As students around the country are engrossed in midterms this week (and not the 2018 midterms, which they aced by the way), federal agencies moved on a number of scientifically-based regulations. The Way dusts off its old chemistry notebooks and dons its safety goggles to examine the hazardous chemicals and compounds making headlines this week.
1. SiO2 = __________
Silicon dioxide, also known as silica, is produced from cutting into layers of rock surrounding coal seams. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) held public hearings this week to consider changing its rules on respirable silica, one of the major contributors to Appalachia’s skyrocketing rates of black lung disease. At least 10 percent of coal miners who have worked underground for more than 25 years suffer from the disease, a sharp increase from the 1990s. The MSHA will consider reducing permissible silica exposure limits and discuss the viability of personal protective equipment and air-flow helmets. House Education and Labor Committee Chair Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) maintains that, “today’s silica standards are not sufficient to protect miners,” and if MSHA does not act, “Congress has no choice but to take action on behalf of workers and their families.”
2. Be = __________
Beryllium, a uniquely light, but toxic metal used in electronics and telecommunications. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed changes to its current beryllium standards in shipyard and construction industries. The proposal would revise definitions, compliance methods, and personal protective equipment. It would also modify employer medical surveillance, hazard communications, and recordkeeping standards. Despite these changes, we expect the permissible beryllium exposure limits will remain unchanged at 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air of personal exposure during an eight-hour period. A hearing on the proposed changes is set for December 3rd.
3. Pb = __________
Lead, a dense metal used in pipe and faucet manufacturing. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule that would change how communities test for and remediate lead in drinking water. These regulations, the first proposed changes to the Lead and Copper Rule in nearly 30 years, would require water systems to publicly inventory the location of lead service lines and help homeowners replace them if their water is contaminated. And, if a water test shows dangerous lead levels, utilities would have to notify their customers within 24 hours.
4. C2H5OH = __________
Ethanol, an alcohol that can be used as motor fuel. The EPA proposed rules that would reduce the amount of biofuels that oil refiners will be required to use next year. Agribusiness groups, including the Iowa Corn Growers Association, were "outraged the EPA did not implement the details that were presented by the president only 11 days ago.” The Illinois Corn Growers Association said its farmers were, "frustrated to say the least” with the proposed rule. House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) said in a statement, "the Administration has yet to produce a concrete plan to meet the annual 15 billion gallon requirement set in law." We’ll see whether this pressure affects the rule.
5. CH4 = __________
Methane, a highly flammable, carbon-containing greenhouse gas. Finally, the EPA proposed to roll back regulations for controlling methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Clean-air advocates oppose the rule and maintain that methane is responsible for 25% of climate change taking place globally. The Trump administration urges that amending methane emission regulations will save the oil and gas industry millions of dollars a year in compliance costs. The EPA will be taking public comments until Nov. 25th. We’ll report back on these volatile regulatory actions and reactions.
The British Parliament met this past weekend for its first Saturday session in 37 years. Termed "Super Saturday," Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought Parliament's approval for his Brexit separation deal. Lawmakers rejected the deal and forced a Brexit delay. Under the terms of the “Benn Act,” the prime minister was required to ask the European Union for a Brexit deadline extension from October 31st until the end of January 2020, because U.K. lawmakers failed to agree on a Brexit deal by Saturday, October 19th. British lawmakers are seeking more time to scrutinize and possibly tweak Mr. Johnson’s plans and avoid the risk of the U.K. exiting the E.U. with no deal. Expert models and government forecasts suggest that an extreme no deal Brexit scenario could cause economic pain, food shortages, and even civil unrest.
Hundreds of thousands of anti-Brexit protesters marched the streets of London demanding citizens be given a second chance at deciding whether to leave the European Union. Massive crowds moved through the city towards Parliament in a festive, but defiant demonstration of frustration with the country’s impending break with the E.U. Demonstration organizers expected the rally to draw more than a million Britons, which would make it one of the largest protests in British history. We’re tracking the EU’s response to this request to delay Brexit.
Making Our Way Around the Country
House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced H.R. 4634, “The Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2019,” which would reauthorize the federal government’s terrorism insurance backstop for 10 more years. The bill, which has 27 bi-partisan co-sponsors, was referred to the House Financial Services Committee. The bill would extend the expiration date of the reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 from Dec. 31, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2030. Leading industry groups, including RIMS members on the Hill last week, have advocated for the timely passage of TRIA’s extension.
This week a decision by Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeals urged the Florida Supreme Court to re-examine whether the state has a medical malpractice insurance “crisis.” Florida law currently bars adult children from recovering non-economic damages for wrongful death in medical malpractice cases, even though adult children are able to seek such damages for wrongful death in other types of lawsuits. The 2nd District upheld a circuit court decision to dismiss a medical malpractice suit and relied on a 2000 Florida Supreme Court decision that contained legislative history to support barring recovery because of a perceived medical malpractice insurance cost “crisis” at the turn of the millennium.
CONSUMER FINANCE PROTECTION BUREAU
Moving to the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices have agreed to review a challenge to the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) authority. The case at bar centers on whether a statutory provision stipulating that the CFPB director can only be removed by the president “for cause” violates the constitutional separation of powers. The court will also consider whether this provision of the Dodd-Frank Act, the law that established the CFPB, can be severed from the larger law if the agency's structure is found unconstitutional. Dodd-Frank, enacted in 2010, has been regarded as the most sweeping overhaul of financial market regulation since the Great Depression.
Back to our main story, today is #MoleDay, the annual twelve-hour celebration of chemistry from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m. on 10/23. Mole Day commemorates Avogadro’s number (6.02 x 1023), the basic measuring unit in chemistry and was created to foster interest in chemistry around the globe. If you fared well on our pop quiz today, share your gratitude with your high school chemistry teacher! As for us, our most sincere appreciation and best retirement wishes go to Elgin High School’s Mr. Brinkley and Saint Viator High School’s Fr. Van Wiel, CSV.