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Inside Politics

- - Thursday, August 25, 2011

SENATE

Republicans seek new inquiry on NRC chairman

Four Republican senators are asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's inspector general to investigate the agency's chairman for what they say is a continued pattern of withholding information from colleagues and acting unilaterally on the commission's behalf.

The GOP lawmakers say the latest example stems from NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko's declaration in March that Japan's nuclear crisis constituted an emergency in the United States.

Sens. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana said it is not clear that Mr. Jaczko had authority to make such a declaration, which grants him additional powers. The senators said they are not certain that Mr. Jaczko has rescinded the order, despite his public claims to the contrary.

An agency spokesman could not be reached immediately.

OHIO

GOP lawmaker criticized for camera seizures

CINCINNATI — The staff for a Republican congressman who was criticized after police seized two video cameras at an Ohio constituent meeting says future gatherings will be open to recording.

A Cincinnati police officer confiscated cameras from two Democratic activists at a Monday town hall by Rep. Steve Chabot. Video of the encounter was posted on YouTube, and Democrats complained of censorship.

Chabot spokesman Jamie Schwartz says cameras were taken to protect the privacy of constituents. He says in the future, cameras will be allowed and town halls will begin with an announcement that those who don't want to be on tape asking questions can meet privately with Chabot afterward.

Mr. Chabot is in his eighth term. He served seven terms, lost the 2008 election and then ousted one-term Democrat Steve Driehaus last year.

NLRB

New rule requires union rights posters at work

The National Labor Relations Board has approved a rule that requires private employers to display posters that tell workers about their right to form a union.

The rule requires businesses to prominently display the new posters, which explain the right to bargain collectively, distribute union literature and engage in other union activities without reprisal.

Union advocates say the rule gives workers information they should know about their legal rights.

Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say the posters will make it appear that the government is encouraging workers to join unions and will create a more favorable climate for union organizing.

The board said the rule, originally proposed in December, aims to help employees who may be unaware of their rights under federal labor laws. Another benefit will be promoting greater legal compliance by both employers and unions, the agency said.

Business groups have complained that the board, under the Obama administration, has taken a number of aggressive steps favorable to unions, which are trying to reverse years of membership declines. The board is poised to issue a much broader rule this year that would allow votes to unionize workplaces to move more quickly, something unions have long sought.

ENERGY

Gas reserves estimate reduced after report

The Energy Department says it will reduce its estimate of undiscovered natural gas in New York, Pennsylvania and other states as a result of a report by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS report, released Tuesday, estimates that the Marcellus Shale region contains some 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, recoverable natural gas. That is far more than geologists thought nearly a decade ago, but far below a recent projection by the Energy Department.

A spokesman for the Energy Information Administration said the USGS report supersedes a report last month by the energy agency. That report projected about 410 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in the eight-state region, which stretches from New York to Tennessee.

The Energy Department decision was first reported by Bloomberg News.

FDA

Salmonella prompts officials to detain Mexican papayas

The government is detaining all papaya imports from Mexico after testing showed high rates of salmonella contamination in the fruit.

Mexican papayas were linked to 100 cases of salmonella poisoning in 23 states this summer. Subsequent Food and Drug Administration testing of papaya imports found a 16 percent salmonella contamination rate in papayas from all over Mexico.

The papayas will be allowed into the United States only if Mexican exporters can show valid lab testing that proves their fruit is not contaminated.

A Texas company recalled papayas linked to the outbreak last month. FDA officials say they are working with the Mexican government to find sources of the contamination and ensure better papaya safety.

From wire dispatches and staff reports