Cleaner Waters for Washington at Long Last?

by Catherine O'Neill | August 08, 2016

The Clean Water Act instructs states and tribes to revisit their water quality standards every three years, updating them as necessary to reflect newer science and to ensure progress in cleaning up the nation's waters – to the point where people can safely catch and eat fish. Last Monday, Washington State's Department of Ecology unveiled its long-awaited update, revising standards that had been developed back in 1992. The state's rulemaking process has been marked by controversy and delay, which I have criticized several times in the past (see here and here and here and here). Do the new standards finally mean progress? 

Ecology's director, Maia Bellon, characterized the new standards as "protective and achievable." While Washington's standards are indeed likely to be attainable – as Special Assistant to the Director Kelly Susewind candidly told The Tacoma Daily News, "Ecology doesn't expect the new rules to have any immediate or near-term impact on permitted entities" – it is difficult to see how Ecology can claim they are "protective."  

To the contrary, for many of the contaminants that matter for human health, Ecology's final rule either does nothing to improve the protectiveness of its standards or, worse, it actually decreases their protectiveness. Methylmercury? Ecology's rule does nothing. PCBs? Nothing. Dioxins, arsenic, and five of the seven carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)? Ecology's rule makes things worse, instating more ...

Corporations Advance Food Policy Agenda, but on Whose Terms?

by Mollie Rosenzweig | August 05, 2016
Americans are increasingly looking for reforms in our food system. Limited use of pesticides, animal welfare, and sustainability are just some of the issues becoming more important to consumers when they make decisions about their food. Unfortunately, Congress and the regulatory agencies charged with overseeing the food supply have worked slowly – very slowly – to address these and other pressing issues as of late. On the other hand, the food industry and retailers have seen the writing on the ...

The New NEPA Guidance

by Daniel Farber | August 04, 2016
The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued new guidance this week on considering climate change in environmental impact statements (EIS). Here are the key points: Quantification. The guidance recommends that agencies quantify projected direct and indirect emissions, using the amount of emissions as a proxy for the eventual impact on climate change. The EIS should also discuss the impacts of climate change, referring to government reports on the subject for conclusions. A formal cost-benefit analysis is not required ...

Memo to the Next President: Let's Make Government Work for All of Us

by Brian Gumm | August 03, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: Memo to the Next President: Let's Make Government Work for All of Us  Over the past several weeks, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) has urged the next president to take a constructive approach to our government and our system of health, safety, environmental, and financial safeguards. With Election Day just three months away, CPR is releasing a new paper that expands on those themes and provides a comprehensive blueprint for how the next president can rebuild our ...

CPR Lauds OSHA's Continued Vigilance over Rampant Dangers in the Poultry Slaughter Industry

by Matt Shudtz | July 29, 2016
Earlier this week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Pilgrim's Pride, one of the world's largest poultry processors, with more than a dozen serious workplace health and safety violations. CPR Executive Director Matthew Shudtz issued the following statement today:  Credit OSHA for pushing the envelope. The poultry slaughter industry loves to tout its declining injury rates, but outside experts have many reasons to believe the industry's cooking its books. This isn't the first time OSHA's investigators have uncovered ...

Hidden Penalties and Secretive Settlements Make for Lousy Enforcement Policy

by Evan Isaacson | July 29, 2016
If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? More to the point, if law enforcement issues a civil or criminal fine or sentence without anyone knowing, does it have an effect? Thinking back to my criminal law course, I recall such philosophical discussions over the various theories justifying criminal penalties, such as incapacitation of the perpetrator, justice for the victim, and restoration of damages. But perhaps the most important theoretical basis ...

On Climate Change Preparation, Record of Land Management Agencies Is Mixed

by Alejandro Camacho | July 20, 2016
Whether it's raging wildfires in the West, catastrophic flooding in the East and Upper Midwest, or rising sea levels on the coasts, there is no question that climate change is affecting and will continue to significantly impact our public lands and the resources they both provide and protect. As a nation, we need to be prepared for these changes and find effective ways to adapt.  To develop a snapshot of the scope and efficacy of such efforts thus far, we ...

Memo to the Next President: Build a Regulatory System That Works for the People

by James Goodwin | July 14, 2016
In an earlier post, CPR Member Scholar Robert Glicksman discussed the need for the next president to champion a truly positive vision of government and regulation. A new way of thinking and talking about these issues is critically important, and the president should play a key role in charting this course.  While a rhetorical shift is important and long overdue, it is also crucial that the next president be prepared to match actions to words. Consequently, the next president should ...

The Clean Power Plan: Achieving Clean Air Act Goals with Flexibility and Cleaner Energy

by Hannah Wiseman | July 13, 2016
When Congress extensively amended the Clean Air Act in 1970 to form the air pollution laws that we know today, it spoke in no uncertain terms about the breadth of federal authority in this area while also centrally involving states in the effort to clean up the nation's air. Congress directed the EPA Administrator to list the pollutants "which in his judgment" have "an adverse effect on public health and welfare" and are generated from "numerous or diverse" sources – ...

Old and New Capture

by Sidney Shapiro | July 07, 2016
Originally published on RegBlog by CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro. Although it is well known that regulatory capture can subvert the public interest, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are two forms of capture that can affect the performance of regulatory agencies. The "old capture"—which is what most of us think of when we think of regulatory capture—occurs when regulators become so co-opted by the regulated entities or special interests they are supposed to regulate that they end up working to ...

CPR's Driesen to Give House Judiciary a Tough Review of OIRA

by James Goodwin | July 06, 2016
This afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law will hold an oversight hearing that looks at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the powerful White House bureau that sits at the center of the regulatory universe.  Originally created to oversee federal agencies' implementation of the Paperwork Reduction Act, a series of presidential executive orders stretching back to the Reagan administration has endowed OIRA with a powerful gatekeeping role over executive agencies' rulemaking ...

Let's Celebrate Some Progress on Infrastructure Investment

by Evan Isaacson | July 05, 2016
For decades, politicians, advocates, and the press have lamented America's aging, deteriorating, or even failing infrastructure and called for change – usually to little avail. Perhaps another strategy should be to celebrate success wherever we see it and spotlight achievements to demonstrate that we can change the situation if we choose key public investments over apathy and short-sighted budget cuts. Just a few weeks ago, residents and advocates in the Chesapeake Bay region heard one such infrastructure success story. In ...

New Report: When OSHA Gives Discounts on Danger, Workers Are Put at Risk

by Brian Gumm | June 30, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: New Report: When OSHA Gives Discounts on Danger, Workers Are Put at Risk As Agency Prepares to Increase Maximum Penalty Levels for Workplace Health and Safety Violations, It Should Reexamine Settlement Policy Workplace health and safety standards exist for a reason. When companies ignore them, they put their workers in significant danger. Every year, thousands of workers die on the job in the United States, and many more are seriously injured. Unfortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) ...

Memo to the Next President: End the Era of Government Bashing

by Robert Glicksman | June 28, 2016
The most important lessons can be the hardest to learn. Sometimes they even take a crisis. We can hope that the sorry saga of Flint, Michigan's lead-poisoned water will be such a teachable moment for at least some of the anti-government crowd, finally driving home the point that government has a vital role in protecting health and safety, and that it can only play it if it takes the responsibility seriously and is provided the wherewithal to do its job ...

Federal District Court: Feds May Not Regulate Fracking on Federal Lands

by Hannah Wiseman | June 22, 2016
In a merits opinion issued on June 21, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming (Judge Skavdahl) held that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management--the agency tasked with protecting and preserving federal lands for multiple uses by the public--lacks the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on federally-owned and managed lands. Using a Chevron step 1 analysis (one standard used to review agencies' interpretation of the meaning of statutes that grant agencies authority), the court finds that "Congress has directly spoken ...

Statutory Standing After the Spokeo Decision

by Daniel Farber | June 21, 2016
One of the recurring questions in standing law is the extent to which Congress can change the application of the standing doctrine. A recent Supreme Court opinion in a non-environmental case sheds some light – not a lot, but some – on this recurring question. The Court has made it clear that there is a constitutional core of the doctrine with three elements: a concrete injury in fact, a causal link between the injury and the defendant's conduct, and a ...

Do Revisions to Nation's Toxic Chemical Law Represent Reform?

by Mollie Rosenzweig | June 20, 2016
Earlier this month, revisions to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) cleared the Senate and now await President Obama's signature. TSCA's failure to provide EPA with meaningful authority to protect Americans from toxic chemicals was widely recognized, yet the path to revising the law was fraught with controversy. The chemical industry and public health and environmental advocates, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress, wrangled over a number of bills for years. The resulting legislation represents a compromise, and ...

EPA Releases 2016 Assessments for Chesapeake Bay States

by Evan Isaacson | June 17, 2016
This morning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual assessments of progress made by the seven jurisdictions in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The bottom line: nothing has really changed in terms of the content or tone from the previous annual assessments, and they do not appear to reflect a shift in strategy by EPA toward greater enforcement against lagging states under the "accountability framework" of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL). First, a quick summary ...

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