),

[12] What’s Behind California’s Surge in Large Fires?, NASA’s Earth Observatory (Sep. 13, 2021),

[13] Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Hot Environments, Revised Criteria, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (February 2016), [hereinafter NIOSH Recommended Heat Standard (2016)].

[14] NIOSH Recommended Heat Standard (2016).

[15] See, e.g., Chin Leong Lim, Fundamental Concepts of Human Thermoregulation and Adaptation to Heat: A Review in the Context of Global Warming, 17 International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 7795 (Oct. 24, 2020),

[16] Id.

[17] NIOSH Recommended Heat Standard (2016).

[18] Heat Stress – Heat-Related Illness, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (accessed on June 22, 2022),

[19] Id.

[20] See, e.g., Sally Moyce, Dianne Mitchell, Tracey Armitage, Daniel Tancredo, Jill Joseph and Marc Schenker, Heat Strain, Volume Depletion and Kidney Function in California Agricultural Workers, 74(6) Occupational and Environmental Medicine 402-409 (Jan. 19, 2017), [hereinafter Moyce et al., Kidney Function in California Agricultural Workers (2017)]; Andreas D. Flouris, Petros C. Dinas, Leonidas G. Ioannou, Lars Nybo, George Havenith, Glen P. Kenny and Tord Kjellstrom, Workers’ Health and Productivity Under Occupational Heat Strain: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, 2(12) The Lancet Planetary Health E521-E531 (Dec. 1, 2018),

[21] Moyce et al., Kidney Function in California Agricultural Workers (2017).

[22] Elizabeth Rogers, The Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Respondent Follow-Up Survey, Monthly Labor Review, Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020), This raises obvious concerns not only about the accuracy of data, but also the oversight of employer record-keeping on workplace injuries. Reliance on voluntary compliance with OSHA rules clearly has limitations.

[23] Heat, Related Standards, OSHA (accessed on June 22, 2022),

[24] Nonfatal Cases Involving Days Away from Work: Selected Characteristics (2011 forward), BLS (accessed June 7, 2022), Annual estimates were retrieved by selecting Area — “All U.S.,” Ownership — “All ownerships,” Data Type — “Injury and illness cases,” Case type — “Industry division or selected characteristic by detailed event or exposure,” Category — “00X All Industry,” and Event or Exposures — “531XXX Exposure to environmental heat.”

[25] Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (2011-forward), BLS (accessed June 7, 2022), Annual estimates were retrieved by selecting Area — “All U.S.,” Case type — “Fatalities in all sectors,” Category — “E5A Event or exposure — exposure to environmental heat,” and Industries — “000000 All Workers.”

[26] Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings, 86(205) Federal Register 59309 (Oct. 27, 2021),

[27] R. Jisung Park, Nora Pankratz & A. Patrick Behrer, Temperature, Workplace Safety, and Labor Market Inequality, IZA Institute of Labor Economics DP No. 14560 3 (July 2021), [hereinafter R. Jisung Park et al., Temperature, Workplace Safety, and Labor Market Inequality (2021)].

[28] The California climate varies greatly and is a useful, though imperfect, representation of the worker population in other states. The geography of the state incudes all five climate zones found in the continental U.S. — Tropical, Dry, Moist Subtropical Mid-Latitude, Moist Continental Mid-Latitude and Highlands. Jet Stream Climate Zones, National Weather Service, NOAA (accessed on June 21, 2022), Moreover, the response to environmental heat is relative to the typical heat for the location.

[29] According to BLS, the U.S. civilian labor force as of June 2021 was 162.167 million, approximately 8.58 times larger than California’s civilian labor force as of June 2021 of 18.89 million. Multiplying California’s 20,000 heat-related injuries by 8.58 equals 171,696 estimated heat-related injuries nationally (162.167 million U.S. workers / 18.89 million CA workers x 20,000 CA heat-related injuries = 171,696 heat-related injuries nation-wide). Note that this figure assumes the number of California injuries attributed to hot days is representative of the entire U.S. While the average number of hot days in the U.S. varies, the same is true of California. See, e.g., Average Number of Hot Days at U.S. Cities in Summer, Current Results —Weather and Science Facts (accessed on June 23, 2022),

[30] Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (2011-forward), BLS (accessed June 7, 2022), Annual estimates were retrieved by selecting Area — “All U.S.,” Case type — “Fatalities in all sectors,” Category — “E5A Event or exposure — exposure to environmental heat,” and Industries — “000000 All Workers.” Injuries/Illnesses and Fatal Injuries Profiles, BLS (accessed June 7, 2022), Annual estimates were retrieved for 1992-2002 by selecting Table type — “Fatal Injuries Numbers,” Year — “2002,” Area — “All U.S.,” Beginning Year — “1992,” Characteristic type — “Event or exposure,” Order — “Numeric,” Subcharacteristic — “321XXX Exposure to environmental heat,” Ownership — “All ownerships.” The procedure was repeated for 2003-2010.

[31] The BLS Census of Occupational Injury (CFOI) collects multiple source documents, because each work-related death must be confirmed by at least two sources. Of the source documents collected, death certificates are collected on all deaths and medical examiner/autopsy/coroner reports are commonly collected. Other sources may serve as confirmation, such as toxicology, OSHA or workers’ comp reports, and even the news media. Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries: Data Sources, BLS (accessed on June 12, 2022), The CFOI examines all cases where the death certificate is marked “At work” and, additionally, occupational illness reports from OSHA to determine if there was an injury component to the illness. Scope of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), BLS (accessed on June 13, 2022),

[32] Technical Documentation: Heat Related Deaths, Environmental Protection Agency (accessed on June 8, 2022),

[33] Ambarish Vaidyanathan, Josephine Malilay, Paul Schramm and Shubhayu Saha, Heat-Related Deaths — United States, 2004–2018, 69 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), CDC 729–734 (2020),

[34] Climate Change Indicators: Heat-Related Deaths, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (web update: April 2021) (accessed on June 7, 2022),

[35] Technical Documentation: Heat Related Deaths, EPA (accessed on June 8, 2022),

[36] Climate Change Indicators: Heat-Related Deaths, EPA (web update: April 2021) (accessed on June 7, 2022),

[37] Kate Weinberger, Daniel Harris, Keith Spangler, Antonella Zanobetti and Gregory Wellenius, Estimating the Number of Excess Deaths Attributable to Heat in 297 United States Counties, 4(3) Environmental Epidemiology e096 (April 23, 2020),

[38] Id.

[39] Multiplying 5,608 heat-related fatalities by 1.619 = 9,079, arriving at estimated heat-related fatalities nationally among the general population.

[40] Drew Shindell, Yuqiang Zhang, Melissa Scott, Muye Ru, Krista Stark and Kristi L. Ebi, The Effects of Heat Exposure on Human Mortality Throughout the United States, 4(4) GeoHealth e2019GH000234 (2021),

[41] Joshua Graff Zivin, Solomon Hsiang and Matthew Neidell, Temperature and Human Capital in the Short and Long Run, 5(1) Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists 77, 77-105 (2018),

[42] Anthony Heyes & Soodeh Saberian, Temperature and Decisions: Evidence From 207,000 Court Cases, 11(2) American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 238-265 (2019),

[43] Jacob F. Phil, Chris J. Mikkelsen, Nicklaus Junge, Nathan B. Morris and Lars Nybo, Heat Acclimatization Does Not Protect Trained Males from Hyperthermia-Induced Impairments in Complex Task Performance, 16(5) International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 716 (February 28, 2019),; Jacob F. Piil, Lasse Christiansen, Nathan B. Morris, C. Jacob Mikkelsen, Leonidas G. Ioannou, Andreas D. Flouris, Jesper Lundbye-Jensen and Lars Nybo, Direct Exposure of The Head To Solar Heat Radiation Impairs Motor-Cognitive Performance,10 Scientific Reports 7812 (May 2020),

[44] R. Jisung Park et al., Temperature, Workplace Safety, and Labor Market Inequality (2021).

[45] Miriam M. Calkins, David Bonauto, Anjum Hajat, Max Lieblich, Noah Seixas, Lianne Sheppard and June T. Spector, A Case-crossover study of Heat Exposure and Injury Risk Among Outdoor Construction Workers in Washington State, 45(6) Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health 588-599 (2019),

[46] Syeda Hira Fatima, Paul Rothmore, Lynne C. Giles, Blesson M. Varghese and Peng Bi, Extreme Heat and Occupational Injuries in Different Climate Zones: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Epidemiological Evidence, 148 Environment International 106384 (Mar., 2021), [hereinafter Fatima et al., Extreme Heat and Occupational Injuries in Different Climate Zones (2021).]

[47] June T. Spector, David K. Bonauto, Lianne Sheppard, Tania Busch-Isaksen, Miriam Calkins, Darrin Adams, Max Lieblich and Richard A. Fenske, A Case-crossover Study of Heat Exposure and Injury Risk in Outdoor Agricultural Workers, Plos One (Oct. 7, 2016),

[48] Glen P. Kenny and Ryan McGinn, Restoration of Thermoregulation After Exercise, 122 Journal of Applied Physiology 933–944 (April 11, 2017),

[49] Sean R. Notley, Robert D. Meade, Andrew W. D’Souza, Brian J. Friesen and Glen P. Kenn, Heat Loss Is Impaired in Older Men on the Day after Prolonged Work in the Heat, 50(9) Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 1859-1867 (September 2018),; Robert D. Meade, Andrew W. D’Souza, Lovely Krishen and Glen P. Kenny, The Physiological Strain Incurred During Electrical Utilities Work Over Consecutive Work Shifts in Hot Environments: A Case Report, 14(12) Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene 986–994 (November 2017),; Zachary J. Schlader, Deanna Colburn and David Hostler, Heat Strain Is Exacerbated on the Second of Consecutive Days of Fire Suppression, 49(5) Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 999-1005 (May 2017),

[50] Judith A. McInnes, Muhammad Akram, Ewan M. MacFarlane, Tessa Keegel, Malcolm R. Sim and Peter Smith, Association Between High Ambient Temperature and Acute Work-related Injury: A Case-crossover Analysis Using Workers’ Compensation Claims Data, 43(1) Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health 86-94 (2017),

[51] Id.

[52] Fatima et al., Extreme Heat and Occupational Injuries in Different Climate Zones (2021).

[53] Alessandro Marinaccio, Matteo Scortichini, Claudio Gariazzo, Antonio Leva, Michela Bonafede, Francesca K. de’ Donato, Massimo Stafoggia, Giovanni Viegi Paola Michelozzi, Nationwide Epidemiological Study for Estimating the Effect of Extreme Outdoor Temperature on Occupational Injuries in Italy, 133(A) Environment International 105176 (Dec. 2019),

[54] R. Jisung Park et al., Temperature, Workplace Safety, and Labor Market Inequality (2021).

[55] Research and sources relied upon throughout this report use the terms Hispanic, Hispanic/Latino or Latino based on the terminology used by the database or research being discussed.

[56] Julia Shipley, Brian Edwards, David Nickerson, Robert Benincasa, Stella Chávez and Cheryl Thompson, Heat is Killing Workers in the U.S. — and There Are No Federal Rules to Protect Them, National Public Radio (Aug. 17,  2021), .

[57] Martell Hesketh, Sara Wuellner, Amanda Robinson, Darrin Adams, Caroline Smith and David Bonauto, Heat Related Illness Among Workers in Washington State: A Descriptive Study Using Workers’ Compensation Claims, 2006-2017, 63(4) American Journal of Industrial Medicine 300-311 (April 2020),

[58] Id.

[59] Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021),

[60] Findings from the National Agriculture Workers Survey (NAWS) 2019-2020: A Demographic and Employment Profile of United States Farm Workers, Research Report No. 16, JBS International, Inc., (June 3. 2022), [hereinafter NAWS 2022]. The annual NAWS report is a multiagency effort, including The Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, to obtain more thorough information on crop workers in the U.S. Using a less detailed methodology, BLS estimates a lower percentage of Hispanic/Latino crop workers. Most of the data in this report rely on BLS data.

[61] Kristina Dahl and Rachel Licker, Too Hot to Work: Assessing the Threat Climate Change Poses to Workers, Union of Concerned Scientists (Aug. 2021),

[62] Id.

[63] Xiuwen Sue Dong, Gavin West, Alfreda Holloway-Beth, Xuanwen Wang & Rosemary Sokas, Heat-Related Deaths Among Construction Workers in the United States, 62(12) American Journal of Industrial Medicine 1047-1057 (Dec. 2019), [hereinafter Dong et al., Heat-related Death in Construction Workers (2019)].

[64] Id.

[65] Diane Gubernot, Brooke Anderson & Katherine Hunting, Characterizing Occupational Heat-Related Mortality in the United States, 2000-2010: An Analysis Using the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Database, 58(2) American Journal of Industrial Medicine 203, 203-211 (Feb. 2015),

[66] NAWS 2022.

[67] Farm Labor, USDA Economic Research Service (accessed June 9, 2022),

[68] Moussa El Khayat, Dana A. Halwani, Layal Hneiny, Ibrahim Alameddine, Mustapha A. Haidar and Rima R. Habib, Impacts of Climate Change and Heat Stress on Farmworkers’ Health: A Scoping Review, 10 Frontiers in Public Health 782811 (February 2022), [hereinafter El Khayat et al., Impacts of Climate Change and Heat Stress on Farmworkers’ Health: A Scoping Review (2022)].

[69] Id.; See, also, Teresa Wiltz, States Struggle to Provide Housing for Migrant Farmworkers, Stateline, Pew Trusts (May 2, 2016),

[70] Farm Workers and the Environment, National Farm Worker Ministry  (accessed on Jan. 10, 2022),; Adam Wagner, Aaron Sánchez-Guerra and Nadia Ramlagan, With No AC Where They Sleep, NC Farmworkers Risk the Heat Even After the Sun Goes Down, Pulitzer Center (Oct. 21, 2020),

[71] El Khayat et al., Impacts of Climate Change and Heat Stress on Farmworkers’ Health: A Scoping Review (2022).

[72] Margaret C. Morrissey, Douglas J. Casa, et al., Heat Safety in the Workplace: Modified Delphi Consensus to Establish Strategies and Resources to Protect U.S Workers, 5(8) GeoHealth e2021GH000443 (August 2021), While NAWS indicates that 99% of farmworkers have access to toilets and hand washing stations, immigrants and piece-rate workers less likely to have access. Anita Alves Pena and Edward R. Teather-Posadas, Field Sanitation in US Agriculture: Evidence from NAWS and Future Data Needs, 23(2) Journal of Agromedicine 123–33 (2018),

[73] See, e.g., Leonidas G. Ioannou, Josh Foster, Nathan B. Morris, Jacob F. Piil, George Havenith, Igor B. Mekjavic, Glen P. Kenny, Lars Nybo and Andreas D. Flouris, Occupational Heat Strain in Outdoor Workers: A Comprehensive Review and Meta-analysis, 9(1) Temperature 67-102 (April, 2022), [hereinafter Ioannou et al., Heat Strain Comprehensive Review and Meta-Analysis (2022)].

[74] Sarah Goldman, Anna Aspenson, Prashasti Bhatnagar and Robert Martin, Essential and in Crisis: A Review of the Public Health Threats Facing Farmworkers in the U.S., Center for a Livable Future (May 2021),

[75] Michelle Tigchelaar, David Battisti & June Spector, Work Adaptations Insufficient to Address Growing Heat Risk for U.S. Agricultural Workers, 15(9) Center Environmental Research Letters (Aug. 25, 2020), For example, the average piece rate for tomato pickers in Florida is 50 cents for every 32-lbs of tomatoes picked. Farmworker Facts and Figures, Research Coalition of Immokalee Workers (accessed June 22, 2022),

[76] Rising Temperatures Intensify Risks for Florida Farmworkers, The CLEO Institute (May 28, 2021), Research has shown the odds of acute kidney injury to be dramatically increased in female agricultural workers paid on a piece rate basis. Moyce et al., Kidney Function in California Agricultural Workers (2017).

[77] Erik Hansson, Ali Mansourian, Mahdi Farnaghi, Max Petzold and Kristina Jakobsson, An Ecological Study of Chronic Kidney Disease in Five Mesoamerican Countries: Associations With Crop and Heat, 21 BMC Public Health Article number 840 (May 1, 2021),; Richard J. Johnson, Catharina Wesseling and Lee S. Newman, Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Cause in Agricultural Communities, 380 New England Journal of Medicine 1843-1852 (May 19, 2019),

[78] See, e.g., Jaime Butler-Dawson, Lyndsay Krisher, Miranda Dally, Katherine A. James, Richard J. Johnson, Diana Jaramillo, Hillary Yoder, Evan C. Johnson, Daniel Pilloni, Claudia Asensio, Alex Cruz and Lee S. Newman,  Sugarcane Workweek Study: Risk Factors for Daily Changes in Creatinine, 6(9) Kidney International Reports 2404-2414 (Sep. 2021),; Christopher L. Chapman, Blair D. Johnson, Mark D. Parker, David Hostler, Riana R. Pryor and Zachary Schlader, Kidney Physiology and Pathophysiology During Heat Stress and the Modification by Exercise, Dehydration, Heat Acclimation and Aging, 8(2) Temperature: Multidisciplinary Biomedical Journal 108-159 (2021), [hereinafter Chapman et al., Kidney Physiology and Pathophysiology During Heat Stress (2021)].

[79] Chapman et al., Kidney Physiology and Pathophysiology During Heat Stress (2021).

[80] Jacqueline Mix, Lisa Elon, Valerie Vi Thien Mac, Joan Flocks, Eugenia Economos, Antonio J. Tovar-Aguilar, Vicki Stover Hertzberg and Linda A. McCauley, Hydration Status, Kidney Function, and Kidney Injury in Florida Agricultural Workers, 60(5) Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine e253–60 (May 2018),

[81] Id.

[82] El Khayat et al., Impacts of Climate Change and Heat Stress on Farmworkers’ Health: A Scoping Review (2022).

[83] Dong et al., Heat-related Death in Construction Workers (2019).

[84] Id.

[85] Id.

[86] Id.

[87] Id.

[88] See, e.g., Overview: Working in Outdoor and Indoor Heat Environments, OSHA (accessed on Oct 11, 2021),

[89] Documentation of the complaints was provided by Oregon OSHA in response to a FOIA request from HuffPost reporter Dave Jamieson, who generously shared them with Public Citizen.

[90] Umair Ifran, Extreme heat is killing American workers, The U.S. needs a national standard to protect workers from heat, Vox (July 21, 2021),

[91] California Firefighters Battle a Dozen Large Wildfires, AP News (August 23, 2021),

[92] See, e.g., Paul J. Schramm, Ambarish Vaidyanathan, Lakshmi Radhakrishan, Abigail Gates, Kathleen Hartnett, Patrick Breysse, Heat-Related Emergency Department Visits During the Northwestern Heat Wave — United States, June 2021, 70(29) MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1020–1021 (July 23, 2021),

[93] Tord Kjellstrom, Bruno Lemke and Matthias Otto, Climate Conditions, Workplace Heat and Occupational Health in South-East Asia in the Context of Climate Change, 6(2) WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health 15-21 (Sep. 2017),

[94] Ioannou et al., Heat Strain Comprehensive Review and Meta-Analysis (2022).

[95] See, e.g., Fox 12 Staff, Local HVAC Companies Seeing Increase in Calls as Heat Wave Moves In, Fox 12 Oregon, (July 29, 2021),; Kierra Elfalan, Air Conditioning Installers Slammed During Western Washington’s Heat Wave, King5 (June 28, 2021),

[96] Nicholas K. Geranios and Andrew Selsky, Blackouts in U.S. Northwest Due to Heat Wave, Deaths Reported, AP News (June 29, 2021),

[97] Aaron Gordon, The Heat Wave Is Literally Melting Portland’s Infrastructure, Vice (June 28, 2021),

[98] See, e.g., Workers’ Compensation Laws – State by State Comparison, National Federation of Independent Businesses (June17, 2017), Federal employees are covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. 51 U.S.C. §§8191 et seq.

[99] Workers’ Compensation, Farmworker Justice (accessed on June 22, 2022),

[100] NAWS 2022.

[101] See, e.g., What Employers Need To Know About Undocumented Workers Rights, 501(c) Agency Trust (May 5, 2021),; Undocumented Workers, Workplace Fairness (accessed on June 22, 2022),; Workers’ Compensation, Farmworker Justice (accessed on June 22, 2022),; Jeffrey Rhodes, Court Upholds Workers’ Comp Judgment for Undocumented Worker, SHRM (June 23, 2021),

[102] Texas Labor Code, Title 5 §§406.001 et seq. (2019), Texas does require construction companies on contract with the government to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage.

[103] Christopher J. Boggs, Employees Exempt from Workers’ Compensation, Insurance Journal (March 27, 2015),

[104] See, e.g., Information Sheet, Employment Development Department, State of California, (accessed on June 22, 2022),

[105] Employing Independent Contractors and Other Gig Workers, SHRM (July 9, 2021),

[106] Fact Sheet 13: Employment Relationship Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Wage and Hour Division, Department of Labor (accessed on June 22, 2022),

[107] Nik Theodore, Bethany Boggess, Jackie Cornejo and Emily Timm, Build A Better South, Workers Defense Project (2017),

[108] Fabiana B. Nerbass, Roberto Pecoits-Filho, William F. Clark, Jessica M. Sontrop, Christopher W. McIntyre and Louise Moist, Occupational Heat Stress and Kidney Health: From Farms to Factories, 2(6) Kidney International Reports 998-1008 (Nov. 2017),

[109] National Environmental Public Health Tracking, CDC (accessed on Jan. 24, 2022), Following the 2021 Pacific Northwest heat wave, the British Columbia Coroner’s Service asked physicians to consult the Coroner’s Service prior to determining cause of death if heat could have been a contributing factor so that a proper assessment could be made. Vaughn Palmer, B.C. Coroner’s Service Has Asked Doctors Not to Issue Death Certificates in Heat-Related Cases, Vancouver Sun (July 12, 2021),

[110] All health insurance rates identified in this report are based on data gathered prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and may not reflect the current extent of uninsured workers in these occupations. A study analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey estimates that 2.7 million people in the U.S. lost their health insurance between April 23-July 21, 2020 due to lost coverage through an employer. The decrease in insurance coverage was concentrated in states without Medicaid expansion, as Medicaid expansion states saw employment-based health insurance plans replaced with Medicaid for many of the newly unemployed. Of note, the majority of non-expansion states are in the southern half of the country where occupational heat stress is particularly problematic for outdoor workers. M. Kate Bundorf, Sumedha Gupta and Christine Kim, Trends in U.S. Health Insurance Coverage During the COVID-19 Pandemic, 2(9) JAMA Health Forum e212487 (Sep. 3, 2021),

[111] NAWS 2022. Only 26% of agricultural workers with health insurance reported that their employer provided the health insurance.

[112] Jacob Passy, Workers in This Field Are the Least Likely to Have Health Insurance, Market Watch (March 22, 2018),

[113] Id.

[114] Id.

[115] Id.

[116] Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings, 86(205) Federal Register 59309 (Oct. 27, 2021), Public Citizen and more than 100 allied organization and occupational heat experts filed petitions with OSHA for an occupational heat standard in 2011 and 2018, as well as a petition for an Emergency Temporary Standard in 2021. Petitions to OSHA for a Heat Standard, Public Citizen (accessed on Jun 2, 2022),

[117] Workplace Safety and Health: Multiple Challenges Lengthen OSHA’s Standard Setting, U.S. Government Accountability Office (April, 2012),

[118] Juley Fulcher, OSHA Fails to Protect Workers From Extreme Heat Hazards: OSHRA Decisions Demonstrate the Need for an OSHA Heat Stress Standard, Public Citizen (June 30, 2020), [hereinafter Fulcher, OSHRA Decisions Demonstrate the Need for an OSHA Heat Stress Standard (2020)]; Secretary of Labor v. A.H. Sturgill Roofing Inc., OSHRC Docket No. 13-0224 (Feb. 28, 2019),

[119] 29 U.S.C. § 655(c).

[120] Or. Admin. Rule 437-002-0155,; Or. Admin. Rule 437-004-1130, (both effective July 8, 2021); Amendments to outdoor heat exposure rules under Washington Administrative Code Chapters 296-62 and 296-307 (effective July 13, 2021),

[121] Press Release, Oregon OSHA, Oregon OSHA Adopts Emergency Rule Bolstering Protections for Workers Against the Hazards of High and Extreme Heat (July 8, 2021),

[122] Id.

[123] Hal Bernton, Washington Releases New Heat Rules to Increase Protections for Outdoor Workers, The Seattle Times (July 9, 2021),

[124] Eli Rosenberg and Abha Bhattarai, Biden Administration, Workers Grapple with Health Threats Posed By Climate Change and Heat, The Washington Post (July 19, 2021),

[125] Stillman, Jonathon, Heat Waves, The New Normal: Summertime Temperature Extremes Will Impact Animals, Ecosystems and Human Communities, 34 Physiology 86-100 (March 2019),

[126] Kristina Dahl, Erika Spanberger-Siegfried, Rachel Licker, Astrid Caldas, Rachel Cleetus, Shana Uvardy, Juan Declet-Barreto, Pamela Worth, Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days, Union of Concerned Scientists, 3 (July 2, 2019),; E.M. Fischer, S. Sippel and R. Knutti, Increasing Probability of Record-Shattering Climate Extremes, 11 Nature Climate Change 689-695 (Aug. 2021),

[127] R. Jisung Park et al., Temperature, Workplace Safety, and Labor Market Inequality (2021), 5.

[128] Cal. Code. Regs., tit. 8, § 3395 , Heat Illness Prevention in Outdoor Places of Employment (enacted in 2005),

[129] Fulcher, OSHRA Decisions Demonstrate the Need for an OSHA Heat Stress Standard (2020).

[130] Secretary of Labor v. United States Postal Service, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) and National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA), OSHRC Docket Nos. 16-1713,; 16-1813,; 16-1872,; 17-0023,; 17-0279, (July 15, 2020).

[131] Id.

[132] Id. These cases remain under review by OSHRC, and Public Citizen supports OSHA’s position in that matter.


Natural Gas Pipeline Disclosure of Shippers In Need of Reform

By Tyson Slocum

On June 24, 2022 Public Citizen submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in docket RM21-18, requesting disclosure improvements to ensure the public has access to accurate information about the companies that secure shipping capacity on these pipelines. Currently, the Commission’s regulations at 18 CFR § 284.13(b) delegates such reporting to the pipelines, allowing pipeline companies to post shipper’s information on their “Internet web site”, rather than having the Commission publish such information in a centralized format on FERC’s web site. Pipeline compliance with this rule appears to be haphazard, with pipeline companies prioritizing their own web site content and making it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to find the FERC-required disclosures. In addition, the Commission’s rules only require limited archived information of up to 90 days, and most pipeline companies charge the public money to access material older than 90 days, which impedes the public interest―for example, if journalists or the public seek information on shippers that had pipeline capacity during a significant pricing emergency (such as with last year’s winter storm Uri), access to basic data may be subject to onerous fees charged and payable to pipeline companies. This is an unreasonable barrier that is inconsistent with the public interest.

Read the full four page filing here: PipelineDisclose1

Protest of JERA purchase of New England Fossil Fuel Power Plants

By Tyson Slocum

On June 22, 2022 in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission docket EC22-71, Public Citizen filed a protest of the joint application for authorization under Section 203 of the Federal Power Act was filed to sell three gas/oil fueled power plants in ISO-NE from the private equity firm Stonepeak to JERA Co. Inc. Our protest consists of four issues. First, the proposed transaction will result in significant concentration of power generation ownership by JERA in ISO-NE and NYISO that may threaten competition and rates. Second, the transaction involves assets that may qualify for special out-of-market payments administered by ISO-NE that require additional disclosure to assess the impact on competition and rates. To mitigate these two threats to competition and rates, approval of the transaction should be contingent on divestiture of JERA’s existing ISO-NE generation holdings. Third, we contest the privileged treatment of the purchase price of the power plants. Comparable sales information is widely available, and the public interest should require disclosure of basic information such as the purchase price of FERC-jurisdictional power plants. Fourth, more information is required on the transaction’s effect on concentration of voting in ISO-NE’s NEPOOL stakeholder process to determine whether it threatens rates.

Read the full, four page filing here: JeraCanal

Royal Ripoff


Oil and gas executives are ripping off consumers at the pump. They’re shortchanging taxpayers as well.

For decades, the Interior Department has allowed oil and gas companies to pay an outdated rock-bottom rate of 12.5% of the value of oil and gas produced to drill on public lands. The federal onshore royalty rate is about half of what Texas charges to drill on state-owned land and has not changed in 100 years. By contrast, the federal government charges a rate of 18.75% for offshore drilling on federal waters. The Biden administration has announced it will use this 18.75% rate for new lease sales this month but has yet to propose a formal rulemaking to make the higher rate permanent.

Given the surge in oil prices over the past 12 months, the oil industry has been reporting huge profits and rewarding investors by hiking dividend payments and buying back stock. With the industry expected to report the highest profits on record this year, now is an ideal time for Congress and the Biden administration to get rid of longstanding giveaways to the oil and gas industry. Artificially low royalty rates have cost taxpayers up to $13.1 billion over the past decade, with lost potential revenue hitting a record high of $2.3 billion last year due to the dramatic increase in oil prices, according to a recent analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense.

To identify which companies have benefited the most from this blatant taxpayer rip-off, Public Citizen analyzed Interior Department data to calculate how much extra money the companies could have paid if a 18.75% rate were in place at the time leases were sold Public Citizen’s analysis found that:

  • From 2013 through 2021, 20 U.S. oil and gas companies doing the most drilling on public lands would have returned up to $5.8 billion to U.S. taxpayers under an 18.75% royalty rate. These companies represent about half of the $11.8 billion in total lost royalty revenue during this nine-year period, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense’s statistics.
  • Five companies have benefited the most from the failure to charge fair royalty rates from 2013 to 2021. They are: Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy, (up to $1.09 billion in avoided royalties), Houston-based EOG Resources (up to $896 million), Denver-based PureWest Energy, formerly known as Ultra Petroleum, (up to $493 million), Houston-based ConocoPhillips (up to $470 million) and Denver-based Ovinitiv (up to $329 million).

  • In 2021, President Biden’s first year in office, the 20 U.S. companies that did the most drilling on public lands would have returned up to $1.3 billion in extra royalties under an 18.75% rate. That works out to more than half the up to $2.1 billion that onshore drillers would have paid in royalties, according to the Taxpayers for Common Sense analysis.
  • The five companies that benefited the most from the failure to charge fair royalty rates in 2021 were: EOG Resources (up to $304 million) Devon Energy (up to $263 million), Mewbourne Oil (up to $106 million), Hilcorp (up to $73 million) and PureWest Energy (up to $68 million).

Under federal law, companies pay royalties to the federal government based on the sales price of oil or natural gas. For example, if a fossil fuel company sells $1 million of oil in any given month, it would owe the government $125,000 under a 12.5% rate and $180,750 under an 18.75% rate. The federal government sends roughly half of these royalties back to oil-producing states, some of which are highly dependent on oil and gas revenue for their budgets. New Mexico gets more federal onshore oil and gas royalty revenue than any other state due to the Permian Basin oil drilling boom. Over the past decade, New Mexico would have received up to $2.9 billion in additional revenue under an 18.75% royalty rate, followed by Wyoming ($1.7 billion) North Dakota ($516 million), Colorado ($371 million) and Utah ($365 million), according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Public Citizen’s analysis[1] calculates extra payments to the U.S. government if an 18.75% rate had been in place in the past for all onshore oil and gas leases. Initial leases between the federal government and oil companies typically last 10 years but can be extended much longer once the lease starts generating royalties and is still producing. The royalty rate on existing leases does not increase during that period, though companies can apply for a reduction in royalties. The Trump administration was generous in granting such royalty relief. If the federal government does raise the royalty rate, it would only apply to new leases. As such, it would take many years for taxpayers to realize the impact of the royalty rate increase because the terms of existing leases would not change. If royalty rates had been hiked during the Obama administration, for instance, taxpayers would now be reaping the benefits.

Methodology: This analysis is based on data published by the federal Office of Natural Resources Revenue detailing federal royalty revenue by company. The raw ONRR corporate data goes back to 2013 and does not distinguish between companies with onshore and offshore operations. The analysis isolated major onshore drilling subsidiaries by excluding companies that paid more than $200,000 in inspection fees for offshore drilling operations in 2013-2021. Additionally, oil companies were also excluded if their websites indicated a large offshore drilling operation.

Oil Industry Profits Soar

Many of the same companies paying below-market royalty rates also have reported eye-popping profits in recent weeks and seen their share prices soar. Devon Energy, a major oil producer in western states, posted first-quarter profits of $989 million, more than four times as high as the same quarter a year earlier, expanded its plan to repurchase its own shares by 25% and boosted its dividend payout by 27%. The Oklahoma City-based company has faced a federal investigation over its royalty practices, agreeing in September 2021 to pay $6.15 million to settle Justice Department allegations that it underpaid royalties for natural gas extracted on federal lands in New Mexico and Wyoming.

Domestic oil drilling companies say they are committed to avoiding overproduction, which could flood the market with supply and push down prices. Holding back on production has resulted in huge profits. In recent weeks, Occidental Petroleum Inc., reported $4.7 billion in profits in the first quarter, compared with a loss of $346 million. the same quarter a year earlier. Diamondback Energy tripled first quarter profits compared with a year earlier to $779 million, and also boosted its dividend. Coterra Energy reported $608 million in profit in the first quarter, nearly five times as high as the company earned in the same quarter of 2021, and raised its dividend by 7%. Exxon Mobil Corp. doubled its profits to $5.5 billion and expanded its share buyback program from 10 billion to $30 billion.

Fossil Fuel Pushback

The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s largest trade group, has criticized the Biden administration’s plans to increase royalty rates, claiming that doing so “may discourage investment, particularly when combined with other recent regulatory actions and uncertainties.” Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, which represents western oil and gas drillers, claimed that doing so “will have the effect of any other tax increase–you get less of what’s taxed.” Despite steadily rising production, Sgamma accused the Biden administration of deterring production, arguing that: “At a time when the administration should be increasing production, it continues to introduced [sic] new policies that further depress American production and keep gasoline prices high.”

The domestic oil and gas industry is a major supporter of Capitol Hill Republicans who have consistently – and disingenuously – criticized the Biden administration’s energy policies. A key example is Rep. Lauren Boebert (R.-Colo.), whose husband made nearly $940,000 over two years as a consultant to Houston-based energy firm Terra Energy Partners, a major Colorado energy producer. A company official confirmed to the Colorado Sun that Boebert’s husband, Jayson, “provided contract drilling services as an on-site drilling foreman to Terra since 2017.”

A longstanding giveaway

The minimum royalty rate of 12.5% was established in 1920 and is far below the rates imposed by major oil and gas producing states, including Texas (20-25%), Louisiana (20-25%) Pennsylvania (20%), Colorado (20%), New Mexico (18.75-20%), Montana (16.67%), and Wyoming (16.67%), according to Taxpayers for Common Sense’s research. Federal offshore drillers pay an 18.75% royalty rate as well. The push to end this giveaway has attracted bipartisan support. Last year, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) co-sponsored legislation to increase the onshore royalty rate to 18.75%, and hike several other oil industry fees for leasing on public lands. Grassley said in a statement, “Congress has not addressed this issue for over 100 years and since then, these oil companies have deprived the treasury and the American people of billions of dollars.”

The federal government gets roughly half of royalties collected from oil and gas companies back to oil-producing states, a handful of which are highly dependent on oil and gas revenue for their state budgets. New Mexico gets more federal onshore oil and gas royalty revenue than any other state due to the drilling boom in the Permian Basin. It would have received up to $2.9 billion in additional revenue under an 18.75% royalty rate followed by Wyoming ($1.7 billion) North Dakota ($516 million), Colorado ($371 million) and Utah ($365 million), according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

With energy prices soaring, revenue sent back to states has grown significantly. Monthly payments from the federal government to state governments for oil and gas leases grew to nearly $340 million in May 2022 from more than $118 million in January 2020, according to a Public Citizen analysis of Interior Department data. Disbursements to New Mexico grew to more than $250 million in May 2022 from about $67 million in January 2020. New Mexico has seen a  boom in oil and gas production in the Permian Basin stretching across west Texas and eastern New Mexico. Raising the federal royalty rate could generate billions for New Mexico.

Under former President Donald Trump, the federal government engaged in a massive giveaway of our public resources to oil, gas and mining interests. During this fire sale, the Bureau of Land Management sold leases on 5.6 million acres of public lands, locking in global warming emissions, an especially reckless move given that public lands and waters make up about a quarter of U.S. carbon emissions each year.

In recent years, the share of U.S. oil production coming from federal lands has risen, increasing to about 10.1% last year, while the share of U.S. natural gas production coming from federal lands has declined to 8.2%, according to federal data. The federal Bureau of Land Management manages nearly 36,000 leases on 25 million acres of land.

President Joe Biden has promised to make climate change one of his top priorities. Doing so necessitates a rapid reduction in the use of fossil fuels. During his campaign, at a March 2020 primary debate, Biden promised that his administration would make a dramatic impact. Biden said, “no more subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, no more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore, no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends.”

Legal challenges from the oil and gas industry as well as a difficult political climate resulting from high gas prices have caused challenges for Biden’s effort to move away from fossil fuels. Shortly after coming into office, Biden paused the sale of new federal oil leases, pledging to conduct a comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program.

The oil and gas industry and several Republican-led states sued to block the pause, and a federal judge last summer sided with the oil industry, issuing a ruling that ordered the Biden administration to resume lease sales. The administration published a report endorsing reforms to the federal oil and gas leasing program and supported similar changes in the Build Back Better legislation that stalled in Congress last year. However. the federal government continues to finalize public lands drilling permits at a steady clip, approving 3,830 onshore permit applications in 2021, according to Public Citizen’s analysis of Bureau of Land Management data. That number was down from its peak in 2020 but still higher than the first three years of the Trump administration.

In February, the Biden administration said it would delay any decisions on leasing on federal lands after a judge blocked the agency from incorporating revised estimates of the economic harms caused by climate change. After an appeals court halted that ruling, the Biden administration announced it would resume onshore oil and gas lease sales but scale back acreage offered by roughly 80 percent and impose a royalty rate of 18.75%. The Bureau of Land Management now plans to offer up roughly 144,000 acres of public land in onshore oil and gas lease sales to be held in June 2022


The oil and gas industry benefits from myriad tax breaks, subsidies and exemptions and has taken advantage of U.S. taxpayers for far too long. The federal government’s oil and gas leasing system has long been a giveaway that allows fossil fuel barons to line their pockets at the expense of public lands and waters and the climate.

With public outrage over high gasoline prices mounting, Congress and the Biden administration have an opportunity to ensure that oil and gas companies, at the very least, pay a fair price for the resources they extract from public lands and cover the cost of environmental cleanup. Onshore bonding rates for oil and gas development haven’t been altered since 1951, allowing corporations to post inadequate financial assurances to cover cleanup costs, creating a massive problem of figuring out who will pay to clean up wells in the decades to come.

Both Congress and the Biden administration can act. The House of Representatives passed oil leasing and environmental cleanup reforms during the 2021 debate over Build Back Better legislation, and a key Senate committee approved similar changes. However, the Interior Department can on its own impose rules that permanently increase the federal onshore royalty rate to 18.75% to align with the rates imposed for offshore drilling. Those rules should also require oil and gas companies to clean up after themselves and increase bonding rates to a level that fully covers potential cleanup costs so that taxpayers aren’t stuck with the bill.

Other fees should be raised, including outdated minimum bid and rental rates for oil and gas public land leases, which enable land speculators to cheaply obtain and retain leases on public lands for decades even if they do not intend to develop them. Oil and gas corporations already hold 13.9 million acres of unused public lands leases, and 9.3 million acres of unused offshore leases. As Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-N.M.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in April, “If we’re going to let the fossil fuel industry pocket more of our public lands for drilling, we should at least make sure they’re paying a decent price to do it.”

Appendix Table 1: Royalties for 20 Large U.S. Onshore Oil Drillers,            2013-2021

  Headquarters Drilling Subsidiaries Paid onshore royalty at 12.5%, 2013-2021 Additional With potential royalty at 18.75%, 2013-2021
Devon Energy[1] Oklahoma City Devon Energy Corp., WPX Energy Inc. $2,173,512,731 $1,086,756,365
EOG Resources[2] Houston EOG Resources Inc., Yates Petroleum Corp. Yates Industries LLC, Myco Industries LLC $1,792,058,044 $896,029,022
PureWest Energy/Ultra Petroleum[3] Denver Ultra Petroleum, Ultra Petroleum Corp., UP Energy LLC $986,434,499 $493,217,249
ConocoPhillips[4] Houston Concho Resources Inc., Phillips 66 Co. $939,568,476 $469,784,238
Ovinitiv[5] Denver Encana Corp., Newfield Exploration Co $658,712,070 $329,356,035
Mewbourne Oil Tyler, Texas Mewbourne Holdings Inc., Mewbourne Oil Co. $621,732,322 $310,866,161
Coterra Energy[6] Houston Cabot Oil & Gas Corp, Cimarex Energy Co., Cimarex Energy Inc., Coterra Energy $613,631,737




Hilcorp Energy Houston Hilcorp Energy Corp. $534,109,170 $267,054,585
Jonah Energy Denver Jonah Energy LLC, Jonah Energy Parent LLC $439,429,179 $219,714,589
Diamondback Energy[7] Midland, Texas Diamondback Energy Inc, QEP Resources Co,, QEP Resources Inc. $379,687,642




Continental Resources Oklahoma City Continental Resources Inc $335,018,005 $167,509,003
Linn Energy[8] Houston Linn Energy LLC $300,984,972 $150,492,486
Whiting Petroleum[9] Denver Whiting Oil And Gas Corp, Whiting Petroleum Corp. $278,981,068 $139,490,534
ExxonMobil[10] Irving, Texas Bopco Lp $252,954,112 $126,477,056
Terra Energy Partners[11] Houston Terra Energy Partners, Terra Energy Partners LLC, Ursa Resources Group II LLC Ursa Operating Co LLC $228,992,677 $114,496,338
Occidental Petroleum Corp. Houston Oxy Usa Inc $225,326,194 $112,663,097
Matador Resources Dallas Matador Resources Co $220,279,942 $110,139,971
Chesapeake Energy[12] Oklahoma City Chesapeake Energy Corp, Chesapeake Exploration LLC $198,293,134 $99,146,567
Bta Oil Producers Midland, Texas Bta Oil Producers LLC $183,092,832 $91,546,416
Aera Energy Bakersfield, Calif. Aera Energy LLC $165,229,323 $82,614,662
Totals $11,528,028,129


Company Headquarters  Drilling Subsidiaries Onshore Royalties Paid (2021)  Additional With 18.75% Royalty (2021)
Eog Resources Houston EOG Resources Inc. $608,610,630 $304,305,315
Devon Energy Oklahoma City Devon Energy Corp. $526,731,590 $263,365,795
Mewbourne Oil Tyler, Texas Mewbourne Holdings Inc. $211,625,510 $105,812,755
Hilcorp Energy Houston Hilcorp Energy Corp. $147,206,867




PureWest Energy/Ultra Petroleum Denver Ultra Petroleum Corp., UP Energy LLC $136,128,893 $68,064,446
Matador Resources Dallas Matador Resources Co $124,023,980 $62,011,990
Coterra Energy Houston Coterra Energy $97,673,100 $48,836,550
Bta Oil Midland, Texas Bta Oil Producers LLC $93,165,134 $46,582,567
Jonah Energy Denver Jonah Energy Parent LLC $85,839,425 $42,919,712
Kaiser-Francis Oil Tulsa, Oklahoma GBK Corp. $81,906,308 $40,953,154
Continental Resources Oklahoma City Continental Resources Inc $74,838,712 $37,419,356
Terra Energy Partners Houston Terra Energy Partners, Terra Energy Partners LLC Ursa Resources Group II LLLC $68,637,374 $34,318,687
Slawson Companies Wichita, Kan. Slawson Exploration Co. $60,242,390 $30,121,195
Caerus Oil and Gas Denver Caerus Oil And Gas LLC, Caerus Washco LLC $52,891,038 $26,445,519
Petro-Hunt Dallas Petro-Hunt LLC $52,875,724 $26,437,862
Fleur De Lis Irving, Tx Fleur De Lis Energy LLC $44,186,733 $22,093,367
Tap Rock Resources Golden, CO Tap Rock Operating LLC $42,398,496 $21,199,248
Spur Energy Partners Houston Spur Energy Partners LLC $41,942,545 $20,971,273
Marathon Oil Houston Marathon Oil Co $37,899,009 $18,949,505
Chesapeake Energy Oklahoma City Chesapeake Energy Corp $29,033,650 $14,516,825
Totals $2,617,857,109 $1,308,928,554
[1] Merged with WPX Energy in 2021
[2] Former Enron division. Purchased Yates Petroleum for $2.5 billion in 2016
[3] Formerly Ultra Petroleum and UP Energy. Renamed PureWest Energy in 2021 after exiting bankruptcy in 2020. Purchased assets of Wyoming natural gas producer Pinedale Energy Partners in 2021
[4] Acquired Concho Resources in 2021. Figures exclude offshore drilling subsidiaries..
[5] Formerly known as Encana Corp. and based in Canada. Renamed Ovinitiv. Headquarters now in Denver.
[6] Formed with 2021 merger of Cimarex Energy and Cabot Oil & Gas
[7] Acquired QEP Resources in 2021
[8] Filed for bankruptcy in 2016 Split up into Roan Resources, Riviera Resources, Berry Petroleum. Roan Resources was then purchased in 2019 for $1 billion by Warburg Pincus-backed Citizen Energy.
[9]Filed for bankruptcy in 2020, emerged months later. Announced merger with Oasis Petroleum in March 2022
[10] Exxon Mobil in 2017 paid $5.6 billion for Permian Basin assets in New Mexico, including the operating company BOPCO. Data do not include other ExxonMobil subsidiaries.
[11]Bought assets of bankrupt Denver-based Ursa Operating for $60 million in 2020.
[12] Filed for bankruptcy in June 2020, and emerged in February 2021.

SEC Must Require Disclosure of Crypto Climate Impacts

By Public Citizen and Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund

Link to our full comment

June 17, 2022


Re: The Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosure for Investors

Attention: 87 FR 21334; Docket ID: SEC-2022-06342; File No. S7-10-22


Dear Ms. Countryman,


Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund and Public Citizen appreciate the opportunity to comment on the above referenced Proposed Rule (the “Proposal”) by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC” or the “Commission”) to require mandatory, standardized climate-related disclosures from public companies. In conjunction with other comments submitted by our organizations, we write separately to address the importance of requiring disclosure for the transition risks that registrants face from exposure to digital assets. The response is intended to address Questions 19, 20, 97, 98, and 101.


Digital assets pose serious, poorly understood transition risks to registrants and markets.


Over the last decade, the market for digital assets has exploded, with a total market capitalization of nearly $3 trillion at its height in Fall 2021, before recently falling by almost two-thirds to under $1 trillion.[1]  These volatile, poorly regulated assets pose a range of risks to investors and markets. Along with the well-documented volatility and fraud that pervades many of these assets is the risk created by the energy-intensive protocols and activities that support many of them.  As the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy explained in a recent request for information on the climate impacts of digital assets (“OSTP Request”):


The explosive growth of the digital asset ecosystem may contribute to greater energy use and negatively impact the climate. Many digital assets, including cryptocurrencies, use decentralized consensus mechanisms as opposed to a central authority to verify transactions. While different digital asset systems use different consensus mechanisms, many use “proof of work” based systems that require significant amounts of computing power and electricity, often derived from carbon-intensive sources. Some researchers estimate that cryptocurrencies use more electricity each year than many individual countries in the world, including some industrialized nations.[2]


Because of their energy intensive nature, these assets are subject to what the Commission describes in the Proposal as transition risk: “the actual or potential negative impacts on a registrant’s consolidated financial statements, business operations, or value chains attributable to regulatory, technological, and market changes to address the mitigation of, or adaptation to, climate-related risks.”[3] Digital assets are heavily exposed to transition risks. For instance, the OSTP Request mentions that many digital assets are looking into less energy-intensive consensus mechanisms than proof of work.[4] If investors come to prefer these other mechanisms, then registrants with significant financial investment in mining or owning proof-of-work based cryptocurrencies may see unexpected losses or need to shift their business strategy.


Investors in registrants with exposure to digital assets lack standardized, comparable information about their climate impacts and transition risks. To the extent that ownership of digital assets becomes widespread and the industry becomes embedded in public markets in new and complex ways, it exposes investors and market participants to a largely unmonitored source of transition risk. The Proposal, if adopted with the recommendations below, could provide a comprehensive, verified view of the emissions generated by digital assets and trading, especially if the rule requires registrants to disclose the emissions released in their value chain, also known as Scope 3 emissions. Along with the immediate benefits to investors of understanding the emissions and other climate risks generated as a direct result of cryptocurrency mining and which firms are exposed to those risks, the Proposal could also illuminate the transition risks from the e-waste generated by mining operations, as well as the the need for disclosure to help investors understand attempts to use digital assets to trade carbon offsets.


To adequately monitor the climate risks posed by digital assets, the Commission should adopt robust emissions disclosure requirements, including of Scope 3 emissions.


The decentralized and semi-anonymized characteristics of blockchain-based applications are factors that make it difficult to develop a systematic understanding of the overall energy usage or climate risks of any given digital assets, much less the entire ecosystem. What information exists today is often based on academic modeling that employs a wide range of estimates and simplifying assumptions regarding the energy mix used to power the consensus mechanism.[5] Some estimates of energy mix come from surveys of participants, which are not subject to rigorous external verification.[6] Indeed, there is a clear incentive for stakeholders to withhold this information or underestimate emissions and risks and overestimate climate benefits. Purposeful obfuscation is the present norm.[7]


The transition risks posed by cryptocurrency are becoming increasingly concrete. Recently, the New York State legislature passed.[8] If this trend continues, it could abruptly threaten the value and utility of digital assets that still use that protocol. The mining space is also full of bold claims about climate friendliness, even from miners powering their operations with coal refuse or flared natural gas.[9] This mismatch between words and deeds could result in additional transition risks as the public learns more about the sector’s climate and environmental impacts.


Unfortunately, registrants who own or use digital assets are not required to account for these sorts of transition risks. The rapid growth of digital assets makes this a particularly dangerous blind spot. Many mainstream Wall Street firms are increasingly trading and lending digital assets,[10] and large miners like Stronghold Digital Mining and exchanges like Coinbase have been publicly listed on US stock exchanges. Investors and other market participants lack the information to fully assess the climate risks posed by these assets.[11] Retail and institutional investors who purchase digital assets, sometimes with the assistance of registrants like Coinbase, are not being properly appraised of these risks, which threatens the orderly and efficient functioning of the capital markets.


The Proposal provides an important avenue for giving investors and other market participants, including regulators, the information they need to assess this risk. Digital asset miners, exchanges, and owners that are publicly traded would all need to assess their business and publicly disclose the way their business could be affected by the energy transition. Of particular importance is the Proposal’s requirement for registrants to disclose GHG emissions from their activities (Scope 1 and 2 emissions), and, in some cases, from the activities in their value chain and investments (Scope 3).


Disclosure of Scope 1 and 2 emissions would provide information about the emissions of publicly traded miners and other direct participants in proof of work protocols. This would provide investors and other market participants with a picture of the heterogeneity of energy use and emissions by different miners and protocols, and help substantiate or debunk claims about the emissions generated by their activities. Investors could choose how to allocate their capital with full information about the potential transition risks faced by a set of miners involved in each protocol. These emissions disclosures would be subject to outside assurance requirements and attestation by management.


Perhaps even more important for assessing the emissions of digital asset protocols would be the Scope 3 disclosures. Major exchanges hold a near oligopoly on the trading of some cryptocurrencies.[12] Coinbase, one of the largest, is publicly traded, and others may follow suit as regulation of digital assets continues to develop. As part of their business, these exchanges own some of the digital assets they offer for trade.[13] Requiring disclosure of the emissions from their investments would make those exchanges assess and report the emissions impacts of each protocol they trade in.


Requiring disclosure of Scope 3 emissions would also require publicly traded financial institutions, which have been adding digital assets to their portfolios, to conduct the same assessment. This is particularly important because many of these large financial institutions have made pledges to align their investments with science-based emissions targets, in part to manage the transition risks they face. Disclosure of the emissions attributable to cryptocurrency investments will help investors in these institutions and other market participants assess the credibility of these net zero claims.


To appropriately capture this information, exchanges and financial institutions would need to establish processes for assessing the emissions from the main miners and protocols, regardless of their location or ownership status. Such processes would illuminate the level of transition risk embedded in digital assets, providing both investors and regulators with the picture they need to choose whether to invest in specific digital assets or in the firms that own or trade them.


To realize these benefits, it’s important that the SEC clarify the reach of its proposed Scope 3 reporting requirement. The current Proposal only requires disclosure if those emissions are “material” and does not provide additional clarity on what such an assessment entails. The SEC should recognize the importance of Scope 3 emissions disclosure for all companies and require all registrants to disclose their emissions, rather than adopting a “materiality” threshold. For large firms who own or trade significant quantities of cryptocurrency, their Scope 3 emissions would undoubtedly be important to investors and subject to disclosure for the reasons discussed above. Yet adopting a materiality standard would create opportunities for large holders of crypto to avoid such disclosures by claiming they are immaterial. The SEC should avoid this possibility by requiring disclosure of Scope 3 emissions for all registrants. Because of the importance of these disclosures the Commission should also require them to receive the same level of reasonable assurance required for Scope 1 and 2 emissions, and require their disclosure on a similar timeline for all but the smallest registrants.


Along with illuminating the emissions attributable to energy use by cryptocurrency protocols, the Proposal, if it adopts the recommendations above, could also help shine light on other sources of transition risk to investors and other market participants. Two examples, discussed below, are the emissions embedded in the waste produced by digital assets, and the forays by cryptocurrency firms into carbon offset markets.

The Proposal should help investors understand how the impacts of digital assets extend past the direct emissions generated by their operations, including to the waste they produce.

Requiring disclosure of Scope 3 emissions could help investors understand the emissions resulting from mining operations’ dependence on the manufacturing and supply of electronic equipment. Crypto mining and proof of work verification methods generate disproportionately high volumes of electronic waste (or “e-waste”) for the type of ‘meaningful’ economic activity that crypto mining purports to represent. The emissions resulting from the manufacture of this equipment may match or even exceed the emissions directly attributable to mining. One study has estimated the annual e-waste generated globally by mining for Bitcoin alone as roughly 30.7 metric kilotons in 2018, roughly equivalent to the amount of small IT equipment e-waste generated by the Netherlands.[14] One average Bitcoin generates 272 grams of e-waste per transaction, the equivalent of throwing away an iPad for every two Bitcoin transactions.[15] At peak price levels, Bitcoin mining could produce up to 64.4 metric kilotons of e-waste annually.

The main driver of this e-waste is that the typical ASIC processor used for Bitcoin mining can operate at an intensity sufficient to be profitable for only 1.29 years. This planned obsolescence on steroids will, barring both fundamental changes in mining technology and an incentive structure to change this approach, virtually guarantee a steady stream of electronic waste so long as crypto currencies exist and use processing intensive verification methods such as proof-of-work.

Noted digital technology developer and digital historian David Rosenthal has estimated that the carbon footprint of bitcoin mining, when taking into account released carbon emissions from the manufacture and use of these electronics, could be two times or even ten times larger than estimates that focus primarily on mining’s energy use alone.[16]

For broader context, the creation, collection, disposal of electronic waste is a decades long global resource and environmental health concern that poses risks to investors and market participants that are akin to transition risks. The US generates a significant amount of e-waste – 6918 kilotons in 2019 alone, which works out to approximately 21 kilograms of e-waste generated per capita annually. Of that, only 15% is recycled.[17] Given this high volume of waste and the challenges that come with managing it, the economic and operational costs of collecting e-waste have historically put undue strain on local waste management facilities. Improper disposal, handling, disassembly, or incineration of e-waste can also release toxic metals and chemicals into the local environment, which can have significant negative health impacts on waste management workers and local communities, as well as local air and water quality.

Roughly half of US states have some sort of e-waste recovery laws to establish producer responsibility for the end of life of their products, but these laws vary widely in scope, coverage, and incentivization.[18]

Although the volume of e-waste generated by crypto mining to date is likely modest in comparison to the overall volume generated in the US, this may change should crypto assets achieve mainstream use, either as a tool for investment or speculation. The volume of waste would no doubt achieve new levels of magnitude. Local and state waste recovery and recycling programs would face significant operational and financial strain managing such waste. State laws could be amended to ensure crypto mining operations fall under the scope resource recovery laws that deal with e-waste – or, in states where no such rules exist, entirely new requirements might be created to deal with this new waste stream. Such changes would impose significant costs throughout the crypto value chain, in ways that will likely affect the financial condition of firms that are embedded within it. Investors need information about emissions, as well as qualitative disclosures of climate risk, to assess how prepared registrants are for this risk.

Blockchain based carbon offset credits cannot address the issues with carbon credits and indeed create new challenges.


One strategy that some registrants intend to rely on to manage transition risk is the use of carbon offsets. As the Proposal acknowledges, offsets pose their own set of risks to registrants who would rely on them, and require separate disclosures so investors can evaluate a registrant’s strategy.[19] Recent developments seeking to combine offsets and digital assets reinforce the wisdom of this approach.


In recent months, Decentralized Finance (DeFi) projects have launched, claiming to employ the blockchain to create a forum for trading carbon offset credits and to improve transparency and liquidity in those markets.[20] The largest project, known as Toucan, claims it has put more than 17 million tons of CO2-equivalent avoided emissions “on chain.” But recent research by the climate solutions watchdog Carbon Plan shows that while this project has apparently been lucrative for its backers and partners, there is little evidence that it has effectively reduced emissions.[21] The offsets it puts on chain are subject to well-documented problems, which mean that the verified credits are unlikely to actually reduce emissions. And because the protocol denies responsibility for further verifying credits, it actually revives projects that have previously been unable to find buyers or that are no longer eligible for trading on off-chain markets.


The stated goal of Toucan is to create liquidity and increase price discovery through transparency in voluntary carbon markets, which would raise prices for credits from voluntary emissions reductions. If successful, proponents claim it would incentivize greater emissions reductions in the physical world. The protocols operate by allowing anyone who currently holds emissions credits with the Verra offsets registry to move those credits onto the blockchain.


But using blockchain for carbon offset trading is a solution in search of a problem: neither liquidity nor price discovery are current problems in the functioning of the carbon markets; the overarching problem is poor offset quality.[22] Most voluntary emissions reduction projects struggle to demonstrate that they actually reduce emissions. Instead, they often pay managers of forests or other carbon sinks to continue doing what they were already doing.[23] At best, this approach means a project has no effect on carbon emissions. Worse, in some cases it actually justifies increased emissions. This is because when business-as-usual management of a carbon sink is treated as an “offset,” it increases the pool of allowable emissions without any corresponding real-world offset or reduction. A recent effort by global financial leaders to improve the integrity of these markets has become bogged down in these challenges.[24]


The garbage in – garbage out problem that this state of affairs creates is only exacerbated by Toucan’s expansive eligibility criteria. Carbon Plan has documented that, rather than incentivizing production of new, high quality offsets, the Toucan protocol largely gives new life to “zombie projects” that have been unable to sell credits for years, likely due to their low quality standards. 99.9 percent of credits on Toucan reflect projects that were credited before 2016, making them ineligible for trading in most conventional markets. Rather than taking responsibility for these negative consequences, Toucan has insisted they are not responsible for judging the quality of carbon credits on their blockchain.[25] Naturally, Verra has disclaimed any responsibility for any trading that happens on Toucan. The result is that buyers of credits get to claim non-existent emissions reductions, while sellers make a quick profit on previously worthless carbon credits.


The blockchain may yet prove to have benefits for tracking emissions and reductions. But registrants who rely on offsets purchased on such an exchange may find that the quality does not reflect their or their investors’ expectations. This risk is why it is critical for disclosure about the use of offsets to include information about whether credits were purchased from a blockchain based registry and the diligence done to assess the quality of the credit. Without this information, investors and other market participants will not have what they need to assess the risks registrants face from purchasing offsets of dubious quality.




The Proposal is an important step forward for protecting investors and other market participants from the transition risks posed by digital assets. The Commission could build on this protection by moving quickly to finalize the Proposal, including a requirement for all registrants to disclose their Scope 3 emissions, subject to reasonable assurance.

Thank you for your time and attention to these important issues. To discuss them further, please contact Yevgeny Shrago, Policy Director at Public Citizen’s Climate Program ( and Mark Hays, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund (


Public Citizen and Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund



[1] CoinMarketCap, “Total Cryptocurrency Market Cap” (last accessed June 13, 2022).

[2] Request for Information on the Energy and Climate Implications of Digital Assets, 87 Fed. Reg. 17105, 17106 (Mar. 25, 2022).

[3] Proposal at 21350.

[4] See Request for Information on the Energy and Climate Implications of Digital Assets, 87 Fed. Reg. at 17106.

[5] Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, available at; Juan Pablo Trespalacios and Justin Dijk, The carbon footprint of bitcoin, DeNederlandscheBank at 12 (2021) available at

[6] See Blandin et al., 3rd global cryptoasset benchmarking study, Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance at 29 available at

[7] Simon Spichak, “How Crypto Is Failing Spectacularly to Greenwash Itself,” The Daily Beast (Apr. 22, 2022), available at; Grayson Badgley and Danny Cullenward, Zombies on the blockchain, CarbonPlan (Apr. 7, 2022).

[8] “New York Legislature Passes Moratorium on Crypto Mining Operations,” jdSupra (Jun. 17, 2022) available at

[9] Casey Wagner, “Crypto Mining Company Welcomes SEC Environmental Reporting Proposal,” Blockworks (Apr 5, 2022) available at; MacKenzie Sigalo, “Exxon is mining bitcoin in North Dakota as part of its plan to slash emissions,” CNBC, Mar. 26, 2022) available at

[10] Justin Baer, “Wall Street Reluctantly Embraces Crypto,” Wall Street Journal (May 1, 2022) available at

[11] Shane Shifflett, “Crypto Miners Struggle to Cut Carbon Emissions,” Wall Street Journal (Oct 21, 2021) available at

[12] Olga Kharif, “Crypto Oligopoly Imminent as Top Exchanges Grab 96% Market Share,” Bloomberg (Apr. 11, 2022) available at

[13] Ari Levy, “Coinbase’s crypto holdings jumped ninefold last year to over $300 million as bitcoin surged,” CNBC (Feb. 25, 2021) available at

[14] Alex de Vries and Christian Stoll, “Bitcoin’s growing e-waste problem” 175 Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 1050901 (Dec. 2021)

[15] Tim McDonnell, “E-waste from every two bitcoin transactions is the equivalent of throwing away an iPad,” Quartz (Sept. 19, 2021) available at

[16] David Rosenthal, “Cryptocurrency’s Carbon Footprint Underestimated,” DSHR’s Blog (Oct. 5, 2021) available at

[17] Forti V., Baldé C.P., Kuehr R., Bel G. The Global E-waste Monitor 2020: Quantities, flows and the circular economy potential. United Nations University (UNU)/United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) – co-hosted SCYCLE Programme, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) & International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), Bonn/Geneva/Rotterdam., available at

[18] Id.

[19] Proposal at 21355.

[20] Dieter Holger, “Cryptocurrency Traders Move Into Carbon Markets,” Wall Street Journal (Jan. 10, 2022) available at

[21] Zombies on the Blockchain, supra note 7.

[22] Public Citizen, Comment on Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s Principles for Climate-Related Risk Management for Large Banks, pp 10-13 available at

[23] Dr. Charles D. Canham, “Rethinking forest carbon offsets,” Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, (May 19, 2021) available at; Ben Elgin, “JPMorgan, Disney, Blackrock Buy Nature Conservancy’s Useless Carbon Offsets,” Bloomberg, (Dec 9, 2020) available at

[24] Jess Shankleman and Natasha White, “Mark Carney’s Bid to Boost Carbon Market Scaled Back Amid Controversy,” Bloomberg (Mar. 16, 2022) available at

[25] Akshat Rathi and Natasha White, “Toucan’s Huge Crypto Effort to End Useless Carbon Offsets Is Backfiring,” Bloomberg (Apr. 7, 2022), available at

Link to our full comment


Brand name: Nuplazid

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Testimony Before the FDA’s Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee Regarding Pimavanserin for the Treatment of Hallucinations and Delusions in Alzheimer’s Disease Psychosis

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In testimony before a meeting of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee, Public Citizen urged the committee to recommend that the FDA not approve pimavanserin for the treatment of hallucinations and delusions in Alzheimer’s disease psychosis because clinical trials of the drug failed to demonstrate that it is effective.