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Consumer Advocates: Proposal Could Scuttle Health, Safety Protections

Congress is considering a bill that would weaken regulations about the quality of water, food, medicine and the environment. (Sullivan/GettyImages)
Congress is considering a bill that would weaken regulations about the quality of water, food, medicine and the environment. (Sullivan/GettyImages)
May 24, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - It's called the Regulatory Accountability Act, and while that sounds innocuous enough, consumer and public-health advocates say it's anything but.

The act 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 carcinogens such as asbestos.

Anne Kelly, senior program director for the sustainability nonprofit Ceres said public health is at stake.

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

According to critics, the bill creates so many new requirements that it would paralyze regulators working to establish even the most basic rules and standards. They also have said it makes cutting costs for industry and banking a higher priority than protecting public health and safety.

Proponents have said the Regulatory Accountability Act would ensure that health and environmental regulations are transparent and based on the best available science. However, Kelly said the measure 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 said. "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.

The text of the bill is online at congress.gov.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR