Environmental Justice and Adaptation to Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | April 04, 2011

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

I’m beginning to wonder whether we need an “Endangered People Act” to ensure that the most vulnerable get the protection they need from climate change impacts. Climate change will disproportionately affect vulnerable individuals and poorer regions and countries, as I discuss in a recent paper comparing adaptation efforts in China, England, and the U.S.  For example, by the end of the century, the number of heat wave days in Los Angeles could double, while the number in Chicago could quadruple, with corresponding increases in deaths.  Elderly poor people are more vulnerable to heat stress; they are especially at risk when they are socially isolated. Another example is provided by coastal fishing communities around the world, such as Louisiana’s Cajuns, who will be swamped by rising sea levels.  Internationally, millions of inhabitants of river deltas like the Mekong are at high risk from climate change.

We can combat the insidious tendency to downplay the needs of vulnerable individuals and communities with a requirement that planners identify marginal or disempowered groups or communities and ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the lives, homes or livelihoods of those people if possible – and where not possible, that every step is taken to respect the rights of the affected individuals. The White House task force on climate adaptation has made a recommendation to prioritize the needs of vulnerable individual and communities, but it is ...

Right on the Commerce Clause, Wrong on the ESA

by Holly Doremus | April 01, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. As Rick noted earlier, the Ninth Circuit is now the fifth federal circuit court of appeals to reject a Commerce Clause challenge to the ESA. In San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority v. Salazar, a Ninth Circuit panel upheld protection of the Delta smelt. I agree with Rick’s analysis of the Commerce Clause holding, but wanted to make two additional points. First, while a petition for certiorari is almost inevitable, it’s unlikely to be granted. But ...

Key OSHA Health and Safety Initiative Potentially Delayed Months by OMB Nitpicking

by Sidney Shapiro | March 30, 2011
Last week, the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) approved a survey to be conducted for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as part of the agency's efforts to develop an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) standard. Surveys, like this one, have to be approved by OIRA according to the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the lengthy approval may stall development of the I2P2 standard for four or more months for no apparently good reason. OIRA made ...

Robert Glicksman Testifies at House Hearing on Agency Rulemaking Process

by Ben Somberg | March 29, 2011
CPR Member Scholar Robert Glicksman testifies at a hearing this afternoon on "Raising the Agencies' Grades – Protecting the Economy, Assuring Regulatory Quality and Improving Assessments of Regulatory Need." The hearing will be held by the Courts, Commercial and Administrate Law subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing will feature two witnesses from the Mercatus Center, who will argue that federal agencies produce flawed regulations, and need to engage in more rigorous regulatory analysis to provide better justifications of ...

EPA Punts on Cooling Water Rule; Despite Facts on the Ground, Decides Technology That Would Prevent Massive Fish Kills no Longer Feasible

by Amy Sinden | March 29, 2011
Around 6pm ET last night, after most reporters had wrapped up, EPA issued its long-awaited proposed cooling water rule. Under the Clean Water Act, this rule is supposed to protect the billions of fish and other aquatic organisms that are killed each day when they are squashed against intake screens or sucked up into cooling water systems at existing power plants and other industrial facilities. Unfortunately, the rule seems aimed more at protecting industry profits than fish. And in justifying the rule, EPA ...

Echoes of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in Today’s Debate over Regulation

by Matthew Freeman | March 25, 2011
One hundred years ago today, 146 people perished in one of the nation’s worst workplace tragedies – the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in the heart of New York City. The story is gruesome, and each detail of exactly how so many people were trapped in a burning building was, and remains, a reminder of what can happen when worker safety is sacrificed in the name of profit. Here’s the barest sketch. The Triangle Waist Factory in lower Manhattan relied on cheap, ...

As the VSL Turns...: In Value of a Statistical Life Debate at EPA, Moral Decisions Hide Behind Technical Jargon

by Douglas Kysar | March 24, 2011
A report yesterday from Inside EPA offered a fascinating overview of the agency’s struggle to update the way it assigns dollar values to the suffering and premature death that its regulations prevent. Seriously, as far as economic esoterica goes, this stuff is riveting. What’s more, your life may depend on it. Currently, EPA values each statistical human life saved by its rules at $7.9 million. This number is derived from so-called “wage-risk premium” studies that examine large data sets on employment and occupational ...

Energy Efficiency on the Rebound?

by Lesley McAllister | March 24, 2011
Cross-posted from Environmental Law Prof Blog. Energy efficiency policy is one of the few areas where we might still expect some progress at the federal level toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next few years.  Predictably, energy efficiency has become the target of criticism. Republican senators argue that phasing out inefficient incandescent light bulbs is anti-consumer even though it would save consumers money on their energy bills.  And in a New York Times article, John Tierney took aim at ...

Mintz Op-ed Looks at the Real Consequences of Proposed EPA Budget Cuts

by Ben Somberg | March 23, 2011
CPR Member Scholar Joel Mintz has an op-ed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel taking a look at the House's continuing resolution for the FY 2011 budget and what it would do to the EPA. Writes Mintz: House leaders would have us believe they're cutting fat from the budget. In fact, they're taking dead aim at nerves, muscles, and vital organs. EPA's existing regulations — and their enforcement — provide vital protections against emissions of toxic air and water pollutants, contamination ...

Does the Radiation from Japan Violate International Law When It Crosses International Boundaries?

by John Knox | March 22, 2011
Friday, the first traces of the plume of radioactive gas from the damaged Japanese reactors were reported to reach California. The cornerstone of international environmental law is often said to be the “prevention principle,” which says that states have “the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States.”  Does that mean that the transboundary radiation has put Japan in violation of international law?  In a word, No. Although the ...

Separating the Natural and Environmental Disasters in Japan

by Rebecca Bratspies | March 21, 2011
The twin natural disasters that struck Japan this month, earthquake and tsunami, left a trail of devastation in their path. Entire villages were lost. The death toll currently stands at more than 8,000 but is expected to rise much higher (more than 13,000 are missing). Even as survivors struggle for shelter, warmth and food, the natural disasters are being rapidly overshadowed by the unfolding nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The key difference is that the nuclear disaster didn’t ...

CAFOs, Circularity and Certainty in the CWA: Fifth Circuit's Decision in National Pork Producers Council v. EPA Raises Problems

by Robert Adler | March 18, 2011
A decision issued on March 15 by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated portions of EPA’s Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations, issued most recently in 2008, governing water pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations, or “CAFOs”. In National Pork Producers Council, et al. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Fifth Circuit panel vacated those portions of EPA’s rule that required CAFOs to apply for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits based ...

A Regulatory Czar in the Imperial Tradition: A Look at the Snowe-Coburn Small Business Regulatory Freedom Act

by Rena Steinzor | March 17, 2011
Who’s the most powerful person in the Executive Branch these days, other than the President, the Vice President, their chiefs of staff, and—on any given day—the Secretaries of Defense or State?   If odd Senate bedfellows Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) have their way, the new, genuinely imperial regulatory czar will be one Dr. Winslow Sargeant, chief counsel for advocacy for the Small Business Administration (SBA). Under a plan these two have concocted (and are even trying to include as ...

Thousands of Babies Clapping: Lisa Jackson Brings Mercury Home

by Rena Steinzor | March 16, 2011
My bet is that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will do a little victory dance in her office before going home this evening. She’s earned it. After 20 years of false starts, EPA is issuing today the first proposed rule to control poisonous mercury emissions from power plants. They’re doing it despite a concerted blast of coal company and electric utility lobbying at the upper levels of the White House. Jackson’s achievement is testimony to her exemplary leadership of EPA in ...

As House Agriculture Committee Takes on the Chesapeake Bay Restoration, EPA Has the Law on Its Side

by Rena Steinzor | March 16, 2011
This morning a House Agriculture subcommittee will hold a hearing to "review the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, agricultural conservation practices, and their implications on national watersheds." Observers should be prepared for a trip to an alternate world. The Chesapeake Bay has suffered for decades now because of nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment pollution. Once-abundant fish, blue crab, and oyster populations plummeted, and local economies built around them have paid the price. Repeated state pledges to reduce the pollution and restore the Bay ...

Costs of Inaction: Popular Climate Econ Model Needs Major Overhaul

by Frank Ackerman | March 15, 2011
Cross-posted from Real Climate Economics. True or false: Risks of a climate catastrophe can be ignored, even as temperatures rise? The economic impact of climate change is no greater than the increased cost of air conditioning in a warmer future? The ideal temperature for agriculture could be 17 degrees C above historical levels? All true, according to the increasingly popular FUND model of climate economics. It is one of three models used by the federal government’s Interagency Working Group to ...

The Chamber Rides Again: Crazy Costs, Mythical Benefits

by Rena Steinzor | March 11, 2011
Not to be outdone by the Small Business Administration’s aptly named Office of Advocacy, the Chamber of Commerce has issued its own breathless report on how many jobs we could save if we did away with environmental, land use, and utility regulations. Crunching a bunch of dubious numbers, the SBA Office of Advocacy’s consultants, Nicole and Mark Crain, claim that regulations cost $1.75 trillion a year, a number several of my CPR colleagues thoroughly debunked in a report issued in ...

In Coming Utility MACT, EPA Has Clean Air Act Authority to Make Big Strides in Protecting Americans from Mercury Pollution

by Catherine O'Neill | March 11, 2011
By Wednesday of next week, EPA is due to publish its long-anticipated rule controlling mercury emissions from coal-fired utilities.  This is how we ought to judge the rule: does it follow the mandate of the Clean Air Act (CAA)? For too long, utilities have managed by various means to fend off regulation required by the CAA. Assuming EPA’s rule at long last complies with Congress’s directives, Americans may look forward to a day when they can again eat fish without serving their families ...

The Center for Progressive Reform

455 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150-513
Washington, DC 20001
info@progressivereform.org
202.747.0698

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2015