Food and Drug Administration, in a First, Rejects Four Tobacco Products

U.S. begins regulating cigarettes and other tobacco products under a 2009 law. The Food and Drug Administration started exercising that power by authorizing the sale of two new products — both of them Newport cigarettes made by Lorillard Tobacco — and rejecting four others. Agency officials said the law forbade them from naming the rejected products. But under the new law, the FDA can reject cigarettes and other tobacco products that its scientists believe pose public health risks beyond comparable products already on the market. That’s a sharp departure from the past, when cigarettes were made without U.S. regulation and tobacco companies could change existing products and introduce new ones at will. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times

Obama moves to bypass Congress with plan to combat global warming. The president ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to propose limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 2015. He also said the government would take climate change into consideration in its everyday operations, which could affect matters such as bridge heights, flood insurance rates and how the military gets electricity overseas. The stance sets up major confrontations with the fossil fuel industry and its Republican allies. In a surprise, the president said he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude  from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, only if it “does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.” But that might have little practical effect, given a new report undercutting environmental objections to the project. The Washington Post

Report boosts prospects for Keystone XL pipeline. The National Research Council report, an eagerly awaited study that U.S. regulators were mandated to conduct under a 2011 pipeline safety law, said the heavy Canadian oil that would be carred by the project is no more likely to cause pipeline leaks than other crudes. That rebutted one key objection by environmental groups — the argument that the Canadian oil could corrode the lines due to its acid and mineral content. While the report won’t end debate over the safety and impact of importing more Canadian crude, it added to signs that the U.S. will approve construction after more than four years of delays that have frustrated Canadian politicians and operator TransCanada. Reuters

BP campaigns against settlement payouts to businesses with full-page newspaper ads. The ads in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post accuse “trial lawyers and some politicians” of encouraging Gulf Coast businesses to submit thousands of claims for inflated or non-existent losses from BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. “Whatever you think about BP, we can all agree that it’s wrong for anyone to take money they don’t deserve,” the ad says. In April, a federal judge upheld a court-appointed claims administrator’s interpretation of a multi-billion dollar-settlement reached with a group of plaintiffs’ attorneys but BP challenged the decision, and the appeal is scheduled to be heard on July 8. The Associated Press

Study finds unexpectedly high rate of serious head injuries among teens. In a survey of 8,900 Canadian students in the 7th through 12th grades, 20 percent reported losing consciousness for at least five minutes or being hospitalized for head trauma. In addition, 5.6 percent reported having such an injury in just the past year. Sports accounted for over half of the injuries. The new study also hints at a troubling link between traumatic brain injuries and poorer grades, underage drinking and use of illicit drugs. Some researchers expressed skepticism about the findings, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, saying the results may have been skewed by having adolescents recall their own injuries. Reuters, Los Angeles Times, CBC

Nebraska plumbing company accused of five violations related to a deadly trench collapse. Two of the charges by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration against Witt Plumbing were willful violations, the agency’s most serious offense. OSHA said Witt failed to provide protection against cave-ins. A 33-year-old Witt employee was killed in January when a trench collapsed while he was locating a sewage drain pipe at a home under construction in Hastings, Neb. “This tragedy might have been prevented with the use of protective shoring that the company planned to bring to the job site that afternoon,” an OSHA official said. OSHA proposed fines of $157,000 and put Witt in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. OSHA, NTV (Kearney, Neb.)

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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