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, expressed some optimism. He said that he, along with fellow Energy and Commerce Committee members Markey and Boucher, had met with a group of 14 "moderate" Senators, and: "I've never seen this happen before ... There were members of the U.S. Senate actually listening to members of the U.S. House." He said these Senators were, as the saying goes, looking for ways to get to "yes." Rep. Inslee implored attendees to help build the political space for senators to feel comfortable saying "yes."

On the same panel, Adam Siegel lamented how the political dialogue is still about the "costs" of addressing climate change; rarely is the discussion of the savings of addressing climate change, which are, of course, far greater. He criticized Democrats and others who had adopted the talking point that climate change legislation would "cost only a postage stamp per day" for each person, because that implied that there was a net cost.

The enviros here are ...

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 ...

Thoughts on Tuesday’s Senate Hearing on Preemption

by Matt Shudtz | August 05, 2009
Following up on Ben’s post about Tuesday’s Senate HELP Committee hearing on medical device preemption, I’d like to respond to three issues that came up during the question-and-answer session. Innovation: Senators Harkin and Hatch had a bit of a disagreement about whether the possibility of tort liability stifles innovation by medical device firms. Peter Barton Hutt, who Senator Hatch lauded as the “dean of all FDA lawyers,” noted that he sits on the board of ten small biotech firms and ...

McGarity Testifies on Medical Device Safety

by Ben Somberg | August 04, 2009
CPR Member Scholar Thomas McGarity testified this afternoon at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on the issue of medical device safety (written testimony, press release). Currently, individuals injured by a faulty medical device generally cannot sue the device manufacturer in state courts if that device was fully approved by the FDA, even if the manufacturer was aware of new research showing faults in the product. The Senate is considering a bill that would ...

The Chesapeake Bay and Beyond: Pollution Targets Met, Not Just Set

by Shana Campbell Jones | August 03, 2009
Today, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife is holding a hearing entitled “A Renewed Commitment to Protecting the Chesapeake Bay: Reauthorizing the Chesapeake Bay Program." Here's something that should be on Congress's agenda: making the Bay-wide TMDL (“pollution cap”) enforceable to ensure that it is actually implemented. First, some background: Congress created the Bay Program in 1983, establishing it under the Clean Water Act. The regional partnership, which now includes several federal agencies in ...

CPR Scholars Submit Comments on Reforming ESA's Inter-Agency Consultation Regulations

by James Goodwin | August 03, 2009
Today, I joined CPR Member Scholars Mary Jane Angelo, Holly Doremus, and Dan Rohlf in submitting comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)—one of the agencies charged with primary responsibility for executing the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—suggesting several ways to improve the regulations for implementing interagency consultations under the Act. Under Section 7 of the ESA, which governs interagency consultations, any time that a federal agency like the Department of Defense or the Department of Transportation wants to ...

In NYC Area, Contaminated Fish on the Plate

by Ben Somberg | July 31, 2009
More New Yorkers are fishing off area piers in this economy, and, in many cases, eating unsafe amounts of fish contaminated with PCBs and mercury. That was the thrust of a NY Daily News report earlier this month. They also reported that there were extremely few signs alerting the public to any kind of danger. New York City official soon responded that they'd put up more warning signs. CPR Member Scholar Catherine O'Neill discussed the fish contamination issues on WNYC's ...

'Curiouser and Curiouser!' Cried Alice ... A Tale of Regulatory Policy in the Obama Administration

by Sidney Shapiro | July 30, 2009
Like Alice's adventure, the development of regulatory oversight in the Obama administration is becoming "curiouser and curiouser." President Obama selected Cass Sunstein to be the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a curious choice since Sunstein, although one of the country’s most distinguished academics, is in favor of extending the use of cost-benefit analysis, a position so popular with the business community that the Wall Street Journal endorsed his nomination. Sunstein's confirmation hearing was uneventful, probably ...

Reviving OSHA: The New Administrator's Big Challenge

by Sidney Shapiro | July 30, 2009
On Tuesday, the White House announced the appointment of Dr. David Michaels to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). An epidemiologist and a professor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services, Michaels will bring substantial expertise and experience to the job. Besides being an active health research – he studies the health effects of occupational exposure to toxic chemicals – he has also written impressively on science and regulatory policy. His book, Doubt Is ...

Proposed Order on Floodplain Development

by Daniel Farber | July 29, 2009
This item cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. The White House is considering a new executive order to limit floodplain development.  The proposal covers roughly the same federal licensing, project, and funding decisions as NEPA.  The heart of the proposal is section 4, which unlike NEPA imposes a substantive requirement (preventing or mitigating floodplain development.)  The proposed language is after the jump.  This is a very constructive step — we can’t keep putting people and infrastructure in harm’s way, nor ...

Thoughts on EPA's Decision to Reconsider Lead Monitoring Requirements

by Matt Shudtz | July 28, 2009
Last Thursday, EPA announced (pdf) that they would reconsider a rule on monitoring lead in the air that was published in the waning days of the Bush Administration. I wrote about the original announcement, criticizing EPA for turning its back on children in neighborhoods like mine, where certain sources of airborne lead wouldn’t be monitored because of some questionable lobbying by the lead battery industry. Long story, short: After originally proposing and asking the public to comment on lead monitoring ...

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