Professor of Law Rena Steinzor defended both "cooperative federalism" and the value of an EPA database as tools to protect the public and the environment in appearances before two House subcommittees last month.
In her July 11 testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Economics, Steinzor considered a range of policy questions raised by "cooperative federalism," or what she called, "the term used to describe the constitutional--and the political, policy, and legal--relationship between the federal and state governments with respect to environmental policies and law."
Steinzor noted that business frequently exploits the tensions and ambiguities that arise between state and federal authorities, as they regulate the environment. She cited several factors in support of a strong federal role in pollution control, including minimal equal protection from pollution for all citizens regardless of where they happen to reside. As she put it, "The states are always free to adopt more stringent regulatory requirements if they wish to do so. But no state program can adopt less stringent requirements. In other words, these federal laws set a floor for safeguards, which states must at least meet but are free to exceed."
Protecting the public was also a top policy priority for Steinzor when she appeared July 16 before the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittees on Oversight and Environment. The subcommittee is considering reforms to the Environmental Protection Agency's Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS, a comprehensive database providing baseline information about the risk an individual chemical may pose to human health.
"The thing that makes IRIS assessments so valuable is that they are robust and well-documented, but then summarized clearly and concisely and available to anyone who has access to the Internet," Steinzor testified. "Individuals, community groups, public interest organizations, local officials--in short, everyone has the information to make well-informed decisions about the hazards of a toxic chemical if an IRIS profile is available." IRIS receives approximately 2,000 visits daily, Steinzor noted.
Steinzor called for the Congress and Administration to revitalize IRIS, expand the number of chemicals assessed and increase significantly the speed at which assessments are made. She also urged them and the National Academies to protect IRIS from regulated industries' "endless, minor, repetitive, and irrelevant objections to individual risk assessments," which distract the agency from improving the database's effectiveness.
Prior to joining Maryland Carey Law, Steinzor served as an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission, as counsel to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Transportation & Tourism and as a partner at Spiegel & McDiarmid, a Washington, DC firm that represents state and local governments in the energy and environmental areas. She is the author of many articles and books, including Why Not Jail: Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction, to be published in January 2015 by Cambridge University Press. She holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin and a JD from Columbia Law.