OVERNIGHT REGULATION: Groups squawk over poultry rule

That’s all, folks. Lawmakers will soon head for the turnstiles – assuming an immigration vote in the House at some point and Congress adjourns for its five-week summer recess. That means a hiatus for us here at OVERNIGHT REGULATION, but not before we review all the day’s top news from Congress and agencies across the federal government.

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Now, let’s talk about regs.

 

THE BIG STORY

Feathers are ruffled over the Agriculture Department’s newly unveiled final rule meant to update the nation’s poultry inspection system – and this time it’s not industry groups taking on the Obama administration’s regulatory policy.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack defended the regulation during a briefing this afternoon with reporters, saying it would prevent thousands of illnesses a year, while protecting the safety of plant workers.

Public interest groups, who have criticized the rule as irresponsible deregulation since its proposal, are now slamming it as a handout to “Big Chicken” at the expense of food safety. http://j.mp/1tzuv03

-- Here’s what you need to know:

1) What the rule does: Plants will now have the option of reducing the number of inspectors on eviscerations at chicken and turkey slaughter plants, and they will be required to conduct additional sampling and tests to look for salmonella or campylobacter bacteria. The rule also requires new in-plant systems meant to promote worker safety. “We believe at the end of the day it will result in a safer product,” Vilsack said.

2) What it doesn’t do: The agency backed off an earlier proposal that would have allowed plants to speed up production lines, so that as many as 175 birds could pass by the remaining inspectors every minute. That allowance was scrapped amid pressure from safety groups, and line-speeds remain capped at 140 carcasses a minute.

3) The backlash: Critics, who had urged USDA to make changes from the draft rule available for public comment before the regulations were finalized, issued a string of scathing statements blasting the rule. The Center for Progressive Reform, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and the Humane Society of the United States each criticized portions of the rule. “We’re pleased to see the scuttling of a plan to increase line speeds at poultry slaughter plants... It is unfortunate, however, that other elements of the USDA rule have been made final, including the removal of hundreds of inspectors from poultry slaughter facilities, Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle said.

 

ON TAP FOR FRIDAY

As of late Thursday, the Senate appeared ready to head out of town without voting on a bill to address the immigration crisis on the Southwest border. Members of the House were told to remain in Washington, until leadership could cobble together enough votes to pass a border bill now pending in the lower chamber. http://j.mp/1oeOzNg

President Obama will attend meetings at the White House and has no public events scheduled.

The Environmental Protection Agency ends a week of hearings on the agency’s proposal to impose new limits on existing power plants. The hearing in Pittsburgh follows contentious sessions in Atlanta, Denver and Washington, D.C. http://j.mp/1nDzLfc

Though committees are going dark for August, federal agencies will continue to churn out new rules.

 

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY:

The Obama administration will publish 310 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Thursday's edition of the Federal Register.

Here's what to look out for:

-The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are teaming up on a series of train safety regulations.

PHMSA and FRA may issue new rules on the construction of train cars that carry large volumes of flammable liquids, in an effort to make the railways safer. http://j.mp/1m2vzle

The agencies are also working on a second, related rule that would strengthen the government's response to oil spills that are caused by train accidents. http://j.mp/1xGGCWN

These moves come in response to several recent high-profile train derailments, the agencies said. 

"The proposed requirements are designed to lessen the frequency and consequences of train accidents involving certain trains transporting a large volume of flammable liquids," the agencies wrote. "The growing reliance on trains to transport large volumes of flammable liquids poses a significant risk to life, property, and the environment."

-The Justice Department may issue new rules that would require movie theaters to be more accommodating to people with disabilities, such as those who are deaf or blind. As The Hill reported last week, DOJ will move forward with a proposal to require movie theaters to provide closed captioning and audio descriptions to viewers who request them. http://j.mp/1pubEQ0

-The Department of Agriculture (USDA) may expand crop insurance options for small Macadamia farmers, who currently have limited access to coverage. This would apply to both Macadamia tree and nut farmers. http://j.mp/1kpakiN

-The USDA will issue new conservation rules. The agency's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Commodity Credit Corporation plan to make changes to the existing rules. http://j.mp/UE83nu

 

NEWS RIGHT NOW

EXEC ORDER: President Obama's latest executive order pushes federal contractors with shoddy records of workplace conditions out of the government procurement process, in a move aimed at protecting their employees. http://j.mp/1pJO0fS

--In rolling out the action, Obama took a swing at House Republicans for their much-publicized lawsuit — spearheaded by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — that challenges the president's use of executive power. http://j.mp/1oeK8C9

FIGHT BREWING: Business groups are lashing back against the latest decision from the National Labor Relations Board that says corporations can be held responsible for the labor violations of what had previously been thought of as independent franchisees. http://j.mp/1rKZYbz

DEEP DIVE: ProPublica takes a hard look at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the little known White House office that public interest groups accuse of slowing down important health and safety protections. http://j.mp/XkpXNH

IVORY IRONY? Animal rights activists are accusing GOP lawmakers of "betraying the party's mascot" by pushing legislation that would roll back protections for elephants. But Republicans say the Obama administration's ivory ban borders on unconstitutional, because it would ban the sale of antique guns, as well as many older instruments. http://j.mp/1oeMO2K

FUEL DELAY: The Environmental Protection Agency will delay the deadline for petroleum refiners to blend renewable fuels into their gas and diesel products for the third time this year, the agency said. http://j.mp/1k9Dli3

OZONE: Forget the EPA's controversial climate rule and its plan to expand the scope of waters it regulates. A new study by the National Association of Manufacturers suggests an upcoming rule on ozone standards could be the most costly rule in U.S. history, estimating it could deliver a $3.4 TRILLION (with a "T") blow to the economy. http://j.mp/1zAtfKs

INSURANCE HIKES: Mortgage lenders may be ignoring new rules that are intended to protect troubled homeowners from unnecessarily high insurance premiums, the Associated Press reports. http://j.mp/1rNOaW5

OVERDRAFT: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says overdraft fees are still a problem for many bank customers, even after the financial watchdog published rules four years ago intended to protect them from excessive overdraft fees, The New York Times reports. http://j.mp/1nP1xGm

COAL DUST: Federal rules aimed at protecting miners from breathing in too much coal dust, which is known to cause black lung disease, go into effect Friday, The Denver Post reports. http://j.mp/UEcVZL

 

BY THE NUMBERS

24,000: The approximate number of businesses that currently have federal government contracts.

28 million: Roughly, the number of workers those companies employ. 

2.9 million: The estimated number of jobs that could be lost annually, under proposed EPA regulations to update ozone standards, according to the NAM report.

$2.2 million: Anticipated compliance costs of the rule between 2017 and 2040, according to the group.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“Man. So they criticized a provision, we modify to make easier for businesses to transition - and that’s the basis for their suit... It’s not very productive, but its not going to stop me from doing what I think needs to be done in order to help families all across the country.” – Obama on the House GOP’s lawsuit against his use executive power.

 

We’ll endeavor to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill’s Regulation page early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, via bgoad@thehill.com or tdevaney@thehill.com. And follow us at @ben_goad and @timdevaney.