EPA proposes new vehicle emissions limits, the Fifth Circuit temporarily blocks abortion pill approval suspension, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed two rules–one for cars and one for trucks–that would limit vehicle emissions and help accelerate the transition to low-emission vehicles, with the majority of new cars being all-electric vehicles by 2032. EPA projects that the new standards, set to take effect in 2027, would prevent nearly 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the next thirty years and reduce oil imports by approximately 20 billion barrels. EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan argued that the new standards represent “the most ambitious pollution standards ever for cars and trucks.”
- A federal judge in Texas held that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must suspend its 23-year-old approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, arguing that the drug poses safety risks. Soon after, a federal judge in Washington issued a contradictory ruling, blocking FDA from restricting mifepristone in 17 states that had filed a separate lawsuit challenging certain FDA restrictions on accessing the pill. The U.S. Department of Justice appealed the Texas ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which ruled that mifepristone should remain available, but reinstated some pre-2016 restrictions, including prohibiting the drug from being mailed and shifting the cutoff for obtaining the pill to seven weeks into pregnancy, down from 10 weeks. Unless overturned by the Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit ruling will remain in place until the full case is heard on the merits of the law. The Department of Justice announced almost immediately that it would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
- President Joseph R. Biden signed a bill into law to end the COVID-19 national emergency first declared in March 2020. The law ends the national emergency a month earlier than it was set to expire, while a separate COVID-19 public health emergency declaration will still remain in effect until May 11. The termination of the national emergency will end waivers impacting several federal health programs, including Medicaid, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as well as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s COVID-19 mortgage forbearance program. The forthcoming public health emergency expiration likely also will end certain policies, such as Title 42, which have allowed border officials greater latitude to deport migrants since the start of the pandemic.
- The U.S. Department of the Interior proposed changes to how water from the Colorado River is both conserved and allocated. These changes are designed make the water supply more resilient to the effects of climate change, including long standing drought conditions. The Interior Department released an environmental impact statement that considered, among other options, two plans for how to allot the river’s water to Arizona, California, and Nevada. The first plan would allocate the water in proportion to how senior a state’s water rights are, whereas the second plan would allocate the water equally among those states. The Interior Department called for public input on which option it should take. If it selects either plan, the decision would mark the first time that the U.S. federal government has imposed reductions in water supplies on states.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a new rule to modify existing patient privacy laws and strengthen privacy protections for patients seeking reproductive health care. The new rule would bar health care providers from disclosing an individual’s information for the purpose of a civil, criminal, or administrative investigation in connection with reproductive health care. The Biden-Harris Administration announced that the rule will “strengthen patient-provider confidentiality and help health care providers give complete and accurate information to patients.”
- North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed two bills into law that prohibit transgender girls and women from joining female sports teams in K-12 schools and colleges in the state. Governor Burgum had vetoed a similar bill in 2021, when Republicans did not yet have a legislative supermajority to override his veto. North Dakota joined 19 other Republican-led states, including Texas and Florida, that have imposed similar restrictions on transgender athletes. In response to state actions, the Biden Administration recently proposed a rule under Title IX that would prohibit schools from “categorically” banning transgender students from participating on sports teams that match their gender identities.
- The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a new safety advisory on avoiding train derailments on major freight railways. The safety advisory was the agency’s sixth since a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio earlier this year. The FRA recommended that railroad companies conduct more thorough reviews of their trains’ structural integrity both before and after deployment. The FRA also advised railroads to strengthen the procedures they use when investigating derailments and other incidents.
- The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) asked for public comment on how it can promote accountability and reduce risk in artificial intelligence (AI) systems. In its request, the NTIA noted that its request builds on the White House’s “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights,” which offered guidance on creating AI systems “that are aligned with democratic values and protect civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy.” The NTIA included in its call for input measures such as audits and impact assessments of companies’ AI systems. “Responsible AI systems could bring enormous benefits,” claimed NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson, “but only if we address their potential consequences and harms.”
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- In a Center for American Progress report, Jill Rosenthal, Director of Public Health Policy at American Progress, Hailey Gibbs, a senior policy analyst, and Allie Schneider, a research associate, argue that FDA must do more to reduce the levels of heavy metal toxins in baby food. Rosenthal, Gibbs, and Schneider noted that FDA has already taken other key steps to promote the health of young children, such as issuing new draft guidance on appropriate lead levels in foods. They concluded, however, that FDA must do more to mitigate heavy metal exposure and support children’s healthy development, including by collaborating with other agencies, such as EPA .
- In a recent article in the Yale Journal on Regulation, Christopher G. Bradley, a professor at the University of Kentucky Rosenberg College of Law, highlighted the challenge of regulating the sale of private customer information after bankruptcies. Bradley explained that during bankruptcy proceedings, a company may try to sell customer information as part of its liquidation process. A 2005 bankruptcy law requires a federal ombudsperson to review such a proposed sale and report it to the bankruptcy judge, who then decides whether the sale would violate customers’ privacy. Bradley recommended that policymakers consider building on this model by adapting it to the sale of private information outside bankruptcies as well, including capturing sales to private data brokers.
- In an Urban Institute report, Jennifer M. Haley, Principal Research Associate at the Urban Institute, and her coauthors, found that coverage through Medicaid and CHIP overall improves children’s access to health care. Haley and her coauthors also explained, however, that some children receiving Medicaid and CHIP coverage face barriers to care, including, among others, not receiving regular preventative medical or dental care and experiencing delays in obtaining care. Haley and her coauthors proposed that additional policy solutions, including those that address mental health challenges facing children and invest in social determinants of health, such as housing, food assistance, and income support programs, could strengthen child health care services.
- In an essay in The Regulatory Review, Alice Kaswan, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, argued that proponents of environmentalism should take steps to ensure that the benefits of clean energy are shared across socioeconomic classes. Kaswan applauded measures taken by California to fund electric transportation in lower income communities, noting that these measures foster buy-in and feelings of inclusion. Kaswan also concluded that climate justice advocates can ensure a more just energy transition by forming political alliances with other advocates to ensure that individuals displaced by the transition, such as coal miners or oil refinery workers, can find new opportunities.