Antibiotics, Animals, and Agency Discretion

by Lisa Heinzerling | June 08, 2012

Cross-posted from Georgetown Law Faculty Blog.

When an agency defends over three decades of inaction on an important problem by saying that acting would take too long, one hopes a judge reviewing the agency's inaction will see through the pretense.  This is exactly what happened this week, when a federal magistrate judge in New York ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had acted arbitrarily in citing time and resource constraints in declining to limit the use of antibiotics in animal feed. 

Some 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals destined to become part of our food supply.  Most of these drugs are given not to sick but to healthy animals; they are used not to treat disease but to promote animal growth or to prevent bacterial infections from occurring.  Both of these purposes are tied to the industrial nature of animal food production in this country.  The economic imperatives of industrial food production reward faster animal growth, and the microbial realities of the modern animal food production facility -- in which animals are tightly confined in stressful, bacteria-rich (to put it nicely), infection-promoting conditions -- encourage herd-wide administration of antibiotics to prevent infections. 

The widespread administration of antibiotics to food animals for non-therapeutic purposes has contributed to the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.  When bacteria become resistant to an antibiotic, that antibiotic will no longer treat the infection ...

CPR Member Scholar Joel Mintz Testifying at House Hearing on EPA Enforcement

by Ben Somberg | June 06, 2012
The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power holds a hearing today on “EPA Enforcement Priorities and Practices.” CPR Member Scholar Joel Mintz, Professor at Nova Southeastern University Law Center, will be testifying. From his testimony: .. during the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, the civil penalties assessed against environmental law violators averaged $117 million per year. In contrast, during the first three years of the Obama administration, EPA enforcement resulted in the assessment ...

New CPR Report Assesses the CAFO and Animal Agriculture Programs in Maryland, Pennsylvania

by Yee Huang | June 05, 2012
Today CPR releases Manure in the Bay: A Report on Industrial Animal Agriculture in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The paper provides a snapshot of the federal Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) permit program under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and how these states are implementing this program.  The report provides recommendations for strengthening these programs to curb pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and provides a brief glimpse at the broader animal agricultural and manure management programs work in these states. The ...

Ninth Circuit Corrects Itself on Gold Mining and the ESA

by Holly Doremus | June 04, 2012
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. The en banc 9th Circuit issued its opinion Friday in Karuk Tribe v. US Forest Service. This opinion brings a welcome reversal of a panel opinion from last April which had ruled in a split decision that the Forest Service did not have to consult with the wildlife agencies before authorizing suction dredging on the Klamath River. Judge Milan Smith wrote for the majority in the panel decision, with Judge William Fletcher in dissent. Those roles ...

Protecting Our Greatest Asset: Ratifying the Convention on Biological Diversity

by Sandra Zellmer | May 30, 2012
a(broad) perspective Today’s post, co-authored by CPR Member Scholar Sandra Zellmer  and Policy Analyst Yee Huang, is the fourth in a series on a recent CPR white paper, Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership: Why the United States Should Ratify Ten Pending Environmental Treaties. Each month, this series will discuss one of these ten treaties. Previous posts are here. Convention on Biological Diversity Adopted and Opened for Signature on June 5, 1992 Entered into Force on December 29, 1993 Number of Parties: 193 Signed by ...

Spurred on by Industry, OIRA Weakens Rule to Prevent Fatigue-Related Aviation Catastrophes

by James Goodwin | May 30, 2012
Last December, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized a new aviation safety rule designed to prevent excessive pilot fatigue, a problem that had contributed to at least one high-profile airline disaster—the Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash near Buffalo, New York, in February of 2009, which killed 50 and injured four—as well as to a disturbing series of mishaps and “near misses.” It turns out that the rule took a mid-flight detour on its journey from proposal to final form, and ...

A Warning about Water Quality Trading in the Chesapeake

by Matthew Freeman | May 25, 2012
This Memorial Day weekend, boaters, swimmers, fishers and others will flock to the Chesapeake Bay to mark the traditional, if not quite calendrically accurate, beginning of summer.  They'll bring their wallets with them, of course, thus supporting businesses and and jobs up and down the Bay. After a day in, on or near the water, many of them will tuck into a meal of crabcakes, made from blue crabs harvested in the Bay. Recreation and commerce are two of the ...

Why We Need Administrative Agencies Like EPA

by Daniel Farber | May 24, 2012
Following is the first of two Dan Farber blog entries reposted today from LegalPlanet. Bureaucrats aren’t very popular.  But consider the alternatives when it comes to dealing with environmental problems.  Basically, bureaucrats are part of the executive branch of government.  For instance, the head of EPA is appointed by the President and can be removed by the President at any time.  (A few agencies such as the SEC enjoy some protection from presidential removal power, but that’s not true for ...

Why the Environment Requires Government Protection: Some Simple Economics

by Daniel Farber | May 24, 2012
The The following is the second of two Dan Farber blog entries reposted today from LegalPlanet. The key to understanding the economics of environmental protection is the concept of externalities.  An externality is simply a cost that one person or firm imposes on another. In general, an externality means that an activity is causing more harm than it should. Of course, a company or individual could decide to voluntarily correct the problem to eliminate the externality.  But if the cost ...

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 ...

EPA's Proposed Chemicals of Concern List Under OIRA Review for Two Years: That Goose is Cooked

by Matt Shudtz | May 11, 2012
Two years ago tomorrow, Saturday, EPA sent a seemingly modest idea over to the White House for a quick review.  The agency wanted to establish a simple list of “chemicals of concern.”  These weren’t chemicals that were necessarily going to be subject to bans or other restrictions, but they present significant enough hazards and are distributed widely enough in the environment to raise some eyebrows among EPA’s toxics staff.  Among the chemicals that were being proposed for inclusion on the ...

New Executive Order Skewed Toward Placating Regulated Industries: Obama Administration Continues Retreat from Protection of Public Health, Worker and Consumer Safety, and the Environment

by Rena Steinzor | May 10, 2012
President Obama issued the latest salvo in the Administration's efforts to placate the business community this morning, in the form of a new Executive Order called “Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens.”   The Order would expand and enhance the unfunded mandate that would require agencies to scour through the rule books, finding “excessive” rules that would save regulated companies big money. As I have written elsewhere in this space, the latest example of such an effort would jeopardize food safety by ...

Administration's Decision to Throw Young Agricultural Workers Under the Bus Fails To Sway Some Critics

by Ben Somberg | May 09, 2012
When the Administration withdrew a rule last month prohibiting young agricultural workers from performing some particularly dangerous tasks, the Department of Labor’s statement didnt't just say it was tabling the proposal, or reconsidering it, or even starting over from scratch. It went an extra step, adding: “To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.” Given that farm accidents are a very real concern, it's hard to read such an unusually vocal commitment ...

The Pander Games: Big Ag, Hispanic Workers, and the Rush to Deregulate

by Rena Steinzor | May 08, 2012
Electoral politics or public policy? Policy or politics? One ripe example of how the White House rides herd on health and safety agencies, thinking about politics, not policy to determine what they should do, is provided by the latest poster child for curbing allegedly “excessive rules”: a U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal to take federal inspectors off the lines at poultry processing plants and substitute inspections by workers who would simultaneously cope with a speed-up on the line from 90 ...

40 Years Hasn't Taught Some Agencies Much About NEPA

by Holly Doremus | May 07, 2012
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. You would think that by now federal agencies would have the NEPA process pretty well down. After all, it’s been the law since 1970, requiring that every federal agency prepare an environmental impact statement before committing itself to environmentally harmful actions. And it’s not that hard to do. Agencies just have to describe the action, alternatives to it, and their effects on the environment relative to not taking the action. Pretty straightforward, really, but a new ...

Member Scholars Urge U.S. Trade Representative to Protect the Environment in Trade Agreements

by Chris Wold | May 04, 2012
In the nearly 20 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into force, the linkages between trade and environmental harm have become clearer than ever.  Trade agreements can lead to significant adverse environmental impacts, particularly when countries do not have sufficient environmental laws, policies, and institutions—and trade alone will not increase the demand for higher environmental standards.  Instead, free trade agreements (FTAs) may lead to significant increases in pollution and serious adverse impacts from certain economic sectors.  ...

White House Letter Focusing Debate on Regulatory Costs -- and Not Benefits -- Frustrated EPA Officials, Emails Reveal

by Rena Steinzor | May 03, 2012
By CPR President Rena Steinzor and Media Manager Ben Somberg Internal EPA emails obtained by CPR through a FOIA request reveal EPA officials’ frustration regarding the White House’s efforts to triangulate House Republicans’ ferocious attacks on regulations. A White House letter last year emphasizing regulatory costs but barely describing the lives saved and injuries avoided by strong protections angered environmental and public health advocates.  The newly released emails show that top EPA officials – who were not even consulted – ...

Executive Order Embraces International Regulatory Race to the Bottom as Official Administration Policy

by David Hunter | May 02, 2012
On one level, President Obama’s Executive Order issued Tuesday, “Promoting International Regulatory Cooperation,” seems benign enough.  After all, who would be against international cooperation and a desire to “reduce, eliminate or prevent unnecessary differences in regulatory requirements”?  Moreover, the Order on its face does little more than set out priorities and procedures for enhancing international regulatory cooperation. Unfortunately, this Order is a one-way regulatory ratchet that leads only to deregulatory changes in the United States that at best will provide ...

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