Climate Change Schizophrenia: Cash For Coal Clunkers, Anthems for Natural Gas, and Delaying Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing Won't Win this Epic Battle

by Rena Steinzor | September 02, 2009

Those of us worried sick over climate change confronted a depressing piece of excellent reporting in Monday's Washington Post. Environment reporter David Fahrenthold wrote that environmental organizations are getting their proverbial clocks cleaned by a well-organized and pervasive campaign mounted by affected industries in small and mid-size communities throughout America. “It seems that environmentalists are struggling in a fight they have spent years setting up,” Fahrenthold wrote. “Even now, these groups differ on whether to scare the public with predictions of heat waves or woo it with promises of green jobs.”

If scaring the public is the objective, environmentalists don’t have to look very far for hard facts to support the effort. All they really need to do is focus on what the world’s most prominent and reputable scientists keep trying to tell us about the dismal state of the environment that we’re preparing to hand over to our children—not in 100 but in 30 or 40 years—if we don’t control our energy consumption. Spend an hour perusing the various reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a remarkable consortium of thousands of the world’s leading experts in all of the relevant scientific disciplines, and the scope and severity of the problem will be abundantly clear. It’s even more troubling when one considers that the IPCC is an international group that operates by consensus, and still manages to frame warnings that will turn your hair white.

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Cheaper to Pollute in China than in the United States? Yes, But...

by Ben Somberg | September 01, 2009
A recent article on Forbes.com, "China: Where Poisoning People Is Almost Free," gave great examples of just how cheap it often is to pollute in China. And it pointed to potential consequences: While companies can get away with pollution atrocities for years, the Chinese government, in the long run, may have to pay a high price for allowing it: political instability triggered by the unanswered grievances of pollution victims. Manufacturers, of course, can and have moved overseas to countries -- ...

New EPA White Paper on Probabilistic Risk Assessment

by Matt Shudtz | August 31, 2009
Earlier this month, EPA released for public comment a new white paper on probabilistic risk assessment, marking the Obama Administration’s first major foray into the contentious debate about EPA's evolving risk assessment methods. Back in May, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced changes to the way the Office of Research and Development (ORD) will update risk assessments for the IRIS database, but that announcement was made without any real public input and it only implicated the inner workings of one program ...

Nationwide Implications from EPA Nutrient Pollution Settlement

by Yee Huang | August 28, 2009
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency agreed to set specific, statewide numeric standards for nutrient pollution in Florida, marking the first time the EPA has forced numeric limits for nutrient runoff for an entire state. This settlement, based on a 1998 EPA determination that under the Clean Water Act all states were required to develop numeric standards for nutrient pollution, has implications for the thousands of impaired rivers, lakes, and estuaries across the United States. Under the Clean Water Act, ...

Lake Lanier Case a Lesson on Water Resources and Land Use Planning

by Yee Huang | August 27, 2009
In July, a federal judge settled a nearly 20-year legal dispute among Alabama, Florida, and Georgia over the use of water from Lake Lanier, dealing a tough blow to Georgia. The Army Corps of Engineers constructed Buford Dam in the 1950s, creating Lake Lanier as a reservoir for flood control, navigation, and hydropower. But Atlanta and its sprawling metropolitan area came to rely on the reservoir as a water supply, and Lake Lanier today supplies water to 75 percent of ...

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 ...

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 ...
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