The Corporate Congress next week will seek to curtail consumers’ access to courts, misrepresent a modest plan to curb climate change and attack – again – the regulatory system. Here are the public interest broadsides we know about so far. Please contact us if you have questions.
• At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice holds a hearing on the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act. The bill has a deceptive name, as so many bills do. In fact, the measure would make it more difficult for consumers and employees to hold corporations accountable. The measure would slow litigation and increase costs by encouraging additional legal maneuvers and requiring unnecessary court orders. It is another backdoor tactic to harm ordinary people with valid and important claims.
• Also Tuesday, March 17, lawmakers launch another broadside against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) very modest, pro-consumer proposal to curb climate change. At 10 a.m., the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold another hearing on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, this one to focus on “legal and cost issues.” If lawmakers look closely, they will see that for consumers, the Clean Power Plan is highly beneficial. The plan is designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030, states will have latitude in deciding how best to comply. The plan will save consumers money by lowering their electricity bills and boost public health by curbing other harmful air pollution.
• Two days later, at 10 a.m. on March 19, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the U.S. crude oil export policy. Big Oil wants to nullify the export ban because it can sell U.S. petroleum oversees for about $10 more per barrel, giving the industry fatter profits but raising gasoline prices for U.S. motorists.
• Of course, no week is complete in the Corporate Congress without an attack on the regulatory system. This week’s first attack comes in the guise of a hearing at 11 a.m. on March 18 by the House Small Business Committee on regulations and “small” manufacturers. The thing to remember is that often, the definition of small business is crafted in a way that includes mega-corporations. And small business owners generally support regulations because they want a level playing field with the big guns.
• Finally, at 10 a.m. on March 19, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management will hold a hearing on the rulemaking process generally. Expect to hear complaints from various industries about rules they must comply with. But rules are crucial to keeping our air and water clean, our food safe to eat, our financial system stable and more. Consider what happens in the absence of safeguards: the Wall Street economic collapse, the oil train explosion in West Virginia, countless food and product safety recalls and environmental catastrophes such as the Dan River coal ash spill in North Carolina. Far too often, big banks, big oil companies and their CEOs prioritize their bottom lines over public safety and financial stability. Federal agencies are there to look out for the public.