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Tennessee Consumer Safety Could Be at Risk, Bill's Opponents Say

The Regulatory Accountability Act could increase consumer exposure to known toxins, say opponents. (John Morgan/
The Regulatory Accountability Act could increase consumer exposure to known toxins, say opponents. (John Morgan/
May 23, 2017

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Regulatory Accountability Act (S-951) sounds innocuous enough, but consumer and public-health advocates say it's anything but.

The RAA claims to eliminate red tape for manufacturers, but environmental groups say the measure essentially would ban agencies from keeping pesticides and bacteria such as salmonella out of food, keeping lead out of water, and from preventing exposure to known carcinogens such as asbestos.

Anne Kelly is the senior program director of public policy at the Ceres BICEP Network, a nonprofit representing big-name companies interested in sustainability, including Nike, Coca-Cola, Dell and Apple. She says public health is at stake.

"This is an elaborate environmental-law infrastructure that has been put in place over the last 40 years, and to unravel those protections would really put our public health at great risk," she says.

Critics say the bill creates so many new requirements that it would paralyze regulators working to establish even the most basic rules and standards. They also say it makes cutting industry's and banks' costs a higher priority than protecting public health and safety.

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-9th District) of Memphis spoke out against a version of the Act proposed in the U.S. House earlier this year.

"There's always a side that loses, and the side that loses is the consumers and the folks that will be injured and/or killed because of lack of regulations," he explains. "I don't know how much one life is worth, but it's worth a lot no matter who it is, and there are going to be lots of people who will not survive."

Proponents say the Regulatory Accountability Act will ensure that health and environmental regulations are transparent and based on the best available science.

Kelly says the RAA ignores long-held beliefs about public health, consumer and food safety.

"These are based on science, these are based on risk-assessment, and they really are grounded in the specialized expertise of the relevant agencies like the EPA and the FDA," she adds. "And they need to be taken seriously. Not to suggest that improvements should not be made, but this is really wrong-headed."

According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the bill would replace an already industry-friendly rulemaking process with something even worse than one that currently only applies to the Federal Trade Commission; an agency that hasn't attempted to enact a major rule in decades.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN