PennFuture: Manure Increasing in Key Region Draining into Chesapeake Bay, Despite Pledges

by Shana Campbell Jones | September 29, 2009

Today PennFuture released a report finding that the amount of liquid manure applied to farms in Pennsylvania’s Octoraro watershed has increased by 40 percent over the past five years to 108 million gallons annually. The amount of nitrogen produced by livestock in the watershed is equal to the amount generated by approximately 370,000 people each year.

Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in the Octoraro watershed doesn’t stay in the watershed. The watershed, which includes parts of Lancaster and Chester counties, drains into the Susquehanna River, the Chesapeake Bay’s largest tributary. According to the report, 99 percent of all liquid manure produced in the Octoraro watershed is applied on fields within the watershed.

Everyone who follows Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts knows that the federal and state partners in the Bay Program make promises they don’t intend to keep because, ultimately, the states will not hold their citizens accountable for the pollution they create. When it comes to dealing with agriculture, the states have only had the stomach for voluntary approaches. And when the states do regulate, their inspection and enforcement programs are anemic at best. PennFuture’s report provides even more evidence for this dynamic.

For example, according to the report, 43 percent of livestock operations in the Octoraro watershed were not in compliance with their state nutrient management plans, yet the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is nowhere in sight. As Bill Andreen discussed recently, a huge problem ...

CPR Releases Manual on Water Resources and the Public Trust Doctrine

by Ben Somberg | September 29, 2009
Much of the battle to preserve and protect water resources happens at the state and local levels – in any number of policy choices advocated and made by individuals, organizations, companies, and governments. In recent years, water activists have begun to deploy a new tool geared to shape these decisions. Long-established in legal jurisprudence, the public trust doctrine holds that certain natural resources belong to all and cannot be privately owned or controlled because of their intrinsic value to each ...

WashPost Prints Lomborg

by Ben Somberg | September 28, 2009
This just in: trying to stop climate change will cost the world about $50 trillion a year, but the impacts of climate change will only cost about $1 trillion a year, so the choice is clear! That's the thesis of Bjorn Lomborg's op-ed in Monday's Washington Post. Presumably the flooding of much of Bangladesh doesn't count for much, since those lives are totally worth less than ours, etc. Update: For more on this, see Joe Romm and Miles Grant. ...

National Security Spending Doesn't Have to Clear Cost-Benefit Test, Obama Administration Confirms. But Health Regulations?

by James Goodwin | September 25, 2009
Issues of national security have always enjoyed a free pass when it comes to the use of cost-benefit analysis (CBA) as the primary form of making decisions.  For example, no military official or politician interested in keeping his job would ever dare publicly question whether the additional money spent on extra armor for tanks to keep soldiers safer could be put to better use somewhere else. There are plenty of reasons why we are willing to accord national security decisions ...

Workplace Safety News This Week

by Ben Somberg | September 25, 2009
The Chemical Safety Board released its report Thursday on the 2008 explosion at the Imperial Sugar plant in Georgia, finding that the incident was "entirely preventable" (Reuters article, full report). Ken Ward Jr. gave helpful context for the announcement and followed up afterward with the criticism from unions for the Chemical Safety Board's "decision to not repeat its previous recommendations that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration write tough standards regulating combustible dust in America’s workplaces." Celeste Monforton applauded ...

Coveting Their Neighbor's Water: the Importance of Hood v. City of Memphis

by Christine Klein | September 24, 2009
The interstate water wars have gone underground. For more than a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has been the arbiter of last resort to settle fights between states over the right to use surface streams that cross state lines. But now, the high Court may be asked to settle a long-standing feud between Mississippi and Tennessee over a vast underground formation—the Memphis Sand aquifer, which underlies about 10,000 square miles of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. The stakes are high, ...

Second Circuit's Decision in Connecticut v. AEP Makes Clear No One is Above the Law

by Alice Kaswan | September 23, 2009
The Second Circuit's ruling Monday in State of Connecticut, et al. v. American Electric Power Company Inc., et al. revived a public nuisance lawsuit against the nation’s five largest electric power companies. The case opens the door to a potential judicial remedy for the alleged harm and increases the pressure on Congress and the Executive Branch to devise a more comprehensive solution to our greenhouse gas problem. In an ideal world, would we give the task of designing facility-specific climate ...

Wishful Thinking Doesn't Justify Grizzly Delisting

by Holly Doremus | September 23, 2009
Cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. Federal Judge Donald Molloy in Montana has ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to restore grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area to the list of endangered and threatened species. Judge Molloy refused to allow FWS to delist the grizzly on the basis of unsupported wishful thinking about the bear’s future. Grizzly bears once roamed across most of the North American west, but the population in Yellowstone is one of the few remaining remnants in ...

A Promising Step Toward a National Ocean Policy

by Holly Doremus | September 22, 2009
Cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. In June, President Obama created an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, and directed it to make recommendations for a national ocean policy.  The Task Force got right to work.  Now, after convening two dozen expert roundtables, inviting public comment, and holding the first of six public sessions, the Task Force has issued an Interim Report recommending key elements of a national policy. The Interim Report is very encouraging.  If the Task Force follows this ...

Obama's Frank Talk on Climate at the U.N.: More Please

by Amy Sinden | September 22, 2009
Imagine if the end of the world were coming and everyone was just too polite to talk about it. That’s been the eerie feeling I've gotten over the past eight months listening to the President talk about energy policy. Not wanting to be a downer, he couches his energy talk in positive spin: We’re going to invest in the new clean green economy, create jobs, sell American ingenuity and know-how around the world, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. ...

9th Circuit's Strong Words for EPA's Office of Civil Rights

by Ben Somberg | September 21, 2009
As first reported by Law 360 on Thursday: In a decision reversing a ruling in favor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a federal appeals court has chastised the agency's Office of Civil Rights for what the court said was its apparent failure to consider alleged civil rights violations in a timely manner. “What the district court initially classified as an 'isolated instance of untimeliness' has since bloomed into a consistent pattern of delay by the EPA,” wrote Judge A. ...

Interior's Initiative on Adaptation Will Need to Overcome a Legacy of Inaction

by Alejandro Camacho | September 18, 2009
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a secretarial order on Monday establishing a new department-wide strategy for gathering data and developing management options to help managers cope with the effects of climate change on resources governed by the Interior Department. The order seeks to initiate three components: A “Climate Change Response Council” to coordinate and develop the Department’s strategy for responding to the effects of climate change, advancing methods for geologic and biologic carbon sequestration, and estimating and reducing ...

The Poop on Manure in the Water: We're Sick of It

by Shana Campbell Jones | September 18, 2009
Today’s New York Times article about excess manure in the water is a stark reminder of what can happen when an environmental problem isn’t addressed: people get really sick. While the article is shocking -- it describes how families in Wisconsin living close to dairy farms suffered from chronic diarrhea, stomach problems, and severe ear infections from parasites and bacteria that seeped into the drinking water -- it restates what a lot of people have known for a long time. ...

Administrative Delay in Implementing a Cap-and-Trade Program: A Compelling Reason to Auction All Allowances

by David Driesen | September 17, 2009
Cap-and-trade legislation making its way through Congress has become enormously complex, embodying a host of arcane political deals governing the distribution of the vast majority of emissions allowances being given away for free, with crucial details being left to EPA. This complexity threatens to hinder the effort to address climate disruption (see my article Capping Carbon). It would lead to long delays and weak implementation, just like other laws delegating a lot of controversial and litigable decisions to administrative agencies. ...

One More Point on the N.Y. Times Water Article -- the Problem of Nonpoint Source Pollution

by William Andreen | September 16, 2009
Sunday’s New York Times article about the neglect of our clean water laws included a shocking example of how a regulatory gap in the Clean Water Act can harm public health. For example, the article referred to water supplies in parts of the Farm Belt that are contaminated by dangerous levels of pesticides, which originate with agricultural runoff and cannot be corrected by enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Although the Act provides a comprehensive regulatory program for point source ...

It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

by Daniel Farber | September 16, 2009
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Since opponents can’t seem to come up with any new arguments against climate change legislation, they seem determined to recycle the old, discredited ones. Here’s Tuesday’s example, straight from the GOP press release: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif, today urged the Environmental Protection Agency to include several relevant studies in its decision-making record for a major finding on climate policy after it was made public that a senior EPA official suppressed the ...

N.Y. Times Article on Water Pollution: A Timely Reminder of the Role of Enforcement

by William Andreen | September 15, 2009
Sunday’s New York Times article about the neglect of our clean water laws came as a timely reminder that, no matter how well articulated our environmental laws may be, it takes consistent, vigorous enforcement to ensure compliance with these statutory regimes. Unfortunately, as the article illustrates, state and federal enforcement of the Clean Water Act has languished during the past decade. Not only have governmental resources been inadequate, but all too often the will to enforce the law has been ...

New Research on Radioactive Granite, and OSHA's Response

by Matt Shudtz | September 14, 2009
Granite, like most natural stones, contains radioactive material. While this isn’t much of a concern for a person who spends a few hours in a kitchen with granite countertops every day, new research by David Bernhardt, Linda Kincaid, and Al Gerhart suggests that the workers who fabricate those countertops might have reason to worry. When they cut granite slabs to fit a room and to have nice edges, corners, and cut-outs for sinks and appliances, workers’ saws can create a ...

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