Cap, But no Trade for Bella Center Passes; Meanwhile, Conference's Legacy of Transparency in Danger

by David Hunter | December 16, 2009

Environmental negotiations have long set the standard for transparency and participation. The relationship between environmental organizations (of all kinds) and the negotiators has always been one tempered by a shared vision that the negotiations would succeed (in contrast to negotiations at the WTO or World Bank where “success” for many activists was often defined as the failure of the negotiations). The history of transparency and participation in environmental negotiations is taking a huge hit this week in Copenhagen—not because of a loss of a shared vision of success—but because the sheer scale of these negotiations has led to increasing security and a tightening noose around non-governmental participation.

It started on Monday morning. Literally thousands of participants arrived to pick up their registration badges and found instead large, slow-moving lines. In the end, some people stood in the cold for 10 hours and never got into the Bella Center, the enormous complex holding the negotiations. Even participants who had received their credentials earlier in the week had to stand in the line for an hour or so. Greenpeace, in what has to be one of their most appreciated actions of all time, served free coffee to the cold people standing in line—until the police cordoned them off saying “we’ll now decide who gets coffee here.” Some advocates for veganism passed out material while dressed in warm-looking chicken suits. At least the restrictions were democratic; the head of the Natural Resources Defense ...

Inexorable March to Carbon Markets at Copenhagen

by Victor Flatt | December 16, 2009
There are two separate meetings going on here in Copenhagen, really. The one that everyone is focused on is the official negotiations between the countries to reach a new binding agreement on climate change (or extend Kyoto in some form). The other “meeting” is the interaction of the observer organizations inside and outside of the side event meetings and their informal reports to the official delegations. This second “meeting” is more amorphous, and more subject to chaos (the security clearance ...

Schwarzenegger, in Copenhagen, Gives an Important Reminder of the Role of Subnational Governments. Like, the U.S. States, For Example.

by Ben Somberg | December 16, 2009
In his speech in Copenhagen Tuesday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger applauded international leadership on climate change, but said that national or international agreements alone will not address the issue. He said that the "scientists, the capitalists and the activists" across the world have and will play an important role. And he talked about the job for subnational governments, like his own: While national governments have been fighting over emission targets, subnational governments have been adopting their own targets and laws ...

Déjà Vu all Over Again: OSHA's Inability to Stop Serial Violators on Display in New Hampshire Foundry

by Sidney Shapiro | December 15, 2009
The Concord Monitor has identified a New Hampshire factory (Franklin Non-Ferrous Foundry) that has been the subject of previous OSHA investigations and fines, yet continues to expose its workers to dangerous conditions. OSHA’s most recent fine, $250,000, came after the agency found that a worker had high levels of lead in his blood. The newspaper obtained OSHA documents that revealed a pattern of violations by the company. The New Hampshire case is a troubling reminder of how weak OSHA is ...

In Copenhagen, Progress on Financial Pledges Limited; Draft Document Punts Details to COP-16

by David Hunter | December 15, 2009
Although virtually all of the attention regarding Copenhagen in the United States focuses on mitigation targets, in the developing world a primary focus of any environmental agreement is on the scale, sources and governance of any financial resources being made available. This is particularly true in Copenhagen, where the Global South has demanded upwards of a trillion dollars in development assistance over the next decades. That number is almost certainly out of reach, but with only a few days left ...

Forgive the Obvious, But: Not All Hydraulic Fracturing is Created Equal

by Ben Somberg | December 14, 2009
In this morning's "Underused Drilling Practices Could Avoid Pollution," ProPublica has more important reporting on hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting chemicals at high pressure under deep rock to extract natural gas. Reports Abrahm Lustgarten: Energy companies have figured out how to drill wells with fewer toxic chemicals, enclose wastewater so it can't contaminate streams and groundwater, and sharply curb emissions from everything from truck traffic to leaky gas well valves. ... Yet these environmental safeguards are used only intermittently ...

(Re)Defining Success at Copenhagen: Here's What I'll be Looking For

by David Hunter | December 11, 2009
As the first week of formal negotiations at the Copenhagen Climate Summit comes to a close, the United States and China are exchanging barbs and little progress is being made … but behind the scene many negotiators remain confident that at least some form of a political agreement can be reached that will move global climate governance significantly forward. Beginning on Sunday I will join fellow CPR Member Victor Flatt (see his preview on offsets and adaptation) as a credentialed ...

Sunstein Watch: What Progressives Expect from OIRA: An Open Letter to Cass Sunstein

by Rena Steinzor | December 11, 2009
Dear Cass: As you know, we picked a spat with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) last week over Randy Lutter’s supposedly temporary detail appointment to your office. It’s not the first time we’ve criticized the workings of OIRA, and almost certainly won’t be the last.  I’ve spoken to a number of people in the media and elsewhere who have expressed surprise that progressive organizations like CPR are such relentless critics of a progressive Administration. I’m sure Administration officials ...

Good News, Bad News in Solis' Regulatory Agenda

by Ben Somberg | December 10, 2009
The below item is written by Celeste Monforton and cross-posted from The Pump Handle. The first regulatory agenda under OIRA chief Cass Sunstein was published [Monday] in the Federal Register (link to its 237 pages.)  The document includes a narrative of Labor Secretary Solis’ vision for worker health and safety, mentioning these specific hazards: crystalline silica, beryllium, coal dust, airborne infectious agents, diacetyl, cranes and dams for mine waste.   The document purports to “demonstrate a renewed commitment to worker health,” yet ...

Chinese Drywall Update: Residents Say They're Still Waiting for Answers

by Ben Somberg | December 09, 2009
A few notes on the Chinese drywall issue from the past weeks: The CPSC announced that it was expanding its investigation to include some American-made drywall, following some reports of similar problems -- bad odors and pipe corrosion. But meanwhile, the Bradenton Herald asked "Is scope of Chinese drywall problem exaggerated?" Reporter Duane Marsteller notes that "100,000" has become an often-repeated number for how many homes are affected, but that in fact it's quite unclear. About 300 people rallied in ...

The Other Shoe Drops: EPA Finally Issues Endangerment Finding

by Daniel Farber | December 07, 2009
Today, EPA made its long-expected official finding: climate change is real, and we human beings are the cause. More than two years after the Supreme Court ordered EPA to address the issue, EPA has now formally ruled that greenhouse gases cause climate change that endangers human health or welfare. EPA also found that motor vehicles contribute significantly to levels of greenhouse gases. These findings trigger regulation under the Clean Air Act for motor vehicles. Similar findings are likely in the ...

Copenhagen: What Progress on Offsets and Adaptation?

by Victor Flatt | December 07, 2009
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 ...

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

by Frank Ackerman | December 04, 2009
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

by Rena Steinzor | December 03, 2009
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?

by Rena Steinzor | December 02, 2009
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

by Holly Doremus | December 02, 2009
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 ...

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