Mercury, MetLife, and Mountaintop Removal

by Lisa Heinzerling | April 14, 2016

How Justice Scalia's Last Canon Is Unhinging Statutory Interpretation

Justice Antonin Scalia was, as much as anything else, known for insisting that the text of a statute alone – not its purposes, not its legislative history – should serve as the basis for the courts' interpretation of the statute. Justice Scalia promoted canons of statutory construction – or at least what he deemed the valid ones – as a way of limiting the power of judges by setting rules for their interpretation of statutes. Yet he also warned, in a 1997 book, against "presumptions and rules of construction that load the dice for or against a particular result." He worried that such "dice-loading" rules might effect "a sheer judicial power-grab." 

It is striking, therefore, that in one of his last majority opinions for the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia went out of his way to create such an interpretive rule. Writing for a 5-4 majority in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), he found that EPA had erred in declining to consider costs in determining that regulation of hazardous air pollutants – such as mercury – from power plants was "appropriate and necessary" under section 112 of the Clean Air Act. 

Justice Scalia's reasoning went beyond the statutory provision and agency regulation at hand and suggested that agencies' purportedly general practice of considering costs in deciding whether to regulate had made the interpretive ...

New Paper: Best Practices for Protecting, Empowering Vulnerable Communities in Face of Climate Change

by Brian Gumm | April 13, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: New Paper Showcases Best Practices for Protecting, Empowering Vulnerable Gulf Coast Communities in the Face of Climate Change Most Americans understand the importance of curbing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent a climate catastrophe in the future. But many communities are already feeling the effects of our warming planet. Impacts on the Gulf Coast are particularly challenging. In a new paper released today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) highlights recommendations and best practices for protecting and empowering vulnerable communities ...

Porter Ranch Gas Leak Mitigation Program Shows Hints of EPA NextGen Strategies

by Evan Isaacson | April 11, 2016
Last month, the California Air Resources Board released a draft Aliso Canyon Methane Leak Climate Impacts Mitigation Program. The program comes in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s January 6 proclamation that Southern California Gas be held responsible for mitigating the estimated 100,000 tons of methane released from the gas storage facility at Porter Ranch, which leaked the equivalent of about one-fifth of all other California sources of the powerful greenhouse gas combined over that same period. While this high-profile case ...

No Benefits Allowed? Mercatus Study on Federal Regulation and the States

by James Goodwin | April 08, 2016
Over the last few years, deregulatory advocates have pursued a well-trodden path for advancing their anti-safeguard agenda: Publish a large, glossy "study," replete with impressive mathiness, that purports to measure the impacts of regulation but in fact provides a highly skewed portrayal by consciously ignoring the many benefits that regulations provide. (For example, see here, here, and here.) Last week, the libertarian Mercatus Center did the latest trodding when it released a study that ranked all 50 states (and the ...

Steinzor in The New York Times: Judgment Day for Reckless Executives

by Brian Gumm | April 08, 2016
On April 6, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to one year in jail and a $250,000 fine for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. The mine exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010.  In an April 7 New York Times op-ed, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, ...

Unnatural Disasters and Environmental Injustice

by Christine Klein | April 07, 2016
Originally published on OUPblog by CPR Member Scholars Christine A. Klein and Sandra B. Zellmer. The recent tragedy involving toxic, lead-laced tap water in Flint, Michigan highlights the growing gulf between rich and poor, and majority and minority communities. In an ill-fated measure to save costs for the struggling city of Flint, officials stopped using Detroit's water supply system and switched to the Flint River. Although residents complained about the water's foul taste, odor, and color, officials assured them that the water ...

Beware of BPA: New Report Finds Toxic Substance Widespread in Canned Foods

by Mollie Rosenzweig | April 06, 2016
Consumers, take note: Last week, Clean Production Action published a troubling new report, Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes found in the linings of canned food, on the presence of toxic bisphenol-A (BPA) in canned foods. The report, co-written by Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Ecology Center, and Mind the Store Campaign, found BPA in the lining of the majority of canned foods sold by major retailers across the United States and Canada. As the Center for ...

Steinzor Reacts to Blankenship Sentencing

by Rena Steinzor | April 06, 2016
Today, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. Upper Big Branch exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010. CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, issued the following statement: "Although Mr. Blankenship won't spend much time in jail, an outcome determined by a ...

The Next Justice and the Fate of the Clean Water Act

by Daniel Farber | April 05, 2016
Every once in a while, we get reminded of just how much damage the conservative Justices could wreak on environmental law. Last week, Justice Kennedy created shock waves with a casual comment during oral argument. In a case that seemed to involve only a technical issue about administrative procedure, he dropped the suggestion that the Clean Water Act just might be unconstitutionally vague. It didn't seem to faze him that such a ruling would wipe out a statute that has been on ...

Legal Experts: Supreme Court Decision on Mercury Pollution Could Undercut Chemical Reform

by Thomas Cluderay | March 31, 2016
Originally published on EnviroBlog by Thomas Cluderay, general counsel, and Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney, for the Environmental Working Group. You might think you can’t put a price on protecting public health and the environment. But you’d be wrong – especially if we’re talking about the nation's broken and outdated chemicals law, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA. We’ve written a lot about how the House and Senate are working to amend this defective law (here, here and here) through negotiations ...

Steinzor, Panel to Explore What Next Administration Will Mean for Public Protections

by Brian Gumm | March 31, 2016
When it comes to public health, the environment, and social justice, Americans are facing a host of challenges that call out for comprehensive, national solutions. Whether it's climate change, threats to water resources like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, or serious injuries and deaths in the workplace, how we respond as a nation has direct impacts on our everyday lives. Strong standards and effective enforcement of our laws and regulations are key to protecting our health and environment, ...

Center for Progressive Reform Welcomes New Communications Director

by Matthew Freeman | March 29, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: CPR Welcomes New Communications Director Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) announced that Brian Gumm has joined the organization as its communications director. Gumm will serve alongside the group’s staff and Member Scholars in their efforts to protect our health, safety, and environment. “I’m excited to welcome Brian Gumm to our team,” said Matthew Shudtz, executive director of CPR. “CPR’s network of legal experts has incredible insights into the heated national conversations about environmental health, climate change, ...

Green Patches Deep in the Heart of Texas

by Daniel Farber | March 28, 2016
The Texas AG’s office seems to do little else besides battle against EPA, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in the vanguard of anti-environmentalism. Yet even in Texas there are some rays of hope. While Texas is attacking the Clean Power Plan, the city of Houston is leading a coalition of cities defending it. Other cities are taking action for non-environmental reasons. The city of Georgetown, Texas, for instance, has announced plans to become 100 percent renewable. Lest there be any misunderstanding, the ...

Ensuring Accountability and Public Participation in Stormwater Permitting

by Katrina Miller | March 25, 2016
As spring rains approach, the need for more stringent stormwater controls comes into sharper focus. Rain is a life-giver, of course, but in our ever more paved environment, it’s also a conveyance for water pollution. Stormwater runoff in urban areas travels across rooftops, roads, sidewalks and eventually into a municipal storm sewer system, all the while accumulating a cocktail of various pollutants that includes oil residue from roads, pesticides and excess fertilizer from lawns and farms, and more. These pollutants ...

OSHA's New Silica Rule: CPR's Matt Shudtz Reacts

by Matt Shudtz | March 24, 2016
Decades in the making, OSHA’s new silica rule will better protect millions of workers from a highly toxic, cancer-causing substance that has killed thousands while the rule slowly worked its way through the regulatory gauntlet, administration after administration. Today, in quarries, foundries, building sites, and kitchen rehab jobs across the country, workers can look forward to breathing cleaner air. But today’s announcement is far from the end of the story. Next comes the inevitable litigation. Following their tired playbook, special ...

When On-the-Job Deaths & Injuries Warrant Prosecution

by Matthew Freeman | March 24, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: New Manual Helps Workplace-Safety Activists Push for Criminal Charges in On-the-Job Tragedies Washington, DC ----- Every year, thousands of workers across the United States are killed on the job — 4,679 in 2014 alone. Thousands more are seriously injured. Many of these deaths and injuries are entirely preventable when employers put in place basic safety measures. Some even result from company policies and practices that encourage and reward behavior that creates unacceptably risky conditions. Ignoring workplace safety requirements is against the ...

Cuba Libre: The Link Between Freedom and Environmental Health

by Robert Verchick | March 23, 2016
Earlier this week in Havana’s Gran Teatro, President Obama urged Cubans in this new century to keep their eyes on the prize of “sustainable prosperity.” His remarks focused on the foundational role of political freedom, but not before underlining the importance of environmental protection too. That’s no surprise. Economic growth in Cuba will depend heavily on the natural systems that keep the island’s 11 million people fed, sheltered, and buffered from storms. Indeed, the U.S. State Department’s negotiations with Cuba ...

USDA Official Throws OSHA Under the Bus

by Matt Shudtz | March 22, 2016
Partisan efforts in Congress to roll back health and safety rules are common fodder on this blog. But last week, we saw a new twist, with a high-level Obama Administration official giving cover to a right-wing attempt to weaken protections for hundreds of thousands of workers in the poultry industry. The workers in question are at the center of the highly industrialized process of turning live chickens into shrink-wrapped skinless parts. That puts them at a critical juncture in the ...

Reflections on Workers' Memorial Day

Shudtz | Apr 28, 2016 | Workers' Rights

Genetically Modified Mushroom Moves Forward with No Oversight

Rosenzweig | Apr 22, 2016 | Food, Drug, Product Safety

Saving Endangered Species Requires a Systemic, Nationwide Approach

Glicksman | Apr 21, 2016 | Environmental Policy

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