Sore Losers: Two House Subcommittee Chairs Want to Discount the Lives of Seniors in Last-Ditch Effort to Downplay Benefits of Clean Air Regulation

by Amy Sinden | November 17, 2011

Remember that kid on the playground who always insisted on changing the rules of the game and then still threw a tantrum when he lost? That’s just the kind of spoiled-brat behavior we’re seeing from the coal industry and its elected agents on Capitol Hill this week. Coal and other polluting industries have spent decades complaining about the federal laws that protect public health and the environment, arguing that we should change the rules by which they operate, forcing agencies to perform complicated cost-benefit analyses before they can impose limits on polluters.  They’ve always figured (and mostly they’re right) that cost-benefit analysis would result in less stringent regulation, because the benefits of protecting public health and the environment are so difficult to quantify and monetize that agencies will end up undercounting them in comparison to costs. 

Imagine their disappointment, then, when Lisa Jackson starts playing by their rules . . . and winning!   It turns out, that for at least one type of air pollution – particulate matter – we do have some half-decent public health data.   It’s undoubtedly still incomplete, only accounting for a portion of the various ways that soot and other fine particles in the air mess with our bodies, but the data are enough to show that particulate matter pollution is causing an enormous amount of damage to our health – and that cleaning it up will produce huge benefits.   These numbers are so big that they outweigh ...

Fifth Circuit Mulls Katrina Flood Ruling

by Robert Verchick | November 15, 2011
    Today’s question: When are flood waters not “flood waters”? We New Orleanians have become fluent in all things subaqueous; last week three Texans sitting on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals took their turn. Yes, we’re talking about Katrina. Or, more specifically, its flood waters, which busted federal levees in fifty places, swamped 80% of New Orleans, and caused 800 deaths in the urban area. It is beyond argument that federal malfeasance played a key role. But sovereign immunity ...

TransCanada Says Nebraska Bill on Pipeline Rerouting Is Unconstitutional. Here's Why They're Wrong.

by Sandra Zellmer | November 14, 2011
The Nebraska Legislature is in a special session currently to consider five bills concerning the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The situation was shaken up by Thursday’s announcement from the Obama Administration that it was pushing back its decision on federal approval of the pipeline. This news may take away some urgency for the Nebraska Legislature, but considering that no options (including the original proposed route) have been taken off the table, the bills remain firmly relevant. Nebraska—and any other states ...

What's New in Climate Economics

by Frank Ackerman | November 09, 2011
Cross-posted from Real Climate Economics. Economic analysis has become increasingly central to the climate policy debate, but the models and assumptions of climate economics often lag far behind the latest developments in this fast-moving field. That’s why Elizabeth Stanton and I have written Climate Economics: The State of the Art, an in-depth review of new developments in climate economics and science since the Stern Review (2006) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report (2007), with more than ...

How the Tenth Circuit Upheld the Clinton-era Roadless Rule

by Holly Doremus | November 08, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. You wouldn’t think courts would still be deciding, late in 2011, whether actions taken by the Clinton Administration were lawful. But they are. Late last month, the Tenth Circuit upheld the Roadless Rule for national forests issued at the very end of the Clinton presidency. The Roadless Rule, which largely prohibited road construction and timber harvest in inventoried roadless areas, has been the subject of a game of judicial and executive ping-pong. Wyoming challenged the rule, ...

National Meat Association v. Harris: More Preemption in the Supreme Court

by Bill Funk | November 04, 2011
On November 9th the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in National Meat Association v. Harris, wading once again into the mire of federal preemption. The National Meat case involves a California statute that prohibits the slaughter of non-ambulatory animals for human consumption and requires that non-ambulatory animals be immediately and humanely euthanized. A federal law, the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), thoroughly regulates, although one could question how strictly, the process of slaughtering animals for human consumption. It also contains an express ...

Lisa Jackson at Berkeley Law

by Holly Doremus | November 04, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Yesterday, Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment hosted a public presentation by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. She delivered brief prepared remarks, then took a lot of questions. She didn’t announce any new policy initiatives, but she did make it clear that she (and the President) are not going to cave to pressure from Republicans in the House. Jackson did seem glad to be well outside the Beltway for a while, and who can ...

Still Thought We Wouldn't Notice: Blanche Lincoln Cites Debunked SBA Study Again, Highlighting Different Statistic

by Ben Somberg | November 01, 2011
If I didn’t know better, I’d think Blanche Lincoln was trying to fool us. The former Senator currently heads the National Federation of Independent Business’s anti-regulatory campaign, and is in DC today to push for a freeze on new regulations. For her accompanying op-ed in Politico, how would she make the case that regulations are a huge problem? Back in August, Lincoln wrote that regulations cost the U.S. economy $1.75 trillion a year, according to a report commissioned by the ...

Newest Research on Effects of Mercury Underscores Importance of Utility MACT

by Catherine O'Neill | October 28, 2011
As EPA’s long-awaited rule curbing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants heads to OMB for its review, new scientific studies suggest that the harms of mercury contamination may be more severe and more widespread than previously understood. According to the report Great Lakes Mercury Connections: The Extent and Effects of Mercury Pollution in the Great Lakes Region, released October 11, “the scope and intensity of the problem is greater than had been previously recognized.”  Despite these harms, utilities have been relentless in ...

Rep. Ralph Hall's Clean Energy Standard Is Unrealistically Harsh And Unsophisticated

by Frank Ackerman | October 27, 2011
Cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) has asked the Energy Information Administration to evaluate an unrealistically harsh and unsophisticated clean energy standard, designed to represent the Republicans’ worst nightmare: every electricity retailer in the country (some of them quite small) must meet a relatively high and rising standard for low-carbon energy, starting very soon, with no trading between companies, banking of excess credits, or other flexibility mechanisms that would soften the blow. Even the Republican nightmare doesn’t look ...

If Cost-Benefit Analysis is Good, Is More Cost-Benefit Analysis Always Better?

by Daniel Farber | October 26, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Of course, not everyone agrees that CBA is good in the first place.  It remains anathema to many environmentalists.  My own view is that it can be a useful tool so long as its limitations are clearly understood. But just because something is good doesn’t mean that more is better.  My grandmother’s view was that if a recipe called for two eggs and one tablespoon of butter, four eggs and two tablespoons would produce an even ...

Sidney Shapiro Testifying at House Judiciary Hearing on Regulatory Accountability Act

by Ben Somberg | October 25, 2011
If you were an industry lobbyist working to block new health and safety protections, what would make your job easier? How about if the law said that you could flood an agency with alternate regulatory proposals, and the agency wouldn’t just need to consider each one, but in fact conduct a full cost-benefit analysis on them all? That would probably be an effective way to tie up the agency quite nicely, and block it from getting its work of protecting ...

New CPR Briefing Paper: Maryland Should Update Laws to Better Enforce Environmental Protections

by Yee Huang | October 21, 2011
Maryland has a long-held reputation as a regional and national leader in environmental protection. But in some areas, especially enforcement, that reputation warrants scrutiny, says a CPR briefing paper released today. For example, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) cannot by law assess fees for issuing and administering permits for municipalities for water pollution, despite the many resources required to regulate and monitor the pollution. The state’s penalties for violating the Clean Water Act have remained chronically below the level ...

CPR to Co-Host Forum on Chesapeake Bay Restoration Accountability

by Yee Huang | October 20, 2011
It’s no secret that past efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay have suffered from a lack of accountability. And so as the EPA, the Chesapeake Bay states, and the District of Columbia engage in their current effort to restore the health and water quality of the Bay, getting accountability right is extremely important. This theme is the focus of this year’s Ward Kershaw Forum, which CPR and the UMaryland Carey School of Law will co-host at the law school in ...

Too Big to Rein in, BP Continues Galloping Along, Unbridled and Unrepentant

by Rena Steinzor | October 19, 2011
In perhaps the most profoundly embarrassing development yet for the U.S. government’s star-crossed efforts to police offshore drilling, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement announced last week that it was asking BP, Transocean, and Halliburton to pay a total of up to $45.7 million in fines for 15 violations arising out of the catastrophic failure of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s million, not billion, by the way, and a total for all three companies, ...

Executive Order 13,563: Not Just Costs, Not Just Benefits, But Cumulative Costs and Benefits

by Rena Steinzor | October 18, 2011
Proving the old adage that you must be careful what you wish for, conservative officials in 25 states have done their best to hoist the Obama Administration on its own petard by running off to court to oppose the EPA rule that would curb toxic emissions from power plants. They argue, among other things, that the agency had not itemized the “cumulative” costs of this and all other electric-utility-oriented regulations under Executive Order 13,563 and needed at least another year to ...

House Votes to Give Coal Ash Dumps a Free Pass; President Stops Short of Veto Threat

by Rena Steinzor | October 17, 2011
The residents of Kingston, Tennessee had no inkling that the Christmas of 2008 would be any different than another year. In the wee morning hours three days before the holiday, an earthen dam holding back a 40-acre surface impoundment at a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) power plant burst, releasing 1 billion gallons of inky coal ash sludge across Kingston, Tennessee. The sludge flood crossed a river, destroying 26 houses. One had a man inside, and was lifted off its foundation and ...

Beware of Plastics Manufacturers Bearing Gifts of BPA Bans

by Rena Steinzor | October 14, 2011
This post was co-authored by CPR President Rena Steinzor and CPR Policy Analyst Aimee Simpson. In what at first glance seemed to be a startlingly uncharacteristic move, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to update and strengthen its food additive regulation that sets out the approved uses for polycarbonate resins.   For those who don’t speak plastic, “polycarbonate resin” refers to plastic that contains bisphenol-A or “BPA”—an endocrine-disrupting chemical with significant health risks, especially for babies. Polycarbonate ...

'National Security' Coal Bailout Collapses

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