Would a CO2 "Monkey Trial" Improve Scientific Integrity and Transparency?

by Holly Doremus | August 26, 2009

Cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet.

As reported in the L.A. Times and Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has petitioned EPA to hold a trial-type hearing before finalizing its proposed finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare. (We blogged about the proposed endangerment finding here.)

The main argument in the petition is that a formal hearing is required to effectuate the administration’s stated commitment to scientific integrity and transparency. Don’t be fooled. Scientific integrity is nowhere near the top of the Chamber’s wish list. Chamber officials have made that clear by telling the L.A. Times that the proceeding they have in mind would be “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century.” Scopes was convicted in 1925 of violating Tennessee’s law against teaching evolution in the public schools. His trial was a media circus (no doubt something the Chamber would like to replicate), but hardly a triumph for scientific integrity or transparency. No expert scientific testimony was presented at the Scopes trial because the only legally relevant question was whether the defendant had taught evolution. The trial did not address, much less resolve, the truth of evolution. (NPR has a timeline and retrospective on the Scopes trial here.)

But putting motivation aside, is there anything to the Chamber’s claim that a trial-type hearing on endangerment would enhance scientific integrity or transparency? Absolutely not.

The “informal ...

Why a Cap-and-Trade System Needs a Regulatory Backstop

by Alice Kaswan | August 26, 2009
As fellow environmental law professors David Schoenbrod and Richard Stewart take their advocacy for market mechanisms and skepticism about regulation public, with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, I thought it was time to speak out in favor of a role for regulation. They claim that the climate change bill that passed the House in July, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (the Waxman-Markey bill), relies too much on “top-down” regulation and not enough ...

Obama EPA Takes Strike One on Atrazine

by Rena Steinzor | August 25, 2009
The publication of in-depth investigative reporting on complex regulatory issues is a phenomenon that has become as rare as hen’s teeth, and I greeted the front-page story in Sunday's New York Times on the perils posed by atrazine with a big cheer. Unfortunately, despite reporter Charles Duhigg’s best efforts, the response of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokespeople and other commentators garbled the issue substantially. What the story revealed is that even on this mammoth and controversial environmental problem, Obama’s EPA ...

Atrazine in Drinking Water

by Holly Doremus | August 24, 2009
This item cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. Atrazine is suddenly very much in the news. Sunday’s New York Times features a major story about whether the EPA’s current standard for acceptable levels of atrazine in drinking water is tight enough to protect human health. Yesterday’s Peoria Journal carried a story about a class action lawsuit filed in Illinois state court against Syngenta, the primary manufacturer of atrazine. And NRDC has just issued a report accusing EPA of ignoring the ...

The Grassley Crusade against Medical Ghostwriting: Let's Not Burn Witches at the Stake

by Rena Steinzor | August 21, 2009
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), of late in the news for his role as power player in the health care debate, has long enjoyed a reputation as a Republican maverick. One reason for that reputation is his highly publicized crusade to improve ethics in the medical profession, specifically with respect to “ghost writing” of medical journal articles. In recent years, it’s become disturbingly common for pharmaceutical companies to hire public relations firms to write summaries of scientific research supporting their products ...

USGS's Study on Mercury in Fish: Trouble in the Water

by Catherine O'Neill | August 20, 2009
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) issued a report today finding widespread mercury contamination in U.S. streams. The USGS found methylmercury in every fish that it sampled – an extraordinary indictment of the health of our nation’s waters. The USGS reported that the fish at 27% of the sites contain mercury at levels exceeding the criterion for the protection of humans who consume an average amount of fish, as established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But EPA’s criterion grossly ...

Update on BPA and the FDA

by Matt Shudtz | August 19, 2009
On Monday, the big news out of FDA was the announcement that they’re going to publish a new assessment of the risks posed by BPA in food packaging, due out by the end of November. Jesse Goodman, FDA’s Chief Scientist, made the announcement at a meeting of the agency’s Science Board, which also heard two presentations by scientists from different offices within FDA working on the new assessment. Last year, FDA formed a task force to assess the risks of ...

Bottled Water in the News

by Ben Somberg | August 18, 2009
If you haven't caught it yet, Mother Jones magazine's cover article on Fiji Water, by Anna Lenzer, is an impressive, provocative bit of reporting ("How did a plastic water bottle, imported from a military dictatorship thousands of miles away, become the epitome of cool?"). Fiji responded, and Lenzer responds to that. ...

Court to Interior: Not So Fast on Rule Change

by Holly Doremus | August 17, 2009
This item cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. In April, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked a federal court to vacate a last-minute Bush administration rule relaxing stream buffer zone requirements for dumping waste from mountaintop removal mining. Salazar said that the rule didn’t pass the smell test, and that it had been improperly issued without ESA consultation. Environmental groups which had challenged the rule welcomed Salazar’s announcement, but the National Mining Association, which had intervened in support of the rule, ...

In Pittsburgh, the Netroots Strategize

by Ben Somberg | August 15, 2009
At Netroots Nation, the annual liberal blogger conference, organizations, candidates, and of course bloggers get together to talk. It's informal. North Carolina's Rep. Brad Miller, among several electeds at the conference, was sporting jeans by Friday. The focus among the environmental folks, not surprisingly, is climate change. The enviros here have qualms with the Waxman-Markey bill, but most are in the mindset of trying to get a Senate bill passed. Speaking on a panel Friday, Rep. Jay Inslee, of Washington, ...

Cass Sunstein and Change We Can Believe In; Bush Administration Traditions Continue at OMB; Rocket Fuel in Drinking Water and Interagency Review

by Rena Steinzor | August 14, 2009
By now, followers of the controversy over the appointment of Cass Sunstein to serve as Obama Administration “regulatory czar” can do little but shake their heads in astonishment. The controversy over the Harvard professor’s nomination to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has taken on a picaresque quality, as one bizarre delay follows another. The latest development in the Sunstein saga is reportedly the placement of another, as-yet unidentified senatorial hold on the nomination, perhaps at the behest of ...

Paterson's Executive Order: Win for Industry, Loss for Public Health and Safety

by Rebecca Bratspies | August 13, 2009
This is one of two posts today by CPR member scholars evaluating NY Gov. David Paterson's recent executive order on regulations; see also Sid Shapiro's post, "New York Governor Channels Ronald Reagan: Governor Paterson’s Flawed Plan to Review Regulations." It is open season on environmental, health, and safety regulations in New York. Last Friday, August 7, Governor Paterson issued an Executive Order directing his public safety agencies to review all of their regulations with an eye toward eliminating any that ...

New York Governor Channels Ronald Reagan: Governor Paterson's Flawed Plan to Review Regulations

by Sidney Shapiro | August 13, 2009
This is one of two posts today by CPR member scholars evaluating NY Gov. David Paterson's recent executive order on regulations; see also Rebecca Bratspies' post, "Paterson's Executive Order: Win for Industry, Loss for Public Health and Safety." Who knew? With his newly announced plan to require New York departments and agencies to look back at proposed and existing regulations, Governor Paterson placed himself squarely in the anti-regulatory tradition of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. Like ...

CPR Scholarship Roundup: Resilience and Adaptive Management -- Protecting Natural Resources in a Changing World

by Shana Campbell Jones | August 11, 2009
One of the ongoing tensions in environmental law is the conflict between uniformity and flexibility, constancy and change. Many of the environmental successes over the past thirty years derive from uniform standards that are straightforward to administer and enforce. The Clean Water Act’s requirement, for example, that all industrial polluters are obligated to utilize the same end-of-pipe, technology-based pollution controls is responsible for dramatically cleaning up our waters. There are, of course, still more low-hanging fruit to be addressed under ...

The Need for, and Challenges of, Climate Adaptation

by Holly Doremus | August 11, 2009
This item cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. When it comes to climate change, lawyers and policymakers (and scientists too) have been guilty of emphasizing greenhouse gas emission reduction, almost to the exclusion of everything else. Adapting to climate change has taken a distant back seat, even as it has become increasingly clear that the world is already committed to some pretty dramatic changes. That’s beginning to change. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Global Change Research Program issued a major ...

A New Look at Science in Regulatory Policy

by Wendy Wagner | August 10, 2009
On Wednesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center's Science for Policy Project released its report (press release, full report) on the use of science in regulation-making. I was on the panel and thus am a bit biased, but I think the report makes a terrific contribution. It significantly narrows the range of positions that can be credibly debated about the appropriate level of oversight needed to ensure the quality of regulatory science. At the same time, it introduces some important new ideas ...

Sid Shapiro Interview on Michaels Nomination to OSHA

by Matthew Freeman | August 10, 2009
  CPR's Sid Shapiro is interviewed in this week's edition of Living On Earth, the environment-focused public radio show heard in 300 markets around the nation.  The subject is David Michaels's nomination to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.   Says Shapiro:  "David Michaels has his job cut out for him. I think it's fair to say that OSHA is one of the most dysfunctional agencies in Washington. For example, Congress had a plan how to regulate toxic chemicals ...

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: An Assessment of the Facts (Below) the Ground Today

by Alexandra Klass | August 06, 2009
One of many approaches to combating climate change is “Carbon Capture and Geologic Sequestration” (CCS). It’s a pretty straightforward idea: capture climate-change-causing carbon emissions and lock them up underground, rather than letting them float up into the atmosphere where they would contribute to global warming. The concept may be simple, but the actual engineering of it is as complicated as you might guess. The first problem is capturing and transporting CO2 emissions to their “resting place.” And then comes the ...

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