Doremus in LAT: Administration's Response to BP Oil Spill Needs to Go Beyond Splitting MMS

by Ben Somberg | May 20, 2010

CPR Member Scholar Holly Doremus and fellow UC Berkeley School of Law Professor Eric Biber have penned an op-ed in today's LA Times arguing that the Administration's plan to split the Minerals Management Service in two in response to the BP oil spill disaster falls short of what's needed.

Write Doremus and Biber:

The political pressure to prioritize rapid development over safety won't evaporate if the MMS is split. The new safety agency would still be under the supervision of the Department of Interior, where it would have to compete with its bureaucratic sibling. Environmental and safety interests have been losing that competition for years. Giving them a new name and logo won't automatically change that outcome.

Second, environmental protection is not just a matter of enforcing a clear set of regulations as wells are being drilled or operated. The key environmental questions come much earlier, when the MMS decides where to offer leases, sells those leases and ...

New CPR White Paper Critiques Supreme Court’s Heightened Pleading Standard for Getting Complaints into Federal Court

by Sidney Shapiro | May 19, 2010
Cross-posted from ACSblog. The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) today released a white paper examining "plausibility pleading"-the Supreme Court's heightened pleading standard that plaintiffs must satisfy in order to bring their claims in federal court. The paper, Plausibility Pleading: Barring the Courthouse Door to Deserving Claimants, comes after the Court's decision one year ago this week in Ashcroft v. Iqbal that this standard applies to all types of federal cases. The Court first created this standard in Twombly v. Bell ...

What if MMS Had Followed the Law When Considering the Deepwater Horizon Permit?

by Dan Rohlf | May 19, 2010
As millions of gallons of oil continue to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, the Washington Post and New York Times reported that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) – the agency within the U.S. Department of Interior that oversees offshore oil and gas leasing and development – mostly ignored some of the country’s most important environmental laws when it gave the green light to Deepwater Horizon and other offshore drilling. The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to consult with ...

Potentially Regulated Parties, White House Trying to Inject the Data Quality Act and Other Distractions Into EPA's IRIS Assessment Process

by Matt Shudtz | May 17, 2010
In the year since EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced a new process (pdf) for updating chemical risk assessments in EPA's IRIS database, agency scientists have succeeded in getting some stalled assessments moving through the system. Since the May 21, 2009 announcement, EPA staff have competed nine new and updated assessments. Two others are in the final stages of review and 20 more are at the external peer review stage. But just as EPA staff are getting geared up, industry, potentially regulated federal ...

On Adaptation, Kerry-Lieberman Climate Bill Largely Similar to ACES, But Drops Several Provisions and Provides Less Money

by Alejandro Camacho | May 14, 2010
Though in many respects similar to provisions in the House-approved American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) bill and the prior Boxer-Kerry bill in the Senate, the adaptation program proposed in the newly released Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act substantially decreases funding for federal and state adaptation programs and eliminates provisions establishing a public health adaptation program.  Like its predecessors, Kerry-Lieberman’s adaptation program, included in large part in Title IV, §§6001-6011, incorporates a number of provision focused on managing the effects ...

Preemption Aside, New Climate Change Proposal Would Create Generally Similar Results as Prior Proposals (But Watch Out for Those Offsets)

by Victor Flatt | May 12, 2010
While Kerry and Lieberman (and before two weeks ago, Graham) have tried to pitch the proposed new Senate climate and energy draft legislation as a “game-changer” the truth is that, aside from the stronger preemption language limiting the states, its effect is not terribly different from what has come before. Sure, there are sweeteners for the conservascenti, such as enhanced loan guarantees and permit streamlining for nuclear energy, continued support for carbon capture and sequestration, removal of a natural gas “penalty,” ...

Kerry-Lieberman Creates Some Added Certainty on Offsets

by Victor Flatt | May 12, 2010
The Kerry-Lieberman bill's provisions on offsets are largely similar to those in the Waxman-Markey and Kerry-Boxer bill, but include a number of changes that make more specific policy choices in the use of offsets. First, the proposal enumerates a specific lengthy list of eligible offset categories (whereas Waxman-Markey didn't list specific categories, instead giving instruction for a regulatory decision). This change  might assist in providing market liquidity. In terms of offset regulation, there seems to be a complex dance between the ...

US Releases Final Strategy for Chesapeake Bay Restoration and Protection

by Yee Huang | May 12, 2010
Today marks the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Restoration and Protection, which commits federal agencies to a new leadership role in Bay restoration. This morning the Federal Leadership Committee, headed by EPA and comprised of many of the major federal agencies, released its final Strategy for Restoration and Protection of the Chesapeake Bay. While the final Strategy is not significantly different from the draft Strategy, it contains new detail about a watershed-wide nutrient trading program ...

Federal Task Force on Carbon Capture and Sequestration Will Need to Grapple With Property Rights Law

by Alexandra Klass | May 11, 2010
A federal task force of the EPA and a host of federal agencies are  currently working on a proposal, due to President Obama by June, on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) policy; they’re now holding a series of public meetings (for background on CCS generally, see the CPR Perspective I wrote examining some of the arguments for and against). I had a chance recently to discuss with members of the task force the key property rights and takings law issues associated ...

Heads in sand, oil in water

by Holly Doremus | May 10, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. As oil drifts on and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, forcing the closure of wildlife refuges and more fishing grounds, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has called a temporarily halt to new offshore drilling while his staff prepare a report on the disaster and even Republicans in Congress are calling for new investigation of the troubled Minerals Management Service. Clearly, things didn’t go as planned on the Deepwater Horizon. Notwithstanding Rush Limbaugh’s wild accusations of environmentalist ...

CPR's Victor Flatt in Houston Chronicle on a Momentous Week for Energy Policy

by Matthew Freeman | May 09, 2010
CPR Member Scholar Victor Flatt has an op-ed piece in this morning's Houston Chronicle, in which he argues that the week of April 20 will likely be recalled as "one of the most pivotal and important weeks in the history of energy in this country," citing the confluence of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling platform and its disastrous environmental consequences, and the federal approval of the massive Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound to capture wind ...

New CPR Briefing Paper Recommends Next Steps on Chesapeake Bay Policy

by Yee Huang | May 07, 2010
Today the Center for Progressive Reform releases a briefing paper on Chesapeake Bay policy in anticipation of the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration. The Choose Clean Water Coalition also today sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stressing that EPA's strategy for the Bay must have robust requirements and tough consequences. By next Wednesday, one year to the day after the Executive Order, the Federal Leadership Committee—made up of representatives from ...

Eye on OIRA: Government Releases Before-and-After Docs on Coal Ash Rule; Lisa Jackson, Public Face of Environmental Protection, Meet Nameless White House Economist

by Rena Steinzor | May 07, 2010
This post is written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and CPR Policy Analyst James Goodwin. President Obama appointed Lisa Jackson to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 15, 2008. Confirmed by the Senate on January 22, 2009, she is a Cabinet-rank member of the Administration and the first African American to serve as the public face of environmental protection for any administration. Whether she wears an EPA baseball cap and windbreaker to tour the waterfront of her native ...

Wishful Thinking on the Right: Reviving the Information Quality Act?

by Rena Steinzor | May 07, 2010
Our loyal opposition at the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness has engaged in some very creative reading of legal opinions in order to breathe new life into a discredited anti-regulatory tool of the George W. Bush era: the Information Quality Act. This pesky little statute instructs the Office of Management and Budget to “provide policy and procedural guidance to Federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal Agencies.”  Enacted as ...

When Hoping for the Best is Official Policy

by Rebecca Bratspies | May 06, 2010
Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls. Today's New York Times update on the Deepwater Horizon disaster opens with BP’s failed efforts to control the remaining two leaks via concrete, or remote control robots. Strangely, the article makes no mention of the missing remote shut-off valve called an acoustic switch. This $500,000 device might well have prevented this whole catastrophe. But, the United States does not require that deepwater oil rigs install an acoustic switch, and BP and Transocean decided to forego it. The ...

The Grand Tradition of Harassing Researchers -- Virginia Edition

by Matt Shudtz | May 06, 2010
Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli II has taken his climate change vendetta to a new low, announcing that he will use Virginia's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act to force officials at UVA to spend months digging through a decade of university records in search of evidence that Dr. Michael Mann "defrauded" the Commonwealth by seeking funds to explore the boundaries of climate science. Tuesday's article in the Washington Post gave the attention-seeking politician all that he needed from the civil investigative demand ...

Perplexed by OSHA's Latest Reg Agenda

by Celeste Monforton | May 05, 2010
Cross-posted from The Pump Handle. Beginning in December 2006, I’ve written five blog post commenting on the content of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) regulatory agenda for worker health and safety rulemakings.  Most of my posts [see links below] have criticized the Labor Secretary and senior OSHA and MSHA staff for failing to offer a bold vision for progressive worker protections.  Now that the Obama & Solis team have been on board for more than a year, I’m not willing to cut them any slack for being ...

Eye on OIRA, Coal Ash Edition: Putting Lipstick on a Not-so-cute Little Pig

by Rena Steinzor | May 04, 2010
  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was in a tough position on coal ash. If you are African American and low-income, you have a 30 percent greater chance of living near a big pit of this toxic brew than a white American, so Jackson correctly decided that such an important environmental justice issue should be at the forefront of the Obama Administration’s agenda. But Jackson was also taking on Big Coal, a special interest historically near and dear to swing voters in Ohio ...

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