U.S. House Targets Early Government Efforts to Help Citizens Prepare for and Cope With Effects of Climate Change

by Robert Verchick | June 22, 2011

Imagine you are building a beach house somewhere on the Gulf Coast and that I had some information about future high tides that would help you build a smarter structure, avoid flood damage, and save money in the long-run. Would you want that information?

Not if you follow the reasoning of Representatives Steve Scalise of Louisiana or John Carter of Texas. Both are concerned about the Obama administration’s recent efforts to make federal programs stronger and more resilient in the face of climate change. Scalise sponsored an amendment (H.AMDT. 467 to H.R. 2112) that prevents the Department of Agriculture (USDA) from pursuing its plan to assess climate vulnerabilities in its programs. Carter did the same (H.AMDT. 378 to H.R. 2017) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). And this month the Republican-led House of Representatives, with little fanfare, passed both initiatives (Scalise roll call, Carter roll call). I doubt either proposal will move past the Senate, but these efforts show how far some in the Republican Party have drifted from the geographic realities of their own states. And they underline the point that in the next election cycle Republicans seem likely to oppose any initiative whatsoever intended to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions or help with adapting to a changed world.

Forgive me for saying so, but our climate is changing. In the last 50 years, the ambient temperature in the United States has risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Overall precipitation ...

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the AEP v. CT Opinion

by Ben Somberg | June 21, 2011
CPR Member Scholar Doug Kysar has a post over at Nature with more analysis on the Supreme Court's ruling this week in the American Electric Power v. Connecticut case. Writes Kysar: The court went out of its way to emphasize that federal common-law actions would be barred, even if the EPA decides not to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. In other words, the fact that the agency has authority under the Clean Air Act — even if it chooses not to exercise ...

Keep Government's Hands Off Our Food? Next Time You Read about an Outbreak of Salmonella or E. coli, Thank Jack Kingston (R-GA)

by Rena Steinzor | June 21, 2011
Manic House Republicans voted last Thursday to de-fund the implementation of a landmark law, passed just a few months ago, to strengthen Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority to police tainted food. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), chairman of the House subcommittee that wrote the agriculture appropriations bill, announced on the House floor that the cuts were justified because the nation's food supply was “99.99 percent safe.”  “Do we believe that McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken and Safeway and Kraft Food and ...

Supreme Court Ruling in The American Electric Power Case

by Daniel Farber | June 20, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. The Supreme Court decided the AEP case.  The jurisdictional issues (standing and the political question doctrine) got punted.  The Court said that the lower court rulings were affirmed by an equally divided court.  So far as I know, this is the first time that the Court has ever done that and then proceeded to a ruling on the merits.  (It would seem more appropriate to dismiss cert. as improvidently granted rather than issue an opinion on ...

Chamber of Commerce Gets the Law Wrong in its Argument to the White House Against Listing BPA as a Chemical of Concern

by Matthew Freeman | June 20, 2011
As part of its ongoing campaign to derail health, safety, and environmental regulations that it regards as inconvenient to industry, the Chamber of Commerce sent a letter earlier this month to Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the White Hosue Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, calling on him to push the EPA to suspend an initiative to list BPA and several other substances as "Chemicals of Concern." Today three Member Scholars of the Center for Progressive Reform sent a letter to ...

Administration Pandering to Anti-Regulatory Business Leaders Gets Cold Shoulder

by Matthew Freeman | June 17, 2011
The Washington Post reports today on the White House’s latest failed effort to extract political gain from the President’s misguided “regulatory look-back,” led with disturbing enthusiasm by Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The story tells us a lot about the thinking of the man who controls access to the President, and also lays bare a failing of the way the media covers regulatory issues. According to the Post, White House chief of ...

Climate Change Meets the Little Mermaid

by Robert Verchick | June 12, 2011
Copenhagen—Denmark’s famed "Little Harbor Lady," or in English, "Little Mermaid," has had her share of antics and perils. She’s been photographed by millions in Copenhagen’s harbor, carted off and shown at the 2010 World Fair in Shanghai, beheaded (several times), dynamited, splashed with pink paint, and enveloped in a Burqua. An environmental nerd for all occasions, I look at her longing face and wonder, How long before the rising sea swallows her up? Bolted to that rock in the sea, ...

New CPR Report Proposes Strategies for Climate Change Adaptation in the Puget Sound

by Yee Huang | June 10, 2011
The scope of climate change impacts is expected to be extraordinary, touching every ecosystem on the planet and affecting human interactions with the natural and built environment. From increased surface and water temperatures to sea level rise and more frequent extreme weather events, climate change promises vast and profound alterations to our world. Indeed, scientists predict continued climate change impacts regardless of any present or future mitigation efforts due to the long-lived nature of greenhouse gases emitted over the last century.  The ...

EPA Pulls Back the Curtain on More CBI Claims Regarding Toxic Chemicals' Safety

by Matt Shudtz | June 09, 2011
EPA announced Wednesday that staff from the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention are making good on a promise to give the public increased access to health and safety studies about the toxic chemicals that pervade our lives. I applaud EPA for their work. Until Congress reforms TSCA to free EPA’s hand in regulating toxic chemicals, we have to rely too much on an imperfect alternative system, where public interest groups use publicly available data to inform the public about risks ...

Pawlenty Attacks Government 'Bureaucrats' For Shower Efficiency Requirements Enacted by Congress, Signed by George H.W. Bush

by Ben Somberg | June 07, 2011
How easy it is to make fun of those out-of-control, unelected government bureaucrats! The examples of their wild behavior are just so plentiful. Here's Tim Pawlenty in his big economic speech this morning (prepared remarks, video): Conservatives have long made the federal bureaucracy the butt of jokes. And considering some of the bureaucrats in Washington, and what they're actually in charge of doing -- like the strength of our showerheads, the vigor of our toilet flushes, or the glow of ...

Notes from the 2nd World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change

by Robert Verchick | June 05, 2011
Bonn--At a climate conference in Germany, with lager in hand, I was prepared to ponder nearly any environmental insult or failure. But rat pee? Really?  The urine of rats, as it turns out, is known to transmit the leptospirosis bacteria which can lead to high fever, bad headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. During summer rainstorms in São Paulo, Brazil, floodwaters send torrents of sewage, garbage, and animal waste through miles of hillside slums and shanties. Outbreaks of leptospirosis often follow the floods. And in ...

Sunstein Denounces SBA's 'Deeply Flawed' Study of Regulatory Costs

by James Goodwin | June 03, 2011
In testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in mid-April, Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), was asked to comment on a much-disputed $1.75 trillion estimate of the annual cost of federal regulations. The number comes from a report commissioned by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, often referred to as the Crain and Crain report, for its authors. The $1.75 trillion estimate is grossly at odds with ...

Score: Utah 2, BLM Wilderness Protection 0

by Dan Rohlf | June 03, 2011
Few things in politics are certain, but it’s a safe bet that Barak Obama will not carry the state of Utah in his 2012 re-election bid. But despite its dismal electoral prospects in the state, the Obama Administration knuckled under to pressure from Utah and other western Republicans this week when Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar did an about-face on the Bureau of Land Management’s “Wild Lands” policy. The policy, announced by the Secretary less than six months ago, allowed ...

A Teachable Moment for the Obama Administration: Sunstein Should Address Wild Estimates on Regulatory Costs, Challenge Regulatory Critics on Misleading Study on the Cost of Regulation

by Sidney Shapiro | June 02, 2011
The Obama administration has been busy with its regulatory look-back, which required agencies to identify health, safety, and environmental standards to be reviewed in the coming months, with the possibility of eliminating or modifying them (in some cases, the specific proposal for modification or elimination was already made last week).   In explaining why the look-back is necessary, the administration sounds too much like the Chamber of Commerce or other anti-regulatory critics and not enough like candidate Obama, who once unapologetically ...

New CPR White Paper Tackles Industry Myths About BPA

by Lena Pons | June 02, 2011
For the last two decades, scientists have amassed evidence that bisphenol A (BPA) poses a threat to human health. BPA is a chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic, can liners for food and beverages, and thermal paper used for register receipts. It is used in so many applications that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found traces of BPA in 93 percent of people it tested. Although scientists have targeted BPA as a public health concern, plastics ...

The Endangerment Litigation

by Daniel Farber | June 01, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. I’ve just spent some time reading the initial briefs in the D.C. Circuit on the endangerment issue.  They strike me as much more political documents than legal ones. A brief recap for those who haven’t been following the legal side of the climate issue.  After the Bush Administration decided not to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, the Supreme Court held that greenhouse gases would be covered if they met the statutory requirement of ...

OSHA Releases Self-Evaluation of its Role in Federal Response to BP Oil Spill

by Matt Shudtz | May 31, 2011
OSHA published a report (pdf) last week on its role in the federal government’s response to last year’s massive oil spill. Within days of the blowout aboard the Deepwater Horizon, OSHA officials were in Louisiana, working to ensure that the people involved in the response and cleanup had adequate protection from the myriad hazards they would face. The new report is mainly a list of accomplishments, not an introspective “lessons learned” self-evaluation that could have paved the way for policy changes that ...

The New BOEMRE-NOAA MOU: A Good Start, But More is Needed

by Holly Doremus | May 27, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. I was excited to read this story in the LA Times, saying that BOEMRE and NOAA had reached an agreement that would give NOAA more say in decisions to approve offshore drilling. (Draw whatever conclusions you like about what my geeky excitement says about how boring my life must be.) This agreement is certainly needed, as the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Commission has noted, and as I’ve written in this paper forthcoming in Boston College’s Environmental ...

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