Senate Republicans Flip-Flop on the White House and Independent Agencies

by James Goodwin | March 02, 2016

Yesterday, the Republican members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC)—the Senate committee with primary oversight jurisdiction over the regulatory system—published a report detailing their shock and dismay over a Wall Street Journal story alleging that the White House "may have inappropriately influenced" the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) so-called "net neutrality" rule. In releasing the report, Committee Chairman Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) could barely contain his contempt: "It is concerning that an independent agency like the FCC could be so unduly influenced by the White House, particularly on an issue that touches the lives of so many Americans and has such a significant impact on a critical sector of the United States economy."

Among other things, the Senate HSGAC report complains about what it describes as secret communications between White House staff and FCC staff about how the rule should be designed. The report further concludes that White House influence may have undermined the effective functioning of the Administrative Procedure Act's notice-and-comment procedures for soliciting meaningful public feedback on the regulatory proposal.

Those who follow the U.S. regulatory system know that White House interference in agency regulatory decision-making is a common and undesirable feature of the rulemaking process. In 2011, CPR published a report detailing the extent of such interference and the troubling policy implications it raises. The CPR report explains how White House interference in rulemaking shields from public view how critical decisions about ...

Toxicity, Trading and Watershed Restoration: Seeking a More Holistic Approach

by Evan Isaacson | March 02, 2016
The mysterious deaths of 13 bald eagles on Maryland's Eastern Shore last month captured headlines around the country. While a tragic story, it was also a reminder of just how far bald eagle populations and those of other birds of prey have recovered over the last several decades. From a population of fewer than 1,000 in 1963, almost as many bald eagles now soar in the skies over Maryland alone. The iconic bird's recovery is a case study in the ...

Steinzor Reacts to SCOTUS Chesapeake Bay Case

by Rena Steinzor | February 29, 2016
The Supreme Court today denied certiorari in a case challenging the watershed-wide effort led by the EPA to reduce pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. The Court's action leaves standing a lower court ruling upholding the effort. CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, issued the following reaction: "The Supreme Court's decision is a milestone victory for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and the thousands of local waters in the Bay watershed. Today's ...

Unleashing the Lower Courts

by Daniel Farber | February 25, 2016
There’s already been a lot written about how Justice Scalia’s untimely death will affect pending cases, not to mention speculation about the possible nominees to replace him. Less attention has been given to the effect on the lower courts. Yet Justice Scalia’s departure gives liberal judges in lower courts more freedom than they’ve had in the past. Here, I’m specifically thinking of the D.C. Circuit and the Ninth Circuit, which between them are the most important forums for environmental litigation. ...

More Delay for OSHA's New Silica Rule

by Katie Tracy | February 24, 2016
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has informally announced that it is unlikely to finalize its long-awaited rule to limit workers' exposure to respirable crystalline silica by the month's end, as the agency had expected. OSHA's deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, Jordan Barab, told Politico on Friday, Feb. 18, that he "can pretty much guarantee" the rule will be delayed, but he expects "it will be out soon." The silica rule, which OSHA proposed ...

Testimony: Maryland Needs Effective Manure Management Policies to Restore Watersheds

by Evan Isaacson | February 23, 2016
Legislative committees in both the Maryland House and Senate are holding hearings this week on the Poultry Litter Management Act, a bill that has been attracting a lot of attention in Maryland and beyond. I have been asked to testify as part of a panel featuring representatives of the United States Geological Survey and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The focus of my testimony will be the problems posed by farm animal manure – in this case, poultry litter on Maryland’s Eastern ...

Justice Scalia and the American Eco-Kulturkampf

by Robert Verchick | February 22, 2016
Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court chair sits empty, draped in black wool to honor a man whose intellect and fire-breathing keyboard helped reshape the nation’s political landscape. Depending on how things go, that chair could be empty for a while. Unlike more recent nominations to replace a Justice, a nomination from President Obama could reorient the Court away from its long-standing conservative tilt toward something more progressive or even merely moderate. In the current session alone, important cases involving affirmative ...

What Are 'Ag-Gag' Law Proponents Trying to Hide?

by Mollie Rosenzweig | February 19, 2016
At a time when consumers are demanding greater transparency in the food system – and some food companies are delivering by means of genetically modified organism labeling and removal of artificial food dyes — a troubling North Carolina law that runs counter to that goal has recently gone into effect. The state’s so-called “ag-gag” law prohibits whistleblowers from making audio or video recordings inside industrial agricultural facilities. Following the success of a similar suit in Idaho last year, consumer protection ...

Another Strong DOJ Settlement on Stormwater Pollution - Outside of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

by Evan Isaacson | February 18, 2016
On May 12, 2009, the federal government finally got serious about protecting the Chesapeake Bay. That’s when President Obama signed Executive Order 13508 on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration, which declared that the federal government would put its shoulder into the multi-state effort to restore the Bay. Taking turns at a podium perched on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River, the Governors of Maryland and Virginia and the Mayor of Washington D.C. praised the President that day for ordering the ...

Justice Scalia and Environmental Law

by Daniel Farber | February 16, 2016
Scalia's decisions were almost unremittingly anti-environmental. Over the past three decades, Justice Scalia did much to shape environmental law, nearly always in a conservative direction.  Because of the importance of his rulings, environmental lawyers and scholars are all familiar with his work.  But for the benefit of others, I thought it might be helpful to summarize his major environmental decisions.  The upshot was to restrict EPA’s authority to interpret environmental statutes, make property rights a stronger bulwark against environmental protection, ...

Midnight Regulations, Shmidnight Shmegulations

by James Goodwin | February 12, 2016
In case you didn’t get the memo:  President Obama is entering the last year of his final term in office, so now we’re all supposed to be panicking over a dreaded phenomenon known as “midnight regulations.”  According to legend, midnight rulemaking takes place when outgoing administrations rush out a bunch of regulations during their last few days in order to burnish their legacy or make concrete several of their policy priorities in ways that would be difficult for a successor—presumably ...

Politico Examines the Obama Legacy

by Matthew Freeman | February 11, 2016
Last month, Politico’s Michael Grunwald published what I suspect is going to be a first draft of history’s judgment of Barack Obama’s presidency. He writes that “a review of his record shows that the Obama era has produced much more sweeping change than most of his supporters or detractors realize.” Grunwald runs a long list of the President’s achievements, including Obamacare, the automobile industry bailout, the stimulus bill that kept the economy from falling off of a cliff, an overhaul ...

The Clean Power Plan: Continuing Momentum after the Supreme Court’s Stay

by Alice Kaswan | February 10, 2016
The Supreme Court’s February 9 stay of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan may have removed the states’ immediate compliance obligations, and it will undoubtedly remove some pressure for action in states resistant to change.  Nonetheless, the extensive data and fundamental state and regional planning processes generated by the Clean Power Plan (the Plan) may continue to bear fruit even as the Plan remains in legal limbo. The Clean Power Plan has already triggered progress.  To determine feasible reductions on ...

Supreme Court Stays Clean Power Plan

by Victor Flatt | February 10, 2016
In a surprising moves to legal experts, the Supreme Court yesterday in a 5-4 ruling stayed the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) supporting greenhouse gas reductions at fossil fuel fired power plants.  The move was surprising because the Supreme Court rarely involves itself in the determinations of whether or not a temporary stay of legal implications is warranted, largely leaving that to lower courts.  The D.C. Circuit, two weeks ago, refused to grant a stay, meaning that ...

New CPR Analysis: Chesapeake Bay TMDL Failure Looms

by Matthew Freeman | February 04, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: Analysis of EPA TMDL Data Documents Looming Failure by Chesapeake Bay States to Meet 2017 Pollution-Reduction Goals In Report & Letters to EPA and Governors, CPR Authors Call on Bay States to Step Up, and on EPA to Begin Enforcement Actions A new analysis from the Center for Progressive Reform concludes that the efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) to restore the Chesapeake Bay to health is veering off course because of state failures to reduce pollution ...

Legacy Goods and the Environment

by Daniel Farber | January 28, 2016
The value of some goods like wilderness today depends on their futures. Normally, economists imagine, equal experiences become less valuable as they recede further into the future.  But some types of goods don’t have that kind of relationship with future experiences.  They can become more valuable as they extend farther into to the future. Take this blog post, for example.  I’m really happy that you’re reading it today.  But it will be even cooler if someone reads it ten years ...

Senate Antiregulatory Package Bill is Selling Corporate Welfare, But the New York Times Editorial Page Isn’t Buying

by James Goodwin | January 20, 2016
Still just a few weeks into the new year, both chambers of Congress are making it clear that attacks on our system of regulatory safeguards will remain a top priority in 2016.   The GOP-controlled House of Representatives has already passed—along partisan lines—two antiregulatory measures, and the Senate appears poised to follow suit with their own antiregulatory package expected to drop sometime this week. CPR Member Scholars and staff are tracking all of these developments, working to educate policymakers about how ...

Maryland's Pressing Stormwater Infrastructure Needs

by Evan Isaacson | January 13, 2016
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is a tragic reminder of the hidden costs of our nation’s failing infrastructure.  Whether through benign neglect or deliberate “starve the beast” cost-cutting measures, we are continually seeing the costly and sometimes terrible consequences of failing to meet our infrastructure financing needs.  The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state of U.S. infrastructure a D+ grade in its most recent 2013 Report Card, which included a D for both drinking water and wastewater ...

Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

Ristino | Jan 17, 2018 | Environmental Policy

A Final 2017 Dose of Op-Eds

Freeman | Dec 28, 2017 | Regulatory Policy

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