CPR, Public Interest Allies Call on EPA to Abandon 'Benefits-Busting' Rule

by James Goodwin | August 15, 2018

Earlier this week, 19 Member Scholars with the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that provide a detailed legal and policy critique of the agency's "benefits-busting" rulemaking. 

Since early July, EPA has been accepting feedback on an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) that could lead to a complete overhaul of how the agency performs cost-benefit analysis on its environmental and public health rules. Consistent with other anti-safeguard moves the Trump EPA has made, this overhaul would further rig an already rigged system for conducting these analyses. The plainly intended result would be to make it harder to justify needed public protections by putting an industry-friendly thumb on the scale. 

As the CPR Member Scholars explain, the real danger is that EPA could try to use this rulemaking to institute a one-size-fits-all "supermandate" requiring all agency decision-making to be conducted through the lens of "formal" cost-benefit analysis. Such analysis involves a nominal attempt to identify the economically "optimal" level of regulation by tallying up and converting into monetary terms all the costs and benefits of numerous regulatory "alternatives" and identifying the one that maximizes net benefits. 

Needless to say, this version of cost-benefit analysis is the stuff of textbook legend: Its lofty goal dazzles intellectual curiosity in theory but is impossible to achieve in practice. More to the point, regulatory decision-makers never actually seek to achieve this goal in any event, ...

Trump's OSHA Backtracks on Electronic Recordkeeping Rule over Bogus Privacy Concerns

by Katie Tracy | August 14, 2018
The Trump administration has aggressively sought to undermine public safeguards since taking office, all under the guise of making America great (again?). Nowhere has this been more evident than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where Trump appointees have sought to attack most every standard adopted during the Obama era, as well as long-standing analytical procedures (see here and here) designed to ensure any new standards are evidence-based and scientifically sound. These attacks do not stop at EPA, however. Trump has ...

The Hill Op-Ed: Proposed Rollbacks in Vehicle Emission Limits Pose Serious Environmental Threat

by Joel Mintz | August 09, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. Federal laws and regulations play a crucial role determining the quality of our air, water, and natural resources. Well-researched and scientifically supported rules can bring enormous benefits to the American people, but regulatory rollbacks for little more than deregulation's sake can cause great harm. One example of the potential damage that a poorly crafted regulation may cause is the new proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ...

Watered Down Standards at the TRUMP CAFÉ

by Daniel Farber | August 06, 2018
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. Trump is proposing to gut CO2 standards for cars, freezing 2020 CAFE fuel-efficiency standards in place for years to come. Without the freeze, the standards would automatically ramp up. He also wants to eliminate California's ability to set its own standards, which many other states have opted to adopt. Here are seven key questions about Trump's proposed rollback and some answers. Do the car companies really want this? A: Not so much. It's not that they love being ...

Miami Herald Op-Ed: New EPA Administrator, Same Menace to the Environment

by Joel Mintz | August 02, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in the Miami Herald. The forced resignation of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brought celebration and relief in many quarters. Pruitt was a walking scandal machine who generated an endless stream of headlines about spending abuses, cozy relationships with industry lobbyists, first-class travel at government expense, and aides asked to perform personal tasks, including buying lotions and mattresses and unsuccessfully helping his wife land a Chick-fil-A franchise. Of more lasting ...

A Real, Not Faux, Transparency Proposal for Regulatory Science

by Wendy Wagner | August 01, 2018
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. In a previous essay, we critiqued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently proposed transparency rule, arguing that the proposal conflicts with best scientific practices and would further erode the EPA’s ability to do its job. According to supporters, the central goal of the proposed rule is to increase the transparency of regulatory science. Unfortunately, the proposal does not begin to deliver. No matter how many times the word “transparency” is repeated ...

Wheeler's Chance for a Course Correction at EPA

by Matt Shudtz | August 01, 2018
Andrew Wheeler will be on the hot seat today when he heads to Capitol Hill for his first appearance before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as Acting Administrator of the EPA. Senators initially scheduled the hearing when Scott Pruitt was Administrator and his ethical problems had reached such epic proportions that his party's support was starting to erode. With Pruitt out and Wheeler in, today's hearing has the potential to be more about environmental policy than conflicts of ...

Pruitt's Super-Polluting Parting Shot

by Lisa Heinzerling | July 31, 2018
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. In the fitting last act of his corrupt reign as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt handed a gift to companies who profit from producing cheaper trucks by dispensing with modern pollution control equipment. He arranged for political appointees at EPA to issue memoranda that together promised that EPA would not enforce an existing legal limit on production numbers for the super-polluting trucks. The memos had all ...

South Florida Sun Sentinel Op-Ed: Kavanaugh May Limit Environmental Protections If Confirmed to Supreme Court

by Joel Mintz | July 31, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Recent events have underscored the vital importance of effective environmental regulation for Floridians. Blue green algae — apparently caused by releases of contaminated water from Lake Okeechobee — has blanketed significant portions of our state’s east and west coasts, causing major economic losses and posing a threat to the health of coastal residents. Pro-active regulation and enforcement of environmental laws could (and should) have prevented these abysmal consequences. In fact, lawsuits ...

American Prospect Commentary: Judge Kavanaugh’s Deregulatory Agenda

by Thomas McGarity | July 30, 2018
This commentary was originally published by The American Prospect.  Most of us take for granted the federal regulations that make our air cleaner, our drinking water purer, our food, highways, and workplaces safer, and our economic transactions less vulnerable to fraud and abuse. And few of us realize the extent to which those protections are subject to reversal by federal courts applying legal principles prescribed by the Supreme Court. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh would be ...

The Threat to Individual Liberty in Judge Kavanaugh's CFPB Opinion

by Karen Sokol | July 24, 2018
This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. "This is a case about executive power and individual liberty." That is how Judge Brett Kavanaugh started the opinion he wrote for a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals holding that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was unconstitutional. That opinion is one among many that reflects Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh's belief that administrative agencies are in a constitutionally ...

Kavanaugh's Threat to Government Transparency and Accountability

by Daniel Farber | July 19, 2018
This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Presidents control crucial government agencies with authority over the environment, food and drug safety, and workplace conditions. Through various environmental, health, safety, and other laws, Congress has given these agencies broad authority to issue rules and regulations that affect the lives of every American. But current law provides safeguards against arbitrary decisions – safeguards that Judge Brett Kavanaugh would weaken or eliminate if confirmed to ...

The Hill Op-Ed: Trump's Policies Blasting at the Foundations of Conservation in Public Land Law

by Robert Glicksman | July 19, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. Last month, two Inspectors General issued scathing reports about their departments' behavior. The Justice Department's IG got all the attention, while largely overlooked was a disturbing report from the Interior Department IG, who concluded that the agency had no reasonable rationale for halting a major study of the health risks of mountaintop removal mining. The study was already under way, and nearly half of its $1 million price tag had already been spent, but Secretary Ryan Zinke and ...

Duluth News Tribune Op-Ed: U-turn on Twin Metals a Massive Giveaway of Irreplaceable Public Resources

by Alexandra Klass | July 17, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in the Duluth News Tribune. Any Minnesotan who has ever dipped a canoe paddle, pitched a tent, or laced up a hiking boot while visiting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness can tell you why it is the nation's most-visited wilderness area and considered a crown jewel of Minnesota. Unfortunately, Twin Metals, a subsidiary of the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta PLC, has its eye on the area in hopes of operating a sulfide-ore copper-nickel mine, bringing one ...

If Confirmed, Kavanaugh Would Tilt Supreme Court against Public Protections

by Matt Shudtz | July 10, 2018
This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last night, President Donald Trump set the stage for a contentious debate about American social and economic welfare in the decades to come, nominating a Washington insider with a narrow worldview to the Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh's opinions on issues related to reproductive and civil rights are at the forefront of many voters' minds, but there's another danger that deserves just as much attention: What ...

Senate Must Preserve Rule of Law When Considering Benczkowski and Pruitt's Successor

by David Driesen | July 09, 2018
In addition to deciding the fate of a Supreme Court nominee, the Senate must soon consider whether to approve Brian Benczkowski as head of criminal enforcement for the Department of Justice and a nominee to replace Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator. In early 2017, I urged senators to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities by only approving nominees who would faithfully execute the laws of the United States. But the Senate approved Pruitt anyway, with disastrous results. The chamber now needs to ...

Scott Pruitt Wants to Pick Winners and Losers by Cooking the Books at EPA

by James Goodwin | June 28, 2018
UPDATE (July 2, 2018): EPA has granted a one-month extension to its original comment period. Public comments on the advance notice of proposed rulemaking are now due on August 13. Soon after his confirmation, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt quickly set out to take a "whack-a-mole" approach to advancing his anti-safeguard agenda, attacking particular rules designed to protect Americans and the environment from specific hazards – climate change, various air and water pollutants, and so on – one by one. But ...

Nothing to Celebrate as TSCA Reform Turns Two

by Katie Tracy | June 22, 2018
June 22 marks the two-year anniversary of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (colloquially referred to as TSCA reform or new TSCA). The 2016 law provided some hope that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would finally address the potential risks from tens of thousands of untested and unregulated chemicals common in our households and hygiene products, our food and drinking water, our air, and our workplaces. Unfortunately, under President Trump and Scott Pruitt's leadership, ...

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