EPA Steps Up to the Plate on Clean Water Act Enforcement. Congress Needs to Step Up, Too

by Robert Glicksman | October 15, 2009

Just about a month ago, the New York Times published a story in which it documented an alarming failure on the part of federal and state officials to enforce the principal federal law designed to protect the quality of the nation’s surface waters, including rivers, lakes, and streams. According to that story, fewer than three percent of identified violations of the Clean Water Act result in fines or other significant punishments by state officials. These violations have the potential to threaten the health of people who use the affected waters drinking, swimming, fishing, and other purposes. Yet, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rarely stepped in to reclaim authority to administer the Act from states failing to fulfill their responsibilities to protect water quality through vigorous enforcement efforts.

EPA officials were well aware of these problems. This summer, less than six months after becoming President Obama’s EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson ordered EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) to investigate federal and state enforcement programs under the Clean Water Act and take steps to strengthen the statute’s capacity for protecting water quality and the health of those who use the water. Today, OECA responded to that charge by releasing its Clean Water Enforcement Action Plan. The Plan forthrightly recognizes the appalling plethora of significant water quality problems that face too many of America’s communities and traces those problems, in significant part, to ineffective implementation and inadequate ...

EPA Announces CWA Enforcement Plan

by Ben Somberg | October 15, 2009
The EPA today released a 15-page Clean Water Act Enforcement Action Plan prepared by the agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Back in early July, Lisa Jackson had directed the enforcmeent office to develop a plan, and to "report back to me within 90 days with your recommendations." The EPA seems to be saying the plan released today is the final ("EPA Administrator Announces Plan to Retool and Reinvigorate Clean Water Enforcement Program.") The announcement came as the House ...

Civil Disobedience and Climate Change

by Holly Doremus | October 14, 2009
This item cross-posted from Legal Planet. On Friday, the New York Times carried a story about Tim DeChristopher, the economics student in Utah who bid on federal oil and gas leases at an auction last December as a form of protest against global warming. DeChristopher was the winning bidder on 14 parcels, but admits that he never had either the intent or the ability to pay the $1.7 million he bid. He is now facing criminal charges of interfering with ...

Amendment on Consumer Financial Protection Could Block Citizens From Taking Banks to Court

by Thomas McGarity | October 13, 2009
The debate over whether Congress should create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, as recommended by President Obama, has recently taken a disturbing turn. Apparently, some congressional Democrats have been receptive to complaints from the big national banks that the current bill does not preempt state laws and regulations that are more stringent than the regulations that the new agency will promulgate. National banks have traditionally been protected from state regulation by virtue of express preemption clauses in the federal statutes ...

CPR Member Scholar Appointed to EPA Post

by Ben Somberg | October 09, 2009
Congratulations to CPR Member Scholar and board member Rob Verchick! Rob has been appointed to the position of Deputy Associate Administrator in the EPA's Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation (OPEI). ...

The Alan Carlin Story Just Never Ends

by Ben Somberg | October 09, 2009
I thought that the Alan Carlin story -- the 'suppressed' climate change skeptic at EPA -- was over. After the initial debunkings, the story kept going, but then I thought the NYT really put it to rest in late September. Apparently not for everyone. Carlin, many have noted, is an economist at EPA, not a climate scientist. He has one Ph.D. - in economics. But that's no matter. The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel wanted more on the story, and ...

All Beaks Turned to the Illinois River: Oklahoma Poultry Case Begins

by Yee Huang | October 08, 2009
On September 24, arguments began in Oklahoma v. Tyson, a 2005 lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma Attorney General against poultry companies operating in the Illinois River Basin. The lawsuit alleges violations of federal environmental laws, state and federal public nuisance law, and state statutes regulating pollution of waterways. Oklahoma’s legal strategy is unique: the state is bringing the suit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, more commonly known as the Superfund Law) to target the nonpoint ...

Boxer-Kerry Centralizes Procedures for Adaptation But Lacks Substantive Guidance

by Alejandro Camacho | October 07, 2009
This post is the sixth in a series from CPR Member Scholars examining different aspects of the Boxer-Kerry bill on climate change, which was released September 30. Though the Boxer-Kerry bill's take on climate change adaptation is similar to the approach adopted by the House of Representatives through the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), a number of significant features are different (see my post from May, with Holly Doremus, analyzing an early version of that bill's provisions on ...

Holding Government and Emitters Accountable Under Boxer-Kerry

by Nina Mendelson | October 07, 2009
This post is the fifth in a series from CPR Member Scholars examining different aspects of the Boxer-Kerry bill on climate change, which was released September 30. To expand a bit on some of what Bill Buzbee discussed in his excellent analysis of the Boxer-Kerry bill on CPRBlog, it is critical to ensure that the implementation of a new climate change regime is done in a way that is prompt and efficient, but also accountable. An effective bill needs to ...

'Sound Science' Attack on OSHA Nominee David Michaels Is Drenched in Irony

by Sidney Shapiro | October 06, 2009
  How’s this for any irony? David Michaels, President Obama’s nominee to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has written a book, published by Oxford University press, documenting how industry manufactures doubts that chemicals harm people by accusing regulators and plaintiff lawyers of relying of “junk science” instead of “sound science.” Now, after Michaels has exposed this effort as a public relations campaign that mischaracterizes how science actually works, he is being attacked on the grounds, you guessed it, of ...

Boxer-Kerry: Measures to Address Error and Illegality

by William Buzbee | October 05, 2009
This post is the fourth in a series from CPR Member Scholars examining different aspects of the Boxer-Kerry bill on climate change, which was released September 30 The Boxer-Kerry bill released on September 30, 2009 is yet another massive piece of proposed legislation. And it is likely to get even larger as details are added regarding distribution of pollution allowances, and as other gaps and shortcomings are addressed. Its basic architecture and enforcement provisions, however, give us a good feel for the ...

Boxer-Kerry: Carbon Capture and Sequestration Provisions Are About Right

by Alexandra Klass | October 05, 2009
This post is the third in a series from CPR Member Scholars examining different aspects of the Boxer-Kerry bill on climate change, which was released September 30. The Boxer-Kerry bill, like the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House, provides for funding, study, and emissions allowances for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). In terms of developing a technology in the short-term to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from power plants, this is sound policy. On the other hand, it will be important to ensure ...

Mountaintop Removal Review Moves to Next Stage

by Holly Doremus | October 02, 2009
(Cross-posted by permission from LegalPlanet) EPA finished September with a flourish. In addition to proposing New Source Review rules for greenhouse gas emissions and pushing for TSCA reform, the agency took the next step toward a crack-down on mountaintop removal. On September 11, EPA announced preliminary plans to review all 79 pending permit applications. This week, after considering public comment, it finalized that list, concluding that indeed all 79 require further review, based on concerns that the projects could more ...

Boxer-Kerry: Integrating Regulation and Cap-and-Trade

by Alice Kaswan | October 01, 2009
This post is the second in a series from CPR Member Scholars examining different aspects of the Boxer-Kerry bill on climate change, which was released September 30. Wednesday was a big day for advocates of traditional regulation. While the Waxman-Markey bill proposed exempting greenhouse gases (GHGs) from key Clean Air Act (CAA) provisions, the Boxer-Kerry bill proposes a greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade program to complement rather than replace the CAA’s standard authority to establish regulations for stationary sources of air pollutants. Almost ...

Boxer-Kerry an Improvement over ACES on Offsets

by Victor Flatt | September 30, 2009
This post is first in a series from CPR Member Scholars examining different aspects of the Boxer-Kerry bill on climate change, which was released today. With respect to offsets, the Boxer-Kerry bill is a distinct improvement over the ACES. It allows a relatively strong approach to offset integrity, avoiding negative social or environmental effects, and facilitating possible integration with other systems. It also addresses some issues that will be important to the functioning of a trading market, but still leaves ...

Full Boxer-Kerry climate bill is up

by Ben Somberg | September 30, 2009
The full 821-page bill is up here. That's not to be confused with the 801-page pre-draft everyone was checking out yesterday, or the 684-page one earlier yesterday. They’ve also got a section-by-section outline of the bill. We'll have much more soon. ...

Reasonably Assured? The Chesapeake Bay and Reasonable Assurances

by Yee Huang | September 30, 2009
This post is part of CPR’s ongoing analysis of the draft reports on protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay. See Shana Jones' earlier "EPA's Chesapeake Bay Reports: A First Look" One of the continuing obstacles to cleaning up the nation’s waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay, is the pollution caused by non-point sources (NPS). In the recently released draft reports on protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay, the EPA attempts to address NPS in part by reinvigorating the “reasonable assurance” standard, ...

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, ...

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