Climate Change: The Ball's Bounced Back to the States, EPA, and DOE

by Alice Kaswan | July 23, 2010

After endless negotiations and draft bills, the Senate has given up on climate legislation that would place any sort of cap on the nation’s emissions, and will likely settle for a few select energy initiatives. Congress’ failure to act is galling. Hand wringing is fully justified. But what now? State and local governments have become accustomed to federal paralysis, and will, I hope, continue to march on notwithstanding the tight lock that certain vested fossil fuel interests and industry have clamped on congressional action.  Moreover, EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act have become all the more critical in the absence of comprehensive federal climate legislation. A key question, however, will be whether state, Clean Air Act, and existing federal energy laws can make up for the absence of more comprehensive federal climate legislation.

In the last several years, over half the states have moved forward with climate action plans that set climate reduction goals and provide a framework for comprehensive statewide emission reduction initiatives. The prospects for full implementation and achievement of state climate goals are, however, uncertain. Only 10 states have established their emissions targets through state legislative action that would give the states the legal authority to implement measures to achieve their goals. Many other states have established climate programs through executive initiatives that might not be fully implementable without additional state legislative action. 

While the Senate rejected efforts to cap GHG emissions and establish a cap-and-trade program for utilities, industry, ...

At Thirty Five, Endangered Species Treaty Has Mixed Record

by Yee Huang | July 23, 2010
July 1 marked the 35th anniversary of the effective date entry-into-force of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). While CITES is among the stronger international conventions, its strength is diminished by a lack of an enforcement mechanism and political maneuverings. The arrests and cargo seizures may not make headlines often, but international trade in endangered species is one of the most valuable illegal markets, behind drugs but potentially comparable to arms and human trafficking. According to a ...

Big Chicken Loses Round One in Groundbreaking Water Pollution Case

by Shana Campbell Jones | July 22, 2010
Thanks to a strong ruling from a federal judge in Baltimore Wednesday, large poultry companies are one step closer to being held accountable for the pollution (manure) the small farms that grow chickens for them generate. Responsibility: it’s not just for the little guys anymore. In March, several environmental groups in Maryland sued Perdue Farms, Inc. and Hudson Farm, a chicken farm that raises Perdue’s chickens, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act. (I blogged earlier about the political brouhaha ...

Finally, a National Ocean Policy

by Holly Doremus | July 21, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Last year, I noted that the interim report of the Interagency Ocean Task Force appointed by President Obama marked a promising step toward a national ocean policy. Now the Task Force has issued its final recommendations, which the President promptly began implementing. A national ocean policy has been a long time coming. Back in 2003, the Pew Oceans Commission called for a new “unified national ocean policy based on protecting ecosystem health.” A year later, the ...

Miner Safety and Health Act Faces Committee Vote Today

by Matt Shudtz | July 21, 2010
Just before the July 4 recess, Representative George Miller, Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, introduced the Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010. Recent explosions at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine, Tesoro’s Anacortes (WA) refinery, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, and U.S. Steel’s coke oven in Clairton (PA), highlight the life-threatening hazards that American workers face on a daily basis. Despite these hazards—and the myriad other less serious or even chronic hazards that don’t make headlines—workers continue to ...

Utilities-Only Carbon Cap

by Daniel Farber | July 16, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. According to Thursday's NY Times, Senate Democrats have agreed to include a utilities-only cap-and-trade program in their energy bill.  That’s certainly not ideal — it excludes a large number of industrial sources, which limits its environmental effectiveness.  The utilities-only program will also be less economically efficient, since it precludes taking advantage of possible low-cost reductions available in the industrial sector. Opinions will always differ about how much you can compromise before the game isn’t worth the ...

Some Toyota Context

by Ben Somberg | July 15, 2010
The last time the WSJ attempted a big scoop on the Toyota story (attempting to discredit the Prius driver case in California), the article did not hold up well. This week's story ("Early Tests Pin Toyota Accidents on Drivers") has caught attention, and a response from NHTSA: the agency has "several more months of work to do" before it announces conclusions of its investigation. From the response by Safety Research & Strategies Inc.: Recall that Toyota reported to Congress in ...

Dangerous Work Conditions For Migrant Women in Maryland Crab Industry, Report Says

by Ben Somberg | July 14, 2010
A report released in Washington this morning highlights "The Hidden Struggles of Migrant Worker Women In The Maryland Crab Industry." The paper, by Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. and the International Human Right Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law, is focused mostly on immigration policy issues (a little outside our purview), but I wanted to note the section on worker safety. The report looks at the hundreds of Mexican women who travel every year to ...

OIRA's Fuzzy Math on Coal Ash: A Billion Here, a Billion There

by Rena Steinzor | July 13, 2010
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Michael Patoka, a student at the University of Maryland School of Law and research assistant to Steinzor. Last October, the EPA proposed to regulate, for the first time, the toxic coal ash that sits in massive landfills and ponds next to coal-fired power plants across the nation. The 140 million tons of ash generated every year threaten to contaminate groundwater and cause catastrophic spills, like the 1-billion-gallon release that devastated ...

Interior Hits the Pause Button Again

by Holly Doremus | July 13, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. As he had promised, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Monday issued a new decision memorandum suspending certain deepwater drilling operations.Monday’s decision replaces the moratorium that the federal District Court in New Orleans enjoined on June 22, and which the Fifth Circuit declined to reinstate last week. As I made clear in my post on the Fifth Circuit decision, I think both the District Court and the Fifth Circuit were wrong on the first moratorium. Even if ...

Stay Denied in Appeal of Offshore Moratorium Decision

by Holly Doremus | July 09, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit heard arguments Thursday on the Obama administration’s request that it stay the District Court’s injunction of the 6-month deepwater oil development moratorium, and by a 2-1 vote quickly rejected the request. The moratorium halted any new drilling, and the granting of any new permits for drilling, in depths beyond 500 feet based on the Secretary of Interior’s finding that “deepwater drilling poses an unacceptable threat of serious and irreparable ...

EPA Threads the Needle with New CAIR Rule

by Victor Flatt | July 08, 2010
On Tuesday, the EPA released its long awaited rule to replace the Bush era Clean Air Interstate Rule, invalidated by the DC Circuit in 2008’s North Carolina v. EPA. There are many things that could have been different or improved, but given the EPA’s need to get a rule out quickly to replace the existing rule, they have done a good job of addressing the flaws of the earlier rule and getting something in place. The main problem with the previous ...

A Dose of Media False Equivalence

by Matthew Freeman | July 08, 2010
Over on Slate this weekend, William Saletan posted an Elena Kagan piece in which he describes a 1996 incident in which the future presumptive Supreme Court Justice, then working at the White House, commented on a draft statement on “partial birth abortion” by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).  Congress was then on the verge of banning certain abortion procedures lumped together under the umbrella of “partial birth,” a name made up by the right wing and not ...

Back in Black, Consumer Product Safety Edition

by Ben Somberg | July 07, 2010
Sorry to link to the Daily Show again, but I swear it's relevant. On last night's show, Lewis Black covered recent food safety and consumer product safety news. "But knowingly selling us broken cars, poisoned medicines -- if I didn't know any better, I'd think these companies were just in for the money!" ...

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 ...

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 ...

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