Test Questions I Wish I'd Asked

by Robert Verchick

May 21, 2012

The end of the school year always leaves me wishing that I could have lectured more clearly or somehow covered more in my classes on environmental law and policy. There was really just too much to discuss. How does one do justice to all those doubtful arguments in support of the Keystone XL pipeline? It’s a job creator! A gasoline price cap! A floor wax! Or the continuing saga of how the Obama administration should reorganize the offshore drilling responsibilities assigned to the MMS, I mean BOEMRE, I mean BOEM/BSEE. And there is never enough time to test it all.

This year I’ve assembled a few questions that have been on my mind this semester but that didn’t make it onto the exam. (Answers are posted at the bottom of this page). By the way, if you’re a regular reader of CPRBlog, this should be a snap: All of the answers can be found in CPRBlog entries from the last five months.

So find a quiet spot, sharpen that No. 2 pencil, and test your knowledge.

1.    Last year, when the EPA began limiting emissions of CO2 from coal-burning power plants and other sources, the energy industry blew a fuse.  Affected companies publicly argued that greenhouse gas regulation had gone too far. But last February during oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals, lawyers for some of those same companies argued that the agency’s rule was invalid because it did not go far enough. According to them, what was wrong with the rule?

(A) The rule did not limit methane emissions from municipal landfills, methane being a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.

(B) The rule did not limit CO2 emissions from smaller facilities like hospitals, schools, and churches.

(C) The rule did not include adequate criminal penalties for “knowing violations.”

(D) The rule did not directly address facilities that consume large amounts of electricity, like the proposed car elevator for Mitt Romney’s new beach-house or Al Gore’s Belle Meade mansion in Nashville.


2.    As of this month, a preliminary EPA document containing a statutorily mandated list has been trapped in a routine process of White House regulatory review for two years. Many environmentalists want the Obama administration to act on this list and are incensed by the delay. What’s on the list?

(A) The names of chemical agents used in hydraulic fracturing, which some experts believe could contaminate nearby aquifers.

(B) The names of polluted communities that the EPA believes are in need of "environmental justice support."

(C) The names of Republican Senators who have publicly said they believe in human-induced climate change. (It’s a short list.)

(D) The names of certain "chemicals of concern," like the BPA used in baby bottles and dental fillings, that the EPA believes might deserve future regulatory attention.


3.    A 2011 report by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that this year became the subject of Senate hearings, found that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan was partially attributable to a flawed planning process. What was the flaw?

(A) The hypothetical “worst case” tsunami that planners had in mind was based on overly optimistic assumptions and was not based on the full historic record.

(B) The planning process discouraged planners from giving weight to variables that were not contained within the worst-case model they were considering.

(C) The planning process was difficult to apply consistently across facility locations because of differences in geography and other site-based characteristics.

(D) All of the above.

4.    This spring on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney has offered the misfortunes of the Sackett family as an example of how an “Obama government interferes with personal freedom.” According to Romney, Mike and Chantell Sackett bought some Idaho property with plans to build a home, only to be blocked by an EPA official who insisted the property contained protected wetlands even though the designation did not appear in the wetlands registry. The Sacketts were given no chance to appeal and were forced to comply or “risk millions in fines.” The story sounds compelling, except for one unmentioned detail: 

(A) Ten months out of the year, the Sacketts’ land is two-feet underwater.

(B) EPA officials had offered Mike and Chantell a “beer summit” at the White House—featuring Laughing Dog ale—as compensation.

(C) The Sacketts’ run-in with the EPA occurred during the Bush administration.

(D) All of the above.

5.    Last month the U.S. Department of Justice announced the first criminal charges related to the BP Blowout. Kurt Mix, a BP engineer involved in designing the failed “top kill” remedy, was indicted for obstructing justice by allegedly destroying hundreds of text messages that described high volumes of oil escaping from the ruptured well. That’s bad enough. But as an eagle-eyed reporter at the New York Times observed, at the time of the arrest, Mix was guilty of a nearly equally grave sartorial infraction? What was it?

(A) He sported a pair of “Van’s two-toned skate shoes with white athletic socks.”

(B) He wore “a plaid, clip-on tie.”

(C) He wore “a pair of khakis without a belt.”

(D) His purple polo shirt appeared to be stained by “two splashes of Tabasco sauce.”


Have a great summer!


Answers: 1:B, 2:D, 3:D, 4:C, 5:C

Tagged as: regulation
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Robert R.M. Verchick holds the Gauthier ~ St. Martin Eminent Scholar Chair in Environmental Law at Loyola University, New Orleans, is the Faculty Director of the Center for Environmental Law at Loyola, and is a Senior Fellow in Disaster Resilience Leadership, Tulane University. He is the President of the Center for Progressive Reform.

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