Climate Change Adaptation Progress: Administration Releases Interim Report on Strategy for a Strategy

by Shana Campbell Jones | March 18, 2010

Tuesday, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an Interim Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, a group charged by President Obama in Executive Order 13514 to develop (by Fall 2010) recommendations for the federal government for adapting to climate change. More than 20 federal agencies, departments, and offices are participating in the task force.

The progress report notes that some agencies are taking action toward implementing programs and policies to deal with the changes and risks climate change will bring. But it also notes many significant gaps remain, including:

  • Coherent research programs to identify and describe regional impacts associated with near-term, long-term, and abrupt global climate change;
  • Relevant climate change and impact information that is accessible and usable by decision-makers and practitioners;
  • A unified strategic vision and approach;
  • Understanding of the challenges at all levels of government;
  • Comprehensive and localized risk and vulnerability assessments;
  • Organized and coordinated efforts across local, State and Federal agencies;
  • Strong links between, and support and participation of, Tribal, regional, State, and local partners;
  • A strategy to link resources, both financial and intellectual, to critical needs; 
  • A robust approach to evaluating and applying lessons learned.

For a to-do list, it’s an ambitious one. It’s also revealing – and humbling – to think about how much we don’t ...

Trading Up: A National Model for Stormwater Pollution Trading?

by Yee Huang | March 17, 2010
This week Water Policy Report (subs. required) reported on EPA’s exercise of residual designation authority (RDA) over stormwater discharges and a pilot stormwater-reduction trading program in Massachusetts. Together, these actions have the potential to significantly reduce stormwater discharges into local waterways. If successful, this pilot trading program could be a template for similar trading programs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and across the country. Stormwater discharges occur when impervious surfaces such as roads, rooftops, and parking lots channel high volumes ...

Congressional Hearings Today

by Ben Somberg | March 16, 2010
A few congressional hearings today we're keeping an eye on: Catch Shares. The House Natural Resources' Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife will discuss "catch shares" as a fisheries management policy. Previously, CPR Member Scholar Rebecca Bratspies discussed the limitations of catch shares, and in December applauded NOAA for moving forward cautiously. Protecting America's Workers Act. The House Education and Labor's Workforce Protection Subcommittee will discuss HR 2067, which would amend the OSH Act to protect more workers and increase ...

Did California Prius Driver Press the Brake Pedal Hard? WSJ Says No; Congressional Memo Says Yes

by Ben Somberg | March 15, 2010
The Wall Street Journal had what seemed like a major scoop over the weekend: A federal safety investigation of the Toyota Prius that was involved in a dramatic incident on a California highway last week found a particular pattern of wear on the car's brakes that raises questions about the driver's version of the event, three people familiar with the investigation said. ... During and after the incident, Mr. Sikes said he was using heavy pressure on his brake pedal ...

Drywall Trial Begins Today in New Orleans

by Ben Somberg | March 15, 2010
A year after the contaminated drywall story went big, a "test trial" over damages from the material begins today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The court has posted documents regarding the case here, and outlets covering the case include the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Bradenton Herald, and Palm Beach Post. ...

Settlement Marks a Step Forward on Ocean Acidification

by Holly Doremus | March 15, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. As Cara and Dan have explained, ocean acidification is the other big climate change problem. As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, more CO2 dissolves in the oceans. That in turn increases ocean acidity, which changes the ecology of the seas, most obviously by reducing the ability of corals and a variety of other marine organisms to build their “skeletons” and protective shells from calcium carbonate. Ocean acidification is a pollution problem, just as acid rain and climate ...

A Year Later, What’s Happening with the Scientific Integrity Memo?

by Ben Somberg | March 12, 2010
This item, by Liz Borkowski, is cross-posted from The Pump Handle. Exactly one year ago, President Obama issued a memorandum on scientific integrity that gave the Office of Science and Technology Policy 120 days to “develop recommendations for Presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch” based on six principles that Obama specified. OSTP solicited public input to inform its drafting of the recommendations. It’s now been 365 days, and OSTP hasn’t released its recommendations. Why the ...

Eye on OIRA: Sunstein Says Ambitious Efforts to Revamp Regulatory Review Tabled for the Time Being. What Does It Mean? Not Much. Just Ask Oscar the Grouch.

by Rena Steinzor | March 12, 2010
In a rare public appearance at the Brookings Institute Wednesday, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein is quoted by BNA’s Daily Report for Executives saying that his ambitious plans for revamping Executive Order 12,866 – the document that governs much of the process of regulating, and particularly OIRA’s role in it –have been tabled for the time being as he and his staff study the lengthy comments presented by a broad range of industry and public ...

Conservation Deal Just a Sugar Fix?

by Holly Doremus | March 10, 2010
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. When government decides that private economic activity needs to be restricted in order to preserve some part of nature, there are two basic ways to get that result — by demanding cooperation through regulation or by buying it through economic incentives or outright purchase. The second approach is often politically easier, but environmentalists have long been skeptical of relying too heavily on it.  Two major concerns have repeatedly been expressed. First, paying for conservation suffers from ...

EPA's Coming Announcement on BPA

by Matt Shudtz | March 09, 2010
In response to a question at a National Press Club appearance on Monday, Lisa Jackson said that the EPA would be finalizing an action plan on BPA in the "very near future." As I noted here in January, the EPA had announced in September that it would be releasing action plans on a number of chemicals, including BPA, but when the first group of plans was released in late December, BPA was not among them. I raised a red flag ...

White House Roadmap for Gulf Coast Restoration Released

by Shana Campbell Jones | March 05, 2010
Yesterday, the White House released a plan to restore Mississippi and Louisiana wetlands and barrier islands, which have been disappearing at a rapid clip for decades and continue to do so. Hurricane Katrina brought to the fore what many residents of these states already knew: federal, state, and local authorities were neither coordinated nor prepared to protect the Gulf Coast, its ecosystems, and its people from Mother Nature’s worst. (See CPR's report on Katrina). The White House roadmap is designed ...

OSHA HazCom Hearing Today: What We'll Be Saying

by James Goodwin | March 05, 2010
Imagine opening your medicine cabinet, only to find that the warning and information labels on your over-the-counter medications no longer include dosing information. How would you know how much Benadryl to take or how much aspirin to give to your child? A provision in the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) proposed rule modifying its Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard threatens to deprive U.S. workers of similar safety information—information they depend upon ever day to protect themselves against the hazardous chemicals ...

Stakeholders Speak, and OSHA Listens

by Matt Shudtz | March 04, 2010
Today the top brass from OSHA opened their doors to the many stakeholders who have something to say about how the agency is doing in its efforts to protect U.S. workers. Of course, they got an earful. The event marks a new path for OSHA, in that the head of the agency and top career staff took the time to sit face-to-face with occupational health experts, workers, worker representatives, and even the families of victims of workplace accidents, not just ...

Science Versus Theology: The BPA Debate Continues

by Ben Somberg | March 03, 2010
This post, by Sarah Vogel, is cross-posted from The Pump Handle. If you thought the scientific debate about bisphenol A was over or even quieting down, you haven’t been reading the latest issues of Toxicological Sciences. (What are you doing with your spare time?) Last month in an editorial piece published in the journal, Richard Sharpe queried: “Is It Time to End Concerns over the Estrogenic Effects of Bisphenol A?”  His answer was an unequivocal ‘yes’, based on the latest ...

The Empire Strikes Back

by Matthew Freeman | March 02, 2010
Ordinarily, if an organization with the word “recycling” in its name said unkind things about the Center for Progressive Reform, I’d worry. But the other week, we got dinged by a newly launched outfit called “Citizens for Recycling First,” and I’m thinking it’s a badge of honor. Before proceeding, let’s dwell for a moment on the mental images the group’s name conjures up. I’m thinking about plastic bins with recycling logos on their sides, filled by conscientious Americans with soup cans, beer ...

Toyota: Should Someone Go to Jail?

by Rena Steinzor | March 01, 2010
The congressional hearings so far on “sudden unintended acceleration” (SUA) in Toyota cars should have made two truths obvious to Washington policymakers. First, the strategy of counting on major manufacturers to voluntarily ensure that their consumer products are safe is unworkable in a competitive market, and second, safety agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) need to walk softly but carry a very large stick. Gone are the days when we could reasonably expect government technical experts to ...

Water on the Front Page

by Ben Somberg | March 01, 2010
Water pollution / water law on the front page of the Times and the Post on the same day?! Yep. NYTimes: Rulings Restrict Clean Water Act, Hampering E.P.A. WashPost: Rising with a bullet among top pollutants: Number Two ...

Eye on OIRA: King Coal

by Rena Steinzor | February 26, 2010
Thirty-eight years ago today, the dam holding back a massive coal-slurry impoundment (government-speak for a big pit filled with sludge) located in the middle of Buffalo Creek gave way, spilling 131 million gallons of black wastewater down the steep hills of West Virginia. The black waters eventually crested at 30 feet, washing away people, their houses, and their possessions. By the end of the catastrophe, 125 people were dead, 1,121 were injured, and more than 4,000 were left homeless. Interviewed ...

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