Steinzor BP Spill Op-Ed in Baltimore Sun: Learning and Acting Slowly

by Matthew Freeman | April 21, 2011

Right about this time a year ago, Americans were learning about a massive explosion aboard an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico called the Deepwater Horizon that had occurred the day before. Video footage of the flame-engulfed rig began splashing across television screens, and we were told that 11 workers on the rig were “missing.” (In fact, those workers had been killed.)

Also unclear or unrevealed was the extent of the environmental harm that was being done. In the day-after stories, BP and the federal government expressed the view that pollution was not much of a concern. Here’s what the New York Times article said,

Officials said the pollution was considered minimal so far because most of the oil and gas was being burned up in the fire. “But that does have the potential to change,” said David Rainey, the vice president in charge of the Gulf of Mexico exploration for BP, which is leasing the rig.

And change it did. The months-long ooze of crude oil from the well beneath Deepwater Horizon eventually came to be the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

We learned the facts about the BP oil spill slowly, as presumably did BP and the federal government. And according to an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun this morning by CPR President Rena Steinzor, we’re acting on the lessons of the disaster even more slowly. ...

Parsing the AEP v. Connecticut Argument: Did the Court Ask the Right Questions?

by Alice Kaswan | April 21, 2011
The Supreme Court arguments in American Electric Power Company v. Connecticut on Tuesday raised profound issues about the respective role of the courts and administrative agencies in controlling greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, emissions that remain uncontrolled notwithstanding their significant climate impacts. As my CPR colleague Doug Kysar has noted, at times the Court appeared reluctant to embrace industry’s political question and prudential standing arguments, arguments that would undermine the courts’ traditional common law powers. If the Court rejects these ...

American Electric Power v. Connecticut: The Good News

by Douglas Kysar | April 20, 2011
Cross-posted from ACSblog. In one of the most, er, hotly anticipated cases of its term, the Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in the climate change nuisance suit of Connecticut v. American Electric Power. From the beginning of this litigation, pundits have questioned the plaintiffs’ decision to seek injunctive relief gradually abating the defendants’ greenhouse gas emissions. To critics, this form of relief – as opposed to, say, monetary damages – seems to highlight the complex and value-laden aspects of climate ...

Mr. President, Finish These Rules: CPR Report Identifies 12 Key Environmental, Health, and Safety Initiatives Administration Must Complete

by Ben Somberg | April 20, 2011
So far as regulatory safeguards are concerned, we've come a long way in 27 months. The Obama Administration started with federal agencies that had been devastated by eight years of an explicitly anti-regulatory president. Turning that around is not easy, and no President could do it in a day. So, as much as you see a lot of criticism in this space, you also see praise, because we've seen this Administration make important progress. From new rules on lead paint ...

SBA Office of Advocacy Official Gives New Defense of Regulations Study: Data are on the Website (Somewhere)

by Ben Somberg | April 19, 2011
Claudia Rodgers, Deputy Chief Council for the Office of Advocacy at the U.S. Small Business Administration, testified earlier this month at a hearing conducted by a House Oversight and Government Reform sub-committee. The session ("Assessing The Impact of Greenhouse Gas Regulations on Small Business") was a sparsely attended affair on all sides of the room. But something important happened. Rep. Jackie Speier asked Rodgers a series of questions (at 1:03:30 in the video) about the Office of Advocacy’s oft-cited report ...

Six Myths About Climate Change and the Clean Air Act

by Amy Sinden | April 18, 2011
In politics, repeating something over and over again can sometimes make it stick, whether it's true or not. From Reagan’s welfare queens, to the specter of “socialized” medicine leading to imminent communist takeover, these sorts of myths often start on the far right but then move surprisingly far to the center. And as the EPA has begun to move forward with regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, we've seen one of these myths begin to take shape. This ...

Presidential Appointee at SBA Maligns OSHA's Industrial Noise Proposal; Claims Ear Plugs "Solve" the Problem

by Sidney Shapiro | April 15, 2011
Congress charged the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) with the job of representing the interests of small business before regulatory agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As an agency of the federal government, it has an obligation to taxpayers to get its facts straight before it speaks. Lately, it has ignored this basic obligation, most notably sponsoring a study that used flawed methodology to claim that regulations impose $1.75 trillion in costs every ...

Echeverria Testifies on Eminent Domain Bill

by Matthew Freeman | April 13, 2011
CPR Member Scholar John Echeverria was on Capitol Hill yesterday, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution. His topic was a proposed bill from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to impose federal limits on state and local use of eminent domain – the authority to condemn private property so that it can be used for public purposes. The subject became particularly controversial in 2005 when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Kelo vs. City of New London, ...

White House Transparency Doesn't Apply to Industry Meetings on Worker Safety Rules

by Celeste Monforton | April 13, 2011
Cross-posted from The Pump Handle. President Obama received an award last week for his efforts to improve openness in federal agencies. Jon Stewart poked fun at it (see clip) and I actually thought it might have been an April Fool's joke because of what I'd learned earlier in the week. The President's own Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has hosted two meetings with industry representatives who are opposed to an OSHA regulation on crystalline silica, but OIRA fails ...

Making Good Use of Adaptive Management

by Yee Huang | April 12, 2011
Today CPR releases Making Good Use of Adaptive Management, a white paper explaining the basic principles of adaptive management and highlighting best practices for implementing and applying it to natural resources management.  Over the last two decades, natural resource scientists, managers, and policymakers have employed adaptive management of land and natural resources. The approach calls for resource managers to design management actions as structured and iterative scientific experiments. Resource managers monitor the results of a particular experiment and then adjust future management ...

Vitter and Bishop Bills Aim to Weaken Enforcement of Existing Environmental Protections

by Dan Rohlf | April 08, 2011
A student-run environmental group operating out of a 150-square-foot office at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon has an important lesson to teach congressional Republicans. In 2004, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center – a small group with an annual budget of a few thousand dollars and a single staff member – secured more fines for violations of pollution control laws than the collective efforts of 110 enforcement personnel at the State of Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality. NEDC ...

GOP's Latest Anti-Regulatory Effort is a (S)TRAIN; CPR's Steinzor to Testify on New Bill

by Matthew Freeman | April 07, 2011
This afternoon at 1:00 p.m., the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power will check one more box in the House GOP's ongoing effort to demonstrate its appreciation to the corporate interests that helped elect them, by holding a hearing on a proposal disingenuously called the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act of 2011, or as they acronym-ize it, the TRAIN Act. As the name does not at all suggest, it’s a bill ...

SBA Defends Peer Review Process on Regs Study; ‘Offered the Study for Review’ to Experts Beyond the Two Who Actually Responded

by Ben Somberg | April 06, 2011
When the U.S. Small Business Administration issued a study last September claiming regulations cost the U.S. economy $1.75 Trillion in a single year, the agency trumpeted that the "report was peer reviewed consistent with the Office of Advocacy’s data quality guidelines." But the peer review file included with the study was embarrassingly meager -- comments from all of two individuals. The authors, economists Nicole Crain and Mark Crain, ignored a fundamental criticism raised by one of the two reviewers that ...

White House Review Delays EPA Mountaintop Removal Guidance

by Holly Doremus | April 05, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. EPA has announced that it will delay finalizing its guidance memorandum on Clean Water Act permitting for mountaintop removal mining projects pending review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The announcement is bad news for Appalachian streams, and worse news for environmental interests hoping the Obama administration won’t completely cave to regulated interests. The guidance was issued in interim form on April 1 of last year. EPA described the memorandum as clarifying how ...

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 ...

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 ...

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