Out of the Scrum, a Bad Deal for the Chesapeake Bay

by Rena Steinzor | July 06, 2010

Desperate to move a funding bill for Chesapeake Bay restoration out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, progressive Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) went into the scrum with one of the body’s most conservative members, James Inhofe (R-OK). After a struggle of uncertain intensity and duration, the two emerged, with Inhofe, who openly ridicules the idea of global climate change, firmly in control of the ball. 

Cardin agreed to put his name on a dispiriting proposal that misses a crucial opportunity to enforce a central requirement of the Clean Water Act. The Act began cleaning up the nation’s waters by requiring those who discharge pollution into rivers, lakes, and streams to install the “best available control technology” – for example, equipment that removes the pathogens in raw sewage. This primary approach worked well for years, but as the population and industrial development grew exponentially, and U.S. waters became unacceptably dirty, other provisions kicked into action. 

The second approach was the application of “water quality standards” that set the maximum level of pollution that could exist in “receiving waters” where the plants emptied their pipes. So, for example, if I run a big sewage treatment plant that discharges into the Potomac River from three pipes, and levels of fecal coliform (that's bacteria from human waste) rise above water quality standards set by the state of Maryland in that section of the river, officials should revise my permit to curtail how much I can discharge ...

Offshore Drilling and Endangered Species -- Part 2

by Holly Doremus | July 06, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Previously I wrote about the shortcomings of ESA consultation on the Deepwater Horizon and other offshore oil rigs. Today I take up the implications of the spill itself under the ESA. At least one ESA lawsuit has already been filed, and at least partially resolved. The Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint on July 1, accusing BP and the Coast Guard of killing ...

BP Oil Spill: CPR's Flatt Calls for Realistic Worst-Case Planning

by Matthew Freeman | July 05, 2010
In an op-ed in this morning's Raleigh News & Observer, CPR Member Scholar Victor Flatt describes why it is that BP was allowed to drill its Macondo 252 deepwater well -- the one that is now spewing oil into the Gulf -- without conducting a serious analysis of the risks of a blowout, and providing a detailed and realistic plan describing what it would do in such a scenario. Flatt writes: The National Environmental Policy Act requires that federal agencies analyze the environmental ...

Offshore Drilling and Endangered Species - Part 1

by Holly Doremus | July 02, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. The media have paid a lot of attention to the cavalier attitude of the former Minerals Management Service (now called the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement) toward the National Environmental Policy Act (I blogged about it here and here and Dan weighed in here). Less has been said, so far, about the Endangered Species Act. (One conspicuous exception is Keith Rizzardi’s ESA Blawg, which called on May 29 for a review of ESA ...

New Worker Safety Bill Introduced in House, Protects Whisleblowers, Targets Bad Actors

by Celeste Monforton | July 02, 2010
Cross-posted from The Pump Handle. Cong. George Miller (D-CA) is a man of tough talk and swift action. Today, along with 15 other House members, he introduced H.R. 5663 a bill to upgrade provisions of our nation's key federal workplace health and safety laws. Every year, tens of thousands of workers are killed or made ill because of on-the-job hazards, and this year the toll of death made headline news. The Deepwater Horizon disaster and the Upper Big Branch mine ...

ACC Files DQA RfC on EPA Pthalate CAP

by Matt Shudtz | July 01, 2010
With the strong support of their new Administrator, last year the EPA staff who administer TSCA came up with a novel idea for jump-starting a moribund regulatory program. They started publishing Chemical Action Plans (CAPs) for a selection of chemicals “that pose a concern to the public.” Having selected chemicals that are found in consumer products, produced in large volumes, have particular concerns for children’s health, or meet other criteria, EPA staff published action plans for the chemicals that provide a clear ...

Chesapeake Bay Bill Amended and Passed out of Committee

by Shana Campbell Jones | June 30, 2010
Senator Cardin's bill to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay program passed a committee vote this morning, though not before significant amendments were made (see Baltimore Sun, E&E). We'll have more on the specifics in the future. But for now it's worth noting that one of the amendments takes away EPA’s authority to write permits for nonpoint sources, a much-needed tool in EPA’s toolbox to bolster accountability if the states fail to address nonpoint source pollution. It’s too bad that, once again, ...

Bingaman-Murkowski Bill on BP Oil Spill Captures Low-Hanging Fruit But Leaves the Environment at Risk

by Alyson Flournoy | June 30, 2010
Senate Bill 3516, introduced by Senators Bingaman and Murkowski in response to the BP oil spill to reform the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), proposes many intelligent and much-needed changes (the Energy & Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the bill today). Among these, the legislation would imposea long-overdue mandate for best available technology for oil exploration and extraction, require that proponents of drilling evaluate the possibility of a well blowout and develop a response plan for a ...

Senator Cardin's Chesapeake Bay Bill Headed to Mark-Up

by Shana Campbell Jones | June 30, 2010
Today the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will discuss Senator Cardin’s Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009 (S. 1816), along with a suite of other bills to protect the great waterways of the United States.  Critically, the bill codifies the Bay-wide Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), requiring it to be implemented and enforced.  To remedy the pervasive lack of accountability in prior Bay restoration agreements, the bill requires states to submit biennial progress reports and to commit ...

Regulatory Policy on Late Night TV

by Ben Somberg | June 29, 2010
The second segment of last night's Daily Show interview with David Axelrod featured a couple minutes on the broken regulatory system and questions of trust in government competence in the wake of the BP disaster. Axelrod: "I think we've tested the proposition of what no regulation means, and what you get is .. the leak, the mine disaster in West Virginia, and you get an economic crisis." ...

Steinzor-Shapiro Metrics on Display in EPA's June 2010 Strategic Plan

by Wendy Wagner | June 28, 2010
There is plenty of environmental despair right now . . . spreading oil in the Gulf, legislative inaction on climate change and a host of other issues, and the sense that for every step forward, there is a special interest that will take the nation two steps back.  So, in this downward spiral of disappointments, is there any ray of hope? Rena Steinzor and Sidney Shapiro hit upon one promising possibility in their important new book, The People's Agents and the ...

Judge's Injunction Blocking Moratorium on Deepwater Drilling Discounts Statutory Intent

by Rebecca Bratspies | June 25, 2010
Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls. On Thursday Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana refused to delay the effect of the preliminary injunction he issued on Tuesday, overturning the U.S. Department of Interior’s May 28, 2010, Temporary Moratorium on deepwater drilling. (Related court documents available here.) Several facets of the June 22 decision are truly astonishing. Nowhere in the decision is there any recognition of the unique, emergency circumstances or the grave threat to the ...

Would Passing Climate Legislation Reduce Our Dependence on Oil?

by Frank Ackerman | June 24, 2010
Is the Gulf of Mexico disaster a reason to pass climate legislation – or is that legislation largely irrelevant to curbing our oil use? A Greenwire article Tuesday quoted a number of economists arguing that the leading proposals in Congress wouldn’t do much to change our dependence on petroleum. The only reasonable response is “yes, of course.” Climate proposals such as Kerry-Lieberman, Cantwell-Collins, or Waxman-Markey will have limited effects on oil consumption for two reasons: first, they are market mechanisms; ...

Cranes and Derricks Rule Clears OIRA Review

by Ben Somberg | June 23, 2010
OSHA’s pending rule on construction crane and derrick safety cleared OIRA review yesterday. The cranes rule has been a long, long time in the making and was featured as a case study in our white paper last year on the Costs of Regulatory Delay. It’s good news that this life-saving rule is finally almost set. Update: Celeste Monforton has more on this at The Pump Handle: First, OIRA has completed its review of OSHA's final rule on cranes and derricks. ...

The Curse of Fossils: 13 Million Barrels of Oil Haunt the Niger Delta

by Yee Huang | June 23, 2010
a(broad) perspective Across the Atlantic Ocean is another catastrophic, persistent, and pervasive oil disaster, ongoing for the past fifty years with no end in sight. The oil fields in the Niger Delta, occupying the southern tip of Nigeria, are rich with petroleum reserves, natural gas, and other natural resources. What should be a source of immense economic wealth for Nigeria instead turned into a poisonous cocktail of corruption and violence with disastrous consequences for the environment and human rights. The BP Oil Spill ...

Hydraulic Fracturing in the News

by Ben Somberg | June 22, 2010
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is getting more and more attention. Here's some of the reporting out this week. The documentary Gasland premiered Monday on HBO. Here's the Daily Show interview and the Science Friday interview. Vanity Fair: A Colossal Fracking Mess Scranton Times-Tribune: Little oversight, looming problems for Pa. gas industry, Impact of natural gas drilling environmental woes could linger, More than an eighth of Lackawanna County land leased to drilling companies, more wells likely, Hazards posed by natural gas drilling not ...

Eye on OIRA: Regulation Goes Opaque

by Rena Steinzor | June 22, 2010
Across the full spectrum of outside cognoscenti who are focused on the reality that a small office at the White House has final authority over the agencies charged with preventing catastrophes like the BP oil spill and the Big Branch mine disaster, one threshold assumption is sacrosanct. This tiny Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, now headed by former Harvard Law professor Cass Sunstein, ought to operate in bright sunshine, disclosing fully its communications with the agencies so the public can ...

Wall Street Journal Editorial Revives the Sport of Precaution Bashing

by Amy Sinden | June 21, 2010
With characteristic audacity, the Wall Street Journal editorial page today is arguing against the precautionary approach to environmental policy that undergirds our system of environmental laws, even as the oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, they want to shift the burden of proof and only allow regulators to restrain corporate greed when the government can first quantify and monetize the environmental harm that will result and demonstrate that it outweighs the money to be made by taking ...

Deconstructing Regulatory Science

Wagner | Jun 19, 2018 | Regulatory Policy

Agency U-Turns

Farber | Jun 18, 2018 | Regulatory Policy

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