The Clean Power Plan: Continuing Momentum after the Supreme Court’s Stay

by Alice Kaswan | February 10, 2016

The Supreme Court’s February 9 stay of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan may have removed the states’ immediate compliance obligations, and it will undoubtedly remove some pressure for action in states resistant to change.  Nonetheless, the extensive data and fundamental state and regional planning processes generated by the Clean Power Plan (the Plan) may continue to bear fruit even as the Plan remains in legal limbo.

The Clean Power Plan has already triggered progress.  To determine feasible reductions on existing power plants, EPA spearheaded extensive analyses of regional capacities to shift to less-polluting natural gas and to develop renewables.  In addition, EPA gathered detailed information on the demographics around existing power plants to help states assess the environmental justice implications of their energy choices.  EPA’s research and the resulting data can provide essential information for state and federal policies regardless of the Plan’s status.

The Clean Power Plan also set state and regional comprehensive low-carbon energy planning in motion, and it is conceivable that at least some of that momentum will continue.  The Plan highlighted the regional nature of the grid and pushed states to consider how their low-carbon energy choices could be expanded by both in-state and out-of-state reduction opportunities.  Breaking through the silos that have often divided environmental regulators and energy planners, the Plan required cooperation and the development of integrated strategies, cooperation that might endure regardless of the Plan’s requirements.

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Supreme Court Stays Clean Power Plan

by Victor Flatt | February 10, 2016
In a surprising moves to legal experts, the Supreme Court yesterday in a 5-4 ruling stayed the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) supporting greenhouse gas reductions at fossil fuel fired power plants.  The move was surprising because the Supreme Court rarely involves itself in the determinations of whether or not a temporary stay of legal implications is warranted, largely leaving that to lower courts.  The D.C. Circuit, two weeks ago, refused to grant a stay, meaning that ...

New CPR Analysis: Chesapeake Bay TMDL Failure Looms

by Matthew Freeman | February 04, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: Analysis of EPA TMDL Data Documents Looming Failure by Chesapeake Bay States to Meet 2017 Pollution-Reduction Goals In Report & Letters to EPA and Governors, CPR Authors Call on Bay States to Step Up, and on EPA to Begin Enforcement Actions A new analysis from the Center for Progressive Reform concludes that the efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) to restore the Chesapeake Bay to health is veering off course because of state failures to reduce pollution ...

Legacy Goods and the Environment

by Daniel Farber | January 28, 2016
The value of some goods like wilderness today depends on their futures. Normally, economists imagine, equal experiences become less valuable as they recede further into the future.  But some types of goods don’t have that kind of relationship with future experiences.  They can become more valuable as they extend farther into to the future. Take this blog post, for example.  I’m really happy that you’re reading it today.  But it will be even cooler if someone reads it ten years ...

Senate Antiregulatory Package Bill is Selling Corporate Welfare, But the New York Times Editorial Page Isn’t Buying

by James Goodwin | January 20, 2016
Still just a few weeks into the new year, both chambers of Congress are making it clear that attacks on our system of regulatory safeguards will remain a top priority in 2016.   The GOP-controlled House of Representatives has already passed—along partisan lines—two antiregulatory measures, and the Senate appears poised to follow suit with their own antiregulatory package expected to drop sometime this week. CPR Member Scholars and staff are tracking all of these developments, working to educate policymakers about how ...

Maryland's Pressing Stormwater Infrastructure Needs

by Evan Isaacson | January 13, 2016
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is a tragic reminder of the hidden costs of our nation’s failing infrastructure.  Whether through benign neglect or deliberate “starve the beast” cost-cutting measures, we are continually seeing the costly and sometimes terrible consequences of failing to meet our infrastructure financing needs.  The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state of U.S. infrastructure a D+ grade in its most recent 2013 Report Card, which included a D for both drinking water and wastewater ...

President Obama’s Progressive Vision for the Future

by Thomas McGarity | January 13, 2016
President Obama devoted his final state-of-the-union speech to highlighting his administration’s considerable accomplishments, and, more importantly, to articulating a surprisingly robust progressive vision for the future. And that vision properly included a large role for federal regulation.  Noting that “reckless Wall Street,” not food stamp recipients, caused the financial meltdown of 2008-09, the President predicted, “working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the ...

Delmarva CAFO Expansion Continues Despite Calls for a Moratorium

by Evan Isaacson | January 12, 2016
Last September, the Environmental Integrity Project put a spotlight on the dramatic increase in the number of industrial scale poultry houses being established on the Delmarva Peninsula.  In its report, More Phosphorus, Less Monitoring, the organization found that more than 200 new chicken houses had been permitted on the peninsula since November 2014, including 67 in just one Maryland county (Somerset County, on the state’s lower Eastern Shore). Shortly thereafter the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition, supported by the Center for ...

Key Environmental Developments Ahead in 2016

by Daniel Farber | January 04, 2016
Here are seven of the most important developments affecting the environment. 2015 was a big year for agency regulations and international negotiations. In 2016, the main focal points will be the political process and the courts. Here are seven major things to watch for.  The Presidential Election. The election will have huge consequences for the environment. A Republican President is almost sure to try to roll back most of the environmental initiatives of the Obama Administration, undoing all the progress that has been ...

Feds Resolve to Expand Criminal Prosecutions of Workplace Safety Violations in the New Year

by Katie Weatherford | December 22, 2015
As the year draws to a close and the New Year approaches, people all around the world will be contemplating what they can resolve to do better in 2016. This year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seem to be celebrating the tradition as well. In a move akin to a “New Year’s Resolution” to do better by workers, the two agencies have just announced that they will be expanding their “worker endangerment initiative” to bolster ...

The Paris Agreement and Theories of Justice

by Alice Kaswan | December 21, 2015
As we seek to understand and assess the Paris Agreement over the coming months and years, we will continue to contemplate the critical underlying political and ethical question: who should be responsible?  And to what degree should that responsibility take the form of direct action versus providing support in the form of financing, technology transfer, and capacity-building?  As my Center for Progressive Reform colleague Noah Sachs has observed, the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) has been a consistent ...

CPR's Shudtz on the Silica Rule

by Matt Shudtz | December 21, 2015
This afternoon, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it was sending its final version of a long-awaited rule on silica dust in the workplace to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for final review. CPR Executive Director Matthew Shudtz responded to the news with the following statement: Workers across the United States have been waiting for this day for a long time. But don’t overlook the fact that this announcement simply marks a procedural accomplishment in a ...

Now is the Time to Restore MDE Enforcement Resources

by Evan Isaacson | December 18, 2015
A few months ago, I recounted the recent history of budget cuts to Maryland environmental agencies and their effect on the state of environmental inspections and enforcement in the state over the last two decades.  Fortunately, it appears that an opportunity to change this situation has presented itself to policymakers in Annapolis.  Recently, at the annual November meeting of the legislative Spending Affordability Committee, key lawmakers from the budget committees and House and Senate Leadership heard from the top legislative ...

VapeMentors, the Fat Cat Vapor Shop, and Cosmic Fog Vapors All Walk Into an Obscure White House Office...

by James Goodwin | December 16, 2015
This week appears to mark the end of an extraordinary period in the history of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the shadowy bureau charged with reviewing and revising pending agency rules, which too often ensures they are not overly inconvenient for affected industries.  For the last month and a half, a Mos Eisley-esque mélange of characters has streamed through the front doors to lobby OIRA’s gang of economists and political operatives over a pending rule that would ...

Does the Paris Agreement Open the Door to Geoengineering?

by Daniel Farber | December 15, 2015
If we're serious about keeping warming "well below" 2°C, geoengineering may be necessary. The Paris agreement establishes an aspirational goal of holding climate change to 1.5°C, with a firmer goal of holding the global temperature decrease “well below” 2°C. As a practical matter, the 1.5°C goal almost certainly would require geoengineering, such as injecting aerosols into the stratosphere or solar mirrors. Even getting well below 2°C is likely to require steps of that kind or a technological breakthrough for another ...

Stocktaking and Ratcheting After Paris

by Noah M Sachs | December 10, 2015
In the latest draft treaty text from Thursday evening in Paris two contentious issues seem to be resolved: how often the agreement will be reviewed after it is adopted (“stocktaking”) and whether the reviews should involve ever-more-stringent commitments by the parties (“ratcheting”). The background here is that the greenhouse gas reduction commitments made so far by 185 countries are voluntary, and they have varying levels of ambition.    Most countries committed to fulfill their promised reductions by 2030, but some countries, including the ...

At Senate Hearing, CPR's Verchick Provides Sole Voice of Reason on Flawed 'Regulatory Budgeting' Proposal

by James Goodwin | December 09, 2015
This morning, CPR President and Loyola University, New Orleans, Law Professor Robert R.M. Verchick testifies at a hearing convened by the Senate Budget Committee to examine a dangerous regulatory policy proposal known as “regulatory budgeting.” As he explains in his testimony, regulatory budgeting represents a stark departure from the traditional focus of regulatory policy discussions, which have long been concerned with improving the effectiveness—or quality—of regulatory decision-making. Regulatory budgeting, by contrast, makes the total number—or quantity—of regulations the primary focus, ...

What Will 'Common But Differentiated Responsibility' Mean After Paris?

by Noah M Sachs | December 09, 2015
Here at the UN climate summit is Paris, negotiators are hashing out the new meaning of an old term: common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR). CBDR has been a bedrock principle of climate negotiations since 1992. It was the basis for dividing the world into two camps: 37 developed nations that had binding greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets, and the rest of the world. There are many definitions for CBDR, but the best one I’ve heard was given by former Undersecretary ...
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