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Congress 65 articles

Federal court holds Chinese drywall companies in contempt for ignoring U.S. litigation

China’s state-owned drywall manufacturers have abandoned litigation in the U.S. involving thousands of American homeowners who sued the companies over allegedly toxic and corrosive drywall they claim has damaged their homes and their health. In addition to not responding to the multidistrict litigation (MDL) in a Louisiana federal court, Taishan Gypsum Co. Ltd. and other gypsum manufacturers owned by the Chinese government’s Assets Supervision and Administration Commission ignored a $2.7 million default judgment against them in 2010. U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon held Taishan in civil and criminal contempt on July 17 for its refusal to appear in court to ... Read More

Proposed transportation budget would take $1 billion from underground storage tank cleanup fund

Hoping to avert a nationwide shutdown of federal transportation projects, the House Ways and Means Committee has proposed a plan that would temporarily replenish the nearly dried-up Highway Trust Fund and bankroll infrastructure projects through May 15, 2015. The bipartisan plan would rely on unusual methods to replenish federal transportation funds, including taking money from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) fund used to clean up environmentally contaminated sites. The 18.4-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax used to fund federal transportation projects has not kept pace with the nation’s infrastructure needs for various reasons. The tax has not been raised in more than ... Read More

Dodd-Frank anti-retaliation provisions don’t apply to overseas whistleblowers, U.S. judge rules

Whistleblower provisions written into the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act do not protect overseas workers from retaliation, a New York federal judge has ruled in a case that has been closely monitored by the financial industry and legal experts in the U.S. The case involved a China-based employee Meng-Lin Liu, who filed a whistleblower complaint against his employer Siemens AG in 2011, claiming the company fired him in retaliation for raising concerns internally about fraud and other wrongdoing. Mr. Meng-Lin, a former regional compliance officer for a Chinese subsidiary of Siemens, raised concerns that employees were violating the company’s anti-graft controls as ... Read More

Peanut Corporation of America executive indicted by Grand Jury on charges stemming from Salmonella Outbreak

The owner of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), where one of the deadliest Salmonella outbreaks in U.S. history originated, has been indicted by a federal Grand Jury on 76 criminal charges. A group of employees and associates of the now-defunct company have also been arraigned in connection to the 2009 outbreak, which killed 9 people and sickened more than 700. According to the indictment, unsealed this week, PCA’s former owner, Stewart Parnell, 58, is charged with committing criminal fraud and conspiracy for allegedly selling and shipping out peanut products known to be contaminated. The Salmonella-tainted peanut butter and other peanut-based ... Read More

Gas pipeline safety improvements stalled by loose cannon legislator

On September 9, 2010, a subterranean natural gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) exploded in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno, creating a wall of fire that towered over 300 feet tall. The massive explosion killed 8 people and injured dozens more. It also leveled 38 homes and damaged about 70 others. More than a year later, federal investigators issued a final report on the disaster that cited “multiple and recurring deficiencies in PG&E operational practices,” and concluded that the company suffered from safety problems described as “systemic.” Among the “litany of failures” the National ... Read More

Oil lobby tries to paint a negative image of federal regulators

Michael Bromwich, the nation’s head oil and gas drilling regulator, lashed out at the oil industry Tuesday for spreading what he calls politically motivated lies and distortions about the federal government’s speed in approving new offshore drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico. “I continue to be disappointed to see politically motivated, erroneous reports and commentaries, sponsored by various industry associations and groups, criticizing the [government] for allegedly ‘slow-walking’ permits and plans,” Michael Bromwich, head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE), said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That is ... Read More

Brother of slain Deepwater Horizon worker stands up for worker safety

Overcome with grief at times, Christopher Jones, the brother of a BP contractor who died in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, fought back tears as he spoke before a congressional panel, pleading with legislators to toughen worker safety laws and increase liability for companies that recklessly endanger the lives of their workers. Jones made his remarks before a House Natural Resources Committee meeting that was primarily exploring Republican criticism that the Obama administration was moving too slowly in its approval of new drilling permits after BP’s Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 workers and created the worst environmental disaster ... Read More

FDA approval process flawed, warns Government Accountability Office

In January 2009, the Government Accountability Office prescribed some “immediate steps” federal regulators must take to improve its approval process and decrease the chance that dangerous drugs and medical devices are let loose on the public. But because nobody ever really listens to the GAO, it’s been business as usual for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has fast-tracked the approval and sale of 67 medical devices since the GAO’s warning with the 510(k) program, allowing high-risk devices such as DePuy’s Acetabular and ASR Hip Resurfacing Systems to slip past a rigorous medical review. DePuy’s hip implants were sped ... Read More

U.S. issues new recommendations for dealing with toxic Chinese drywall

The U.S. government has revised its list of recommended measures to take when dealing with “problem drywall,” which it estimates to be installed in tens of thousands of homes throughout the United States. Thousands of homeowners who purchased homes built from 2005 to 2008, mostly in Florida and other parts of the Southeast, have complained of noxious fumes emitting from their walls, rendering their homes unlivable and unsellable. The problem has been linked to drywall imported from China, which contains a high percentage of sulfuric compounds harvested from industrial waste. The drywall releases hydrogen sulfide gas, which causes a range ... Read More

Football concussions lead to future problems for many players

A number of football players from the high school and college level all the way to the NFL have been in the news recently, not for throws completed or yards run but for concussions and other types of traumatic brain injury (TBI) they received during play. Doctors and safety advocates have called for better safety measures for football players, ones that would decrease the likelihood and severity of head injuries. But how that translates on the field has been a source of confusion and contention for players and fans alike. After all, football is an aggressive contact sport. Most people ... Read More