The Age of Greed: Science Drowned by Politics

by Rena Steinzor | January 25, 2012

Last week, a reporter asked me, “How’s science doing these days?,” “Science” is an impossibly big category, of course, but the answer was easy: “Badly,” I said.

Exhibit number one is climate change. The frightening truth is that no fewer than 84 percent of scientists in this country surveyed by Pew say that the earth is warming because of human activity; 70 percent describe the problem as “very serious.” Although much is made of the supposed “dissenters” on the issue, no one with any educated familiarity with the subject doubts that the vast—and I mean virtually all—scientists with meaningful credentials to understand the subject agree that precipitous climate change is happening and that curbing human-generated carbon emissions must be done to avert disasters so grave we can barely imagine them. Human beings have a hard time making sacrifices today to avert problems that seem remote, but the public’s ambivalence on this subject is reinforced by a steady and effective public relations campaign by fossil fuel companies to make the science of climate change seem fraught with doubt.

I am not willing to argue here that if we could only get the scientific truth straight, we could gallop across the tundra and solve this problem. How to apportion responsibility for sharply decreasing emissions between the developed and developing world is a challenge that may be the toughest we have ever faced. Not only do we lack the policymaking framework for negotiating such changes, but ...

Three Chirps for Risk Reduction

by Catherine O'Neill | January 24, 2012
A new study underscores the wisdom of reducing the risks of mercury and other pollutants rather than relying on risk avoidance measures such as fish consumption advisories.  Mercury’s adverse effects are not limited to human health; its harms are felt throughout our ecosystems.  According to this most recent study, released today by the Biodiversity Research Institute, mercury harms a broader swath of wildlife than previously recognized, including many bird species that are not piscivorous.  This finding echoes those of studies ...

Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership

by John Knox | January 20, 2012
For more than a century, the United States took the lead in organizing responses to international environmental problems.  The long list of environmental agreements spearheaded by the United States extends from early treaties with Canada and Mexico on boundary waters and migratory birds to global agreements restricting trade in endangered species and protecting against ozone depletion.  In the last two decades, however, U.S. environmental leadership has faltered.  The best-known example is the lack of an effective response to climate change, ...

Waiting for the GHG New Source Performance Standards: A Good Start, But Will EPA's Power Plant Controls Make a Difference?

by Alice Kaswan | January 19, 2012
The Clean Air Act’s potential to address the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions is slowly being unveiled.  EPA’s expected announcement of highly-anticipated new source performance standards for power plants by the end of January will reveal whether the agency has the political will to use its existing authority to re-shape the United States’ dependence upon high-carbon power.  Section 111 of the Clean Air Act is a potentially potent tool. It arguably allows EPA to re-direct new investment away from heavily-polluting coal-fired ...

Jobs Council's Shortsighted Report Calls for Gumming up Public Protections

by Rena Steinzor | January 17, 2012
A panel of business leaders comprising President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness today published a “Road Map to Renewal,” including proposals for expanded oil and gas drilling, and, of particular interest, five pages of policy recommendations related to regulation. Among them were procedural proposals aimed at further hamstringing regulatory agencies in their effort to promulgate badly needed safeguards for health, safety, and the environment.  For example, the Council proposes: lengthening the regulatory process by adding in an additional public-comment ...

Where Does NOAA Belong?

by Holly Doremus | January 14, 2012
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Clearly I need to slow down Rick’s internet connection to get him to stop scooping me. Rick reported earlier that the President has floated a proposal to reorganize the Commerce Department and related agencies which would apparently include moving NOAA (all of NOAA, according to OMB’s Jeffrey Zeints, not just its ESA functions) into the Department of Interior. Actually, although that’s the way the story is being spun out in the media, it’s not exactly what’s going ...

Can You Stand to Hear More About Sackett?

by Holly Doremus | January 11, 2012
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. As usual, I’m behind Rick on commenting on the latest Supreme Court development. (In my defense, it is the first day of classes, although I know that’s not much of an excuse.) Unlike Rick, I didn’t attend the oral argument (see lame excuse above), but having read the transcript I agree with the general consensus that EPA is going to lose this case. However, I don’t agree with Rick’s conclusion that “the Sacketts will wind up ...

GAO Releases New Report on IRIS

by Matt Shudtz | January 10, 2012
On Monday, GAO released its latest installment in what has become a somewhat regular series of reports on EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program.  In 2008, GAO warned that “the IRIS database was at serious risk of becoming obsolete because the agency had not been able to keep its existing assessments current, decrease its ongoing assessments workload to a manageable level, or complete assessments of the most important chemicals of concern.”  Although IRIS didn’t get a clean bill of ...

The Age of Greed: Chemical Industry Fights to Suppress Dioxin Assessment

by Rena Steinzor | January 09, 2012
With a reverential nod to maverick economist Jeff Madrick, who wrote a popular book of the same name, I begin today a series of blog posts entitled “The Age of Greed” that is designed to shine a bright spotlight into the dark corners where Washington lobbyists are busy looting the protection of public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment.  Business-as-usual efforts to stall or derail regulation won’t make it into this space.  Rather, behavior has to be demonstrably ...

In Chevron versus Ecuador, the Decisions (and the Ironies) Multiply

by John Knox | January 09, 2012
If environmental cases had their own Olympics, the dispute between Chevron and Ecuador would be a contender for multiple gold medals.  It seems to have a shot not only at winning the award for the largest damages, but also for running the longest and appearing in the most courtrooms.  To recap:  Residents of the Amazon have been trying for nearly 20 years to receive compensation for massive environmental damage Chevron’s predecessor, Texaco, allegedly caused in Ecuador in what’s been called ...

In Sackett v. EPA, Troubling Potential for SCOTUS to Undermine Government's Ability to Promptly Respond to Environmental Threats

by Nina Mendelson | January 04, 2012
On January 9th, the Supreme Court will hear Sackett v. EPA, which concerns whether an individual has a right to a judicial hearing before, rather than after, an agency finalizes a so-called administrative compliance order.  The case has important potential to undermine the environmental protection, including the government’s ability to promptly respond to environmental threats such as factory outfalls leaking pollutants into rivers.  The lawsuit involves an Idaho couple, Chantell and Mike Sackett, with a .63 acre property overlooking Priest ...

CPR Announces New Executive Director: Jake Caldwell

by Rena Steinzor | January 03, 2012
It’s my great pleasure to announce that the Board of Directors of CPR has selected Jake Caldwell to serve as our new executive director. He succeeds Shana Jones, who earlier this year announced she would be leaving CPR to teach environmental policy at Old Dominion University.  Jake comes to CPR after six years at the Center for American Progress, where he was the Director of Policy for Agriculture, Trade and Energy. His research and writing in that capacity frequently focused ...

Looking in the Wrong Place: Senators Warner and Moran Join House GOP Seeking to Codify Cost-Benefit Analysis, an Erroneous Remedy for Anemic Economic Growth

by Sidney Shapiro | December 29, 2011
Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced a bill earlier this month that proposes to change regulatory and tax policies with the goal of encouraging more entrepreneurial activity and creating more jobs.  The legislation contains a grab-bag of proposals, such as allowing more aliens with professional expertise in stem cell research to become permanent residents and extending an income tax credit for certain small businesses.  I can’t speak to the merits of these and other proposals in the ...

American Chemistry Council Doesn't Get What it Wants in Omnibus; Pretends to EPA That it Does

by Ben Somberg | December 22, 2011
On Tuesday, the American Chemistry Council sent EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a letter about the provisions regarding IRIS toxic chemical assessments in the omnibus spending bill. The ACC said: H.R. 2055 also directs EPA to include documentation describing how the NAS Chapter 7 recommendations have been implemented or addressed in all IRIS assessments released in Fiscal Year 2012. The documentation is to include an explanation for why certain recommendations were not incorporated. Thus, it is incumbent on EPA to fully ...

Three Years After Tennessee Disaster, U.S. Effort to Prevent the Next Coal Ash Catastrophe Faces Uncertain Future

by Ben Somberg | December 22, 2011
Three years ago today, an earthen wall holding back a giant coal ash impoundment failed in Kingston, Tennessee, sending more than a billion gallons of coal ash slurry over nearby land and into the Emory River. The ash had chemicals including arsenic, lead, and mercury. Clean up costs could be as much as $1.2 billion. Public policy progress often comes in the wake of disasters. But three years after Kingston, it very much remains to be seen whether that disaster ...

The Utility MACT: Finally Telling Coal Plants They Can't Spew All the Mercury They Want

by Catherine O'Neill | December 21, 2011
It was October 1990, George H.W. Bush was President, and the vote wasn’t close in either chamber: Congress overwhelmingly passed the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, including provisions requiring EPA to reduce mercury emissions from major sources such as power plants. Today the EPA at long last released its rule regulating mercury emissions from coal-fired utilities.  The fact that the largest remaining sources of mercury will finally be required to reduce their emissions is an important and historic development. And ...

The Cost of Delay: Stormwater Rule Postponed Again

by Yee Huang | December 21, 2011
Whoever accused the EPA of running amok is surely chagrined by the news last week that the agency is behind (again) on another important rule, this one to regulate the stormwater that pollutes many waterbodies across the United States.  Nancy Stoner, EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, told a House Subcommittee last week that the agency would be missing another deadline for proposing the rule. "We're continuing to work on those …  We are behind schedule," she said, according to ...

GOP Provision in Omnibus Spending Bill Will Add Extra Review for IRIS Arsenic Assessment, Cause Delay

by Matt Shudtz | December 20, 2011
The environmental community breathed a small sigh of relief last week when congressional negotiators released a spending bill without policy riders that would have prevented EPA from advancing rules on greenhouse gases, endangered species, and coal ash.  One rider that was included will slow EPA’s efforts to assess toxic chemicals’ potential health effects under the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) process.  Although the rider was substantially revised from a version floated in the House in July, it will still delay ...

Deconstructing Regulatory Science

Wagner | Jun 19, 2018 | Regulatory Policy

Agency U-Turns

Farber | Jun 18, 2018 | Regulatory Policy

Laying Down the Law on Rule Delays

Heinzerling | Jun 14, 2018 | Regulatory Policy

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