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Next Week, Corporate Congress Tries to Kill Class Actions, Subvert EPA Climate Change Rule

Next week, the Corporate Congress will continue pushing anti-consumer and anti-environmental measures. Lawmakers will try to shut down class-action lawsuits, which are key to holding corporations accountable for wrongdoing, and subvert the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) sensible rule to limit emissions from existing power plants. And lawmakers will keep mulling over the aftereffects of the BP disaster. What they need to know: in part because of legislative inaction, a similar disaster could happen again.

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Here are more specifics about what’s coming up:

• At 3 p.m. Wednesday, April 29, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice will hold a hearing on H.R. 1927, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015.” Actually, this measure is anything but fair, because it will make it harder for those injured by corporations or other wrongdoers to file class actions. The bill permits class-action certification only if each proposed class member “suffered an injury of the same type and extent as the injury of the named class representative or representatives.” The trouble is, those injured by a common corporate or other action do not typically have the “same” type and extent of injury. The same bank rip-off may have cost someone $50 and someone else $75. Two victims of a polluters’ toxic dumping may have different diseases. A dangerous car defect may have resulted in death for one victim and a head injury for another. The bill might be more accurately titled, the “No Class Action Litigation Act of 2015.”

• We told you a couple of weeks ago about efforts by the Corporate Congress to scuttle the EPA’s proposal to curb power plant emissions (called the “Clean Power Plan”). Lawmakers are still at it. A measure sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) would help states opt out of participating in the plan. The House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Energy and Power, which Whitfield chairs, approved the bill this week. Next, it moves to the full Energy and Commerce Committee. We are told the committee could mark it up as soon as next week. This is a public interest attack because the EPA’s plan would be a great deal for consumers (PDF). The plan relies heavily on efficiency methods to reduce energy use, which means consumers would see their electricity bills shrink.

• The fifth anniversary of the beginning of the BP disaster was this past Monday, April 20. At 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 29, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing titled, “Five Years After Deepwater Horizon: Improvements and Challenges in Prevention and Response.” The hearing comes at the request of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and will focus on lessons learned in the wake of the spill and the steps taken to make offshore oil and gas exploration safer. The answer is: not enough. The few new drilling rules issued since 2010 are insufficient. They help address the state of the industry five years ago, but not today – when companies are drilling deeper and expanding their operations. Here are five reasons a BP-scale disaster could happen again.

• At 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 28, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will consider S. 544, the “Secret Science Reform Act of 2015.” This misleadingly named bill is based on a faulty premise and unfounded claims about studies of fine soot pollution conducted almost two decades ago, none of which have been proven despite lengthy congressional inquiries. The legislation would radically diminish the EPA’s ability to fulfill its mission. It would require the agency to ignore significant science when carrying out its statutory responsibilities to safeguard public health and the environment.