Copenhagen: What Progress on Offsets and Adaptation?
Today, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opens in Copenhagen. I will be a credentialed observer from non-governmental academic and research organizations including the Center for Progressive Reform and the Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources (CLEAR) at the University of North Carolina School of Law.
In this space I have particularly focused on the carbon trading market and the use of offsets in the context of domestic legislation; in Copenhagen, I will continue to focus on the implications of any decisions regarding offsets and the carbon market, and whether or not this will in turn affect the U.S. debate and legislation. Because offsets raise concerns of co-harms and benefits, and because much of this harm or benefit will occur in the developed world I will be examining issues concerning adaptation as well.
The conference is a huge undertaking that is less predictable than might seem at first blush. Officials of the 192 parties to the UNFCCC (the United States is represented by the State Department, and various lawmakers will also attend) will meet in two groups: the official Conference of the Parties and an implementation group. Additionally, the credentialed side organizations, along with the countries themselves, will be holding nearly 300 official side meetings and presentations.
While the conventional wisdom is that any real progress must be made before the conference, this is not necessarily true. Though
We'll be Blogging from Copenhagen
by Ben Somberg | December 04, 2009
CPR Member Scholars Victor Flatt and David Hunter, along with several guest contributors, will be writing for CPRBlog from the climate talks in Copenhagen. Stay tuned.
EPA and NHTSA Lowball Estimates of Carbon Costs in Proposed Tailpipe Emissions Standard
Once upon a time, EPA and other agencies labored under the yoke of a cruel regime that was contemptuous of the “reality-based community,” but intimately aware of the needs and desires of the energy industry. Climate policy didn’t really happen in those days. Then the world changed. In the first year of the new regime, EPA and NHTSA proposed a standard for tailpipe emissions, including an estimate of the “social cost of carbon,” or the value of the incremental damages
Sunstein Watch: Randall Lutter on Loan, Says OMB -- Yet WashPost Reports He's Actively Involved
As reporters dug deeper on our post yesterday about the return of Randy Lutter, chief economist at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the George W. Bush Administration, to “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein’s office, OMB spokesman Tom Gavin worked to downplay the significance of Lutter’s reappearance. Gavin confirmed that Lutter was in fact ensconced in OIRA, as reported by Inside EPA this morning, but said he was merely “on detail” from the FDA as a career civil servant who
Sunstein Watch: Randall Lutter to OIRA?
For a number of days now, we’ve been hearing rumors that Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s “regulatory czar,” was on the verge of hiring conservative economist Randall Lutter to join him at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Few personnel developments could be more discouraging to those hopeful that the Obama Administration will fulfill its many commitments to revitalize the agencies responsible for protecting public health, worker safety, and natural resources. The best thing that can be said about
NPDES Permits on Impaired Waterways
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Precisely what the Clean Water Act requires of point sources that discharge to already-polluted waterways has long been a point of confusion. Now, according to Inside EPA, EPA may revise the rules it applies to new permits on impaired waterways. A rulemaking seems far from certain at this point — the story quotes an EPA spokesperson as saying the agency is “considering the possibility” — but if EPA does launch one it should make sure that
FDA Needs More Time for its Report on BPA
by Matt Shudtz | December 01, 2009
Yesterday came and went with no announcement from the FDA on the safety of BPA in food packaging. The agency had created a self-imposed November 30 deadline for releasing a new finding, and in the intervening months, a number of new studies on the health effects of BPA have been released and FDA has brought in an outside expert to head up the review. These developments have understandably slowed the review process. The question before FDA is whether BPA is
The Florida Beach Case Comes to Supreme Court: A Badly Flawed Test Case for Property Rights Advocates
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection. By the time they finish hearing from both sides, the justices may wonder whether this case was worth their time and effort. (My amicus brief on the case is here). Petitioner is a small non-profit organization whose members own coastal properties in two communities along the Florida panhandle. Petitioner’s primary argument is that its members suffered “takings” of their
Toyota Cars and Automobile Regulation, Still Defective: Recall Could Miss a Million Faulty Cars. Congress Should Investigate.
This morning, Toyota Motor Corporation announced it intends to replace accelerator pedals on about 3.8 million recalled vehicles in the United States because the pedals can get stuck in a floor mat. But the recall could still leave more than a million faulty cars on the road. As I wrote earlier, there had been over 2,000 reports from the owners of Toyota cars that they have surged forward without warning reaching speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. NHTSA
OIRA Must Be Having a Doorbuster Sale of Its Own
Perhaps caught up in the spirit of the holiday shopping season, a large number of industry bargain hunters have been busy seeking great deals on regulatory relief at the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in recent weeks. To be precise, the bureau hosted no fewer than 11 meetings with corporate interests regarding seven different regulatory issues between November 4 and November 16. The meetings covered a range of topics. One meeting saw representatives of Shell Oil
Yes, Senator Cardin's Chesapeake Bay Bill Is Grounded in Constitutional Law
by Yee Huang | November 24, 2009
On Monday, CPR Member Scholars and others sent a memorandum to Senator Ben Cardin that addressed the constitutionality of S. 1816, the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009. At a Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife hearing earlier this month, one witness contested the key provisions of S. 1816, asserting that they are unconstitutional with respect to the Tenth and Eleventh Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The memo, signed by CPR Member Scholars Robert Adler, William Andreen,
What We'll Look For in the Obama Administration's Forthcoming Executive Order on Regulatory Process
by Ben Somberg | November 23, 2009
The Obama Administration is expected to issue revisions to Executive Order 12,866, which specifies how the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) supervises federal regulatory agencies as they develop regulations to protect health, safety, the environment, and more (see the full comments on the matter submitted by CPR's board members in March). CPR President Rena Steinzor and Board Member Rob Glicksman have issued a backgrounder on the coming Executive Order -- explaining the context and setting out six
Is It Time To Depoliticize EPA's Regional Administrators?
by Joel Mintz | November 20, 2009
As it nears the close of its first year in office, the Obama Administration has thus far failed to name half of the regional administrators for its ten regional offices of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and it was only on November 5th that it named those five officials. The reason for the lengthy delay in making appointments to these posts is not immediately apparent. Perhaps the Administration is anxious to avoid stirring up any political controversies regarding particular
Administration's Announcement on Mountaintop Removal Mining -- In Perspective
by Ben Somberg | November 19, 2009
"Interior increases oversight of mountaintop mining" trumpets the AP, and "U.S. boosts coal mining oversight to fight pollution" says Reuters. That's in response to an announcement from Interior on Wednesday. But on Coal Tattoo, and from NRDC and Sierra Club, one learns of a pretty different story. Says NRDC's Rob Perks: Why in the world would I have a problem with this? As I previously posted on the apparent "slow-walk" on this issue by the Interior Department, Interior Secretary Ken
Sunstein Watch: OMB Says it Will Leave EDSP to the EPA Experts
On Monday, OMB Director Peter Orszag sent a letter to Rep. Ed Markey, responding to Congressman Markey’s concerns about OMB’s involvement in EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. Orszag’s letter -- released by Markey's office Wednesday -- explains, in no uncertain terms, that OMB is done meddling in EPA’s scientific determinations about endocrine-disrupting chemicals. It’s a step in the right direction for Orszag and OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein, who have their work cut out for them if they are going to
Update: Judge Approves Settlement on Numeric Nutrient Criteria for Florida
by Yee Huang | November 18, 2009
A few months ago, I wrote about a landmark agreement by the EPA to set numeric, statewide nutrient pollution limits -- the first of its kind in the United States. Florida, like most states, has qualitative nutrient pollution limits, which are written in terms such as, “in no case shall nutrient concentrations of body of water be altered so as to cause an imbalance in natural populations of flora or fauna.” Terms like this are difficult to measure objectively and
The Importance of Being Earnest: Nutrient Trading in the Chesapeake Bay
by Yee Huang | November 13, 2009
In October, Senator Ben Cardin (D.-Md.) introduced the “Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009,” signaling the beginning of a new era of federal commitment to Bay restoration. The legislation is a tremendous step in the right direction, and it includes many elements to help make the Bay Program and the Bay-wide Total Daily Maximum Load (TMDL) models for watersheds across the country. In addition to the inclusion of mandatory implementation plans and enforceable deadlines, the legislation also establishes a
Defective: Toyota Cars and Automobile Regulation
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently chastised the Toyota Motor Company for claiming that no defect existed in its cars, even while recalling 3.8 million of them. Toyota instituted the recall one month after a Lexus sedan suddenly accelerated out of control killing four people near San Diego. When Toyota blamed the problem on improperly installed floor mats, NHTSA said it expected the company to provide a “suitable vehicle solution.” The company then said that it was working on “vehicle-based remedies”