Climate Change Threatens Communities with Dangerous Spills and Contamination from Nearby Industrial Facilities

by David Flores | October 18, 2016

To date, climate adaptation and resilience planning efforts on the local, state, and federal levels have largely focused on protecting residential, commercial, and municipal infrastructure from sea level rise and deadly storm surge through such structural practices as shoreline armoring. However, a growing number of advocates are raising concerns about the threat that extreme weather poses to the low-income communities and communities of color that are disproportionately situated near industrial facilities vulnerable to flooding. 

Industrial facilities – oil and gas, manufacturing, chemical, and agricultural – are often sited within floodplains to permit access to water for transport and industrial process and are ill-equipped to prevent hazardous material spills and leaks caused by extreme precipitation, flooding, and storm surge. As a result, neighboring communities are at particular risk of exposure to these dangerous substances during and following extreme weather events. Community members and first responders face not only the immediate risk of contact but also chronic exposure once contaminated floodwaters recede and leave an invisible toxic residue in homes, water systems, schools, open spaces, and wherever floodwaters invaded. 

Last month, the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed a first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit against ExxonMobil that seeks to prevent future uncontrolled discharges caused by climate change impacts at an industrial facility on Massachusetts' Mystic River. ExxonMobil's Everett Terminal, located near residential communities in Chelsea, is an oil and gas storage and distribution facility that generates large quantities of hazardous waste ...

Assessment Finds Wide Variety in Quality of County Stormwater Plans in Maryland

by Evan Isaacson | October 17, 2016
Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) is releasing an assessment of the plans and progress of Baltimore City and the nine largest counties in Maryland to comply with their federal stormwater permits, a key component of the ongoing effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and restore it to health. The analysis looks carefully at the jurisdictions' past efforts and future plans, revealing a wide range in the apparent commitment and level of restoration activity as they work to ...

Center for Progressive Reform Welcomes New Climate Adaptation Policy Analyst

by Brian Gumm | October 12, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: Center for Progressive Reform Welcomes New Climate Adaptation Policy Analyst Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) announced that David Flores has joined the organization as its new policy analyst. Flores will serve alongside the group's staff and Member Scholars in their efforts to protect public health and the environment, with a particular focus on ways communities and the Chesapeake Bay region can adapt to climate change in a fair, just, inclusive manner.  "I'm excited to welcome David Flores ...

It's Time to Give Customers of Financial Services and Products Their Day in Court

by James Goodwin | October 10, 2016
Originally published by the Oxford Business Law Blog. Reprinted with permission. Forced arbitration clauses are now almost impossible to avoid in consumer contracts for financial services and products ranging from credit cards to private student loans. Despite their ubiquity, most consumers aren't even aware of them. This is because companies frequently bury them deep in the lengthy fine print of their contracts, which they then offer to consumers on a 'take it or leave it' basis. Forced arbitration clauses warrant ...

Representing Workers Injured on the Job – A New York Perspective

by Katie Tracy | October 05, 2016
When it comes to worker health and safety, preventing injuries and illnesses is the number one goal. It was for this very purpose that Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) and tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with setting and enforcing strong workplace standards. But when preventative measures fail and workers are harmed, agency enforcement actions against the employer (while necessary) don't provide legal redress to workers or their families for the damages they've ...

Why SOPRA Is Not the Answer

by Bill Funk | October 03, 2016
Originally posted at Notice & Comment, a blog of the Yale Journal on Regulation and the American Bar Association Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice, as part of an online symposium entitled Reflections on Seminole Rock: The Past, Present, and Future of Deference to Agency Regulatory Interpretations. Reprinted with permission. The Separation of Powers Restoration Act, or more easily known as SOPRA, is not a complicated bill. If enacted, it would amend the Administrative Procedure Act to require courts ...

'Super Polluters' Under the Microscope

by Matthew Freeman | September 30, 2016
In a story published yesterday, the Center for Public Integrity takes a deep dive into the public health impact of the nation’s “super polluters,” a collection of industrial polluters that account for an outsized share of toxic air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Produced in collaboration with USA Today and The Weather Channel, the story focuses in on Evansville, Indiana, a city of 120,000 nestled in the southwest corner of the state and ringed by no ...

Maryland's Environmental and Energy Policy Moving Backward under the Hogan Administration

by Jeremy Baker | September 29, 2016
Larry Hogan promised to be the "best environmental governor that's ever served" in Maryland. But three recent policy developments call that claim into question.  Earlier this year, the Hogan administration vetoed the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would have raised Maryland's renewable energy portfolio standard – the share of electricity that energy providers must derive from renewable sources – from 20 percent by 2022 to 25 percent by 2020. A stronger commitment to renewable energy could have had a tremendous ...

Supreme Court Remains Skeptical of the 'Cost-Benefit State'

by Amy Sinden | September 26, 2016
Originally published on RegBlog by CPR Member Scholar Amy Sinden. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Michigan v. EPA last term, a number of commentators have revived talk of something called the "Cost Benefit State." It is supposed to be a good thing, although it makes some of us shudder. The phrase was originally coined by Cass Sunstein in a 2002 book by that name. It describes a supposedly utopian government in which agencies and courts ...

Federalism Games in the Clean Power Plan Battle

by William Buzbee | September 23, 2016
Next Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear four hours of argument over the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Federalism-linked statutory, regulatory, and doctrinal law has been and will be crucial to the CPP's fate, and several issues of federalism will play a key role. In designing the CPP, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency built on states' actions in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in recent years through use of GHG trading regimes, and nudging or ...

Federal Contracting Gets Safer Thanks to New, Common-Sense Regulations

by Katie Tracy | September 21, 2016
Federal contractors that violate labor laws not only cheat workers by disregarding their rights to fair pay and safe workplaces, but they also tend to run into unexpected costs and delays during performance of the contracts they're awarded. With this in mind, in 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13673, which seeks to improve cost savings and efficiency in government contracting by requiring prospective contractors to disclose labor law violations and obligating contracting agencies to review those violations before ...

New EPA Assessment Shines a Light on a Cause of Chesapeake Bay Woes

by Evan Isaacson | September 20, 2016
The Chesapeake Bay watershed and its restoration framework under the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) are so large and complex that it can be a real challenge to study, much less write about, the problem and the ongoing restoration efforts. This is why the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment of the tiny Beck Creek watershed in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania is so valuable. The same activities that have fouled Beck Creek and the restoration practices that are working ...

Landmark California Law Links Emissions Reductions and Environmental Justice Goals

by Alice Kaswan | September 19, 2016
California's recent climate legislation is noteworthy not only for its toughest-in-the-nation carbon reduction goals – 40 percent below 1990 emissions by 2030 – but also for continuing the state's tradition of linking climate and environmental justice goals. AB 197, which accompanied a carbon reduction bill known as SB 32, prioritizes direct emission reductions likely to improve air quality; increases public access to information about carbon, conventional, and toxic emissions; and establishes a new cross-cutting legislative oversight committee to systematically monitor ...

House Passes Bill to Silence Agency Experts and Frustrate Public Participation in the Regulatory Process

by James Goodwin | September 15, 2016
Last night, the House of Representatives, in an almost completely party-line vote, passed the Regulatory Integrity Act (H.R. 5226), a bill that would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other agencies from engaging the public on their pending efforts to address climate change, prevent foodborne illness, and otherwise act in the public interest. Center for Progressive Reform Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin offered the following reaction to the bill's passage:  Poll after poll ...

CPR Member Scholars Earn Top Marks in Environmental Law Scholarship

by Brian Gumm | September 13, 2016
Every year, Thomson Reuters and West Publishing compile a set of significant and influential articles from a number of legal scholars who focus on land use and environmental law. The Land Use & Environment Law Review represents some of the best scholarship on these issues, and peer reviewers recently included five pieces on environmental law published in 2014 and 2015.  Among the selected articles are two from CPR Member Scholar Hannah Wiseman, Professor at Florida State University College of Law, ...

The Role of the Clean Air Act's Goals in Clean Power Plan Litigation

by David Driesen | September 08, 2016
The Clean Power Plan has been widely touted as significant because it regulates the largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States – the electric power industry. Its significance, however, goes beyond U.S. CO2 emissions because it serves as the linchpin of international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in order to avoid dangerous climate disruption. The rule gave the Obama administration sufficient credibility to persuade the Chinese to pledge limits on their own greenhouse gas emissions for ...

The Clean Power Plan: Unpacking the Generation Shifting Issue

by David Driesen | September 08, 2016
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Clean Power Plan (CPP) relies, in part, on a pollution reduction strategy – generation shifting – that is at issue in the ongoing lawsuit over the rule. Generation shifting involves increasing use of relatively clean natural gas and renewable energy and reducing use of relatively dirty and expensive coal-fired power plants. Although the technique has lowered power plant emissions significantly in recent years, opponents of the CPP have argued in legal briefs that section ...

Five Years Ago Today: When Obama Put Politics Ahead of the Public Interest

by James Goodwin | September 02, 2016
September 2, 2011, was a lot like today, the Friday before a long holiday weekend.  While many were already turning their attention to backyard barbecues and afternoon naps in hammocks, the then-Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Cass Sunstein, the controversial official charged with supervising federal regulatory activities, dropped a bombshell. In a notice known as a “return letter,” Sunstein publicly announced that President Obama was rejecting what would have been one of the most important ...

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