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E-M:/ Preemption Alert: Defending the right of states to protect the environment and consumers

February 2006, Issue 1

States have long been the laboratories for innovative public policy. Over the last three decades, states have become more active in passing strong laws to protect the environment and consumers. This state initiative has given rise to a disturbing and growing trend: the increasing willingness of the federal government to preempt the right of states to enact stronger laws to safeguard their citizens. “Preemption Alert” is a periodic newsletter designed to highlight federal efforts to preempt state environment and consumer protection laws.

In this issue:

Reducing Pollution from Mobile Sources: The National Academy of Sciences is likely to recommend in February that Congress create new hurdles for states seeking to opt in to California’s clean cars program or other mobile source emission standards.

Cutting Global Warming Pollution from Vehicles: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently included language in the preamble of a proposed fuel economy rule asserting that states cannot regulate carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles.

Securing America’s Chemical Plants: The chemical industry is fighting for legislation preempting states from enacting chemical plant security standards that are stronger than yet-to-be-passed federal standards.

Guaranteeing the Safety of America’s Food Supply: In December 2005, the House Energy and Commerce Committee marked up a bill blocking states from enacting food labeling standards that are stronger than federal law.

Protecting Americans from Toxic Chemicals: A House bill to implement the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants threatens to nullify state bans on toxic flame retardants and other chemicals.

Protecting Americans’ Privacy: Several bills are pending in Congress that would offer victims of ChoicePoint-like security breaches weak protections while preempting stronger state laws that better guard against identity theft and fraud.

Protecting Americans from Predatory Lenders: A House bill threatens to nullify strong state laws protecting consumers from predatory lending practices and replacing them with a weak and insufficient federal standard.

Guaranteeing Safe Prescription Drugs: The Food and Drug Administration has proposed a drug labeling rule declaring that federally-approved drug labels preempt state labeling laws.

Making America’s Cars Safer: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed a weak rule on roof crush standards that would immunize car and truck manufacturers from state law.

Protecting Consumer Access to Affordable Internet and Video Service: The House is considering a bill that would prohibit municipal governments from offering telecommunications, information or cable services if a corporation offers a “substantially similar service” in the area.

Preventing Unfair Cell Phone Practices: The Federal Communications Commission is considering several proposals that would preempt the right of states to regulate wireless practices or enact cell phone “Bills of Rights.”

 Click here to download a copy of this Preemption Alert. (360 KB, PDF)

The State PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups) are state-based, non-partisan public interest advocacy organizations. The State PIRGs’ mission is to deliver persistent, result-oriented activism that protects public health and the environment, encourages a fair, sustainable economy, and fosters responsive, democratic government. In some states, the PIRGs’ environmental work is housed in partner organizations: Environment California, Environment Colorado, Environment Maine and PennEnvironment. U.S. PIRG is the national advocacy office of the State PIRGs. Created by the State PIRGs, U.S. PIRG advocates on the behalf of the state organizations on federal policy issues.  For more information, visit www.pirg.org.


Jason Barbose
PIRGIM Field Organizer

103 E. Liberty St., Suite 202
Ann Arbor, MI 48104