President Obama’s Progressive Vision for the Future

by Thomas McGarity | January 13, 2016

President Obama devoted his final state-of-the-union speech to highlighting his administration’s considerable accomplishments, and, more importantly, to articulating a surprisingly robust progressive vision for the future.

And that vision properly included a large role for federal regulation. 

Noting that “reckless Wall Street,” not food stamp recipients, caused the financial meltdown of 2008-09, the President predicted, “working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else.” 

The obvious corollary is that the federal government must maintain a strong regulatory system to prevent companies from imposing risks to the financial and physical health of the American people and to their shared environment. We must therefore design and maintain a regulatory system that is impervious to capture by the companies that it is designed to regulate.

The President did throw a sop to the Republican side of the room when he vowed to continue the Administration’s efforts to locate and weed out ineffective regulations and reduce red tape. 

Since every president since President Carter has pledged to do the same thing, one would think that few truly unnecessary regulations are left to repeal.  But it is always a good idea for agencies to be open to revising or even repealing regulations in light of changes in technology, scientific understandings, business practices or other relevant circumstances. 

One would ...

Delmarva CAFO Expansion Continues Despite Calls for a Moratorium

by Evan Isaacson | January 12, 2016
Last September, the Environmental Integrity Project put a spotlight on the dramatic increase in the number of industrial scale poultry houses being established on the Delmarva Peninsula.  In its report, More Phosphorus, Less Monitoring, the organization found that more than 200 new chicken houses had been permitted on the peninsula since November 2014, including 67 in just one Maryland county (Somerset County, on the state’s lower Eastern Shore). Shortly thereafter the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition, supported by the Center for ...

Key Environmental Developments Ahead in 2016

by Daniel Farber | January 04, 2016
Here are seven of the most important developments affecting the environment. 2015 was a big year for agency regulations and international negotiations. In 2016, the main focal points will be the political process and the courts. Here are seven major things to watch for.  The Presidential Election. The election will have huge consequences for the environment. A Republican President is almost sure to try to roll back most of the environmental initiatives of the Obama Administration, undoing all the progress that has been ...

Feds Resolve to Expand Criminal Prosecutions of Workplace Safety Violations in the New Year

by Katie Tracy | December 22, 2015
As the year draws to a close and the New Year approaches, people all around the world will be contemplating what they can resolve to do better in 2016. This year, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seem to be celebrating the tradition as well. In a move akin to a “New Year’s Resolution” to do better by workers, the two agencies have just announced that they will be expanding their “worker endangerment initiative” to bolster ...

The Paris Agreement and Theories of Justice

by Alice Kaswan | December 21, 2015
As we seek to understand and assess the Paris Agreement over the coming months and years, we will continue to contemplate the critical underlying political and ethical question: who should be responsible?  And to what degree should that responsibility take the form of direct action versus providing support in the form of financing, technology transfer, and capacity-building?  As my Center for Progressive Reform colleague Noah Sachs has observed, the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) has been a consistent ...

CPR's Shudtz on the Silica Rule

by Matt Shudtz | December 21, 2015
This afternoon, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it was sending its final version of a long-awaited rule on silica dust in the workplace to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for final review. CPR Executive Director Matthew Shudtz responded to the news with the following statement: Workers across the United States have been waiting for this day for a long time. But don’t overlook the fact that this announcement simply marks a procedural accomplishment in a ...

Now is the Time to Restore MDE Enforcement Resources

by Evan Isaacson | December 18, 2015
A few months ago, I recounted the recent history of budget cuts to Maryland environmental agencies and their effect on the state of environmental inspections and enforcement in the state over the last two decades.  Fortunately, it appears that an opportunity to change this situation has presented itself to policymakers in Annapolis.  Recently, at the annual November meeting of the legislative Spending Affordability Committee, key lawmakers from the budget committees and House and Senate Leadership heard from the top legislative ...

VapeMentors, the Fat Cat Vapor Shop, and Cosmic Fog Vapors All Walk Into an Obscure White House Office...

by James Goodwin | December 16, 2015
This week appears to mark the end of an extraordinary period in the history of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the shadowy bureau charged with reviewing and revising pending agency rules, which too often ensures they are not overly inconvenient for affected industries.  For the last month and a half, a Mos Eisley-esque mélange of characters has streamed through the front doors to lobby OIRA’s gang of economists and political operatives over a pending rule that would ...

Does the Paris Agreement Open the Door to Geoengineering?

by Daniel Farber | December 15, 2015
If we're serious about keeping warming "well below" 2 degrees C, geoengineering may be necessary. The Paris agreement establishes an aspirational goal of holding climate change to 1.5 degrees C, with a firmer goal of holding the global temperature decrease “well below” 2 degrees C. As a practical matter, the 1.5 degrees C goal almost certainly would require geoengineering, such as injecting aerosols into the stratosphere or solar mirrors. Even getting well below 2 degrees C is likely to require ...

Stocktaking and Ratcheting After Paris

by Noah M Sachs | December 10, 2015
In the latest draft treaty text from Thursday evening in Paris two contentious issues seem to be resolved: how often the agreement will be reviewed after it is adopted (“stocktaking”) and whether the reviews should involve ever-more-stringent commitments by the parties (“ratcheting”). The background here is that the greenhouse gas reduction commitments made so far by 185 countries are voluntary, and they have varying levels of ambition.    Most countries committed to fulfill their promised reductions by 2030, but some countries, including the ...

At Senate Hearing, CPR's Verchick Provides Sole Voice of Reason on Flawed 'Regulatory Budgeting' Proposal

by James Goodwin | December 09, 2015
This morning, CPR President and Loyola University, New Orleans, Law Professor Robert R.M. Verchick testifies at a hearing convened by the Senate Budget Committee to examine a dangerous regulatory policy proposal known as “regulatory budgeting.” As he explains in his testimony, regulatory budgeting represents a stark departure from the traditional focus of regulatory policy discussions, which have long been concerned with improving the effectiveness—or quality—of regulatory decision-making. Regulatory budgeting, by contrast, makes the total number—or quantity—of regulations the primary focus, ...

What Will 'Common But Differentiated Responsibility' Mean After Paris?

by Noah M Sachs | December 09, 2015
Here at the UN climate summit is Paris, negotiators are hashing out the new meaning of an old term: common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR). CBDR has been a bedrock principle of climate negotiations since 1992. It was the basis for dividing the world into two camps: 37 developed nations that had binding greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets, and the rest of the world. There are many definitions for CBDR, but the best one I’ve heard was given by former Undersecretary ...

FDA and the Future of 'Frankenfish'

by Mollie Rosenzweig | December 07, 2015
If you've come across one of the ads, newspaper stories, or opinion pieces from Chuck Norris in the past week warning you about frankenfish, you can thank the FDA. In mid-November, the FDA made history by approving the first genetically engineered (GE) animal for human consumption, Atlantic salmon from the company AquaBounty. Not only has the approval process failed to win over skeptics, exposing the weaknesses in the current legal regime that governs plants and animals developed through biotechnology, it raises important questions ...

Maryland Deregulatory Commission Targets Protective Bay Regulations

by Evan Isaacson | December 04, 2015
Politicians are famous for reneging on, or conveniently ignoring, campaign pledges and other promises.  In some cases, politicians put themselves in untenable positions, such as when they offer conflicting promises to different interest groups.  This is when it becomes easy to see what an elected official’s true priorities are.  Governor Hogan proclaimed that he would be “the best environmental governor that’s ever served.”  Of course, he also campaigned for “regulatory reform” in Maryland.  The Governor established a Regulatory Reform Commission ...

Blankenship Convicted in Massey Coal Mine Disaster

by Rena Steinzor | December 03, 2015
Justice was done today by a hard-working jury in West Virginia that convicted Don Blankenship of conspiracy to obstruct federal mine safety rules.  This conspiracy was the primary cause of an enormous explosion that killed 29 men in the worst mine disaster in 40 years.  Although the jury was not presented with the question of whether Blankenship was directly responsible for the explosion, it did decide that he played Russian roulette with miners’ lives.  By underfunding efforts to comply with and harassing ...

Obama’s ‘Path to Progress’ Looking Forward: Much to Do and Little Time to Do It

by James Goodwin | December 02, 2015
In a post last week, I noted that, over the last year, the Obama Administration has finalized all or part of several of the 13 regulatory actions highlighted in a 2014 Center for Progressive Reform report challenging the President to focus renewed energy during the remainder of his term on securing critical new protections for people and the environment. But the President’s to-do list isn’t finished, and for the remaining regulatory actions on the list, progress has been modest or, in some cases, ...

Support CPR on Giving Tuesday

by Robert Verchick | December 01, 2015
In August I commemorated the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by pedaling along the self-guided "Levee Disaster Bike Tour." I began beneath the muscular oaks along New Orleans' Bayou St. John and threaded my way around potholes and waterfowl to pay my respects at three prominent levee-breach sites.  The ride gave me a chance to reflect on many problems that my adopted hometown of New Orleans faces, as well as countless opportunities for improving the policies that will take advantage of ...

One Year In, the Administration’s ‘Path to Progress’ Benefits American People and Environment

by James Goodwin | November 24, 2015
From the moment they secured majorities in both chambers, congressional Republicans have made no secret of their intention to launch an all-out, guerilla warfare-style campaign against the federal government — and even the very notion of governance itself. Accordingly, they have pursued a strategy of salt-the-earth sabotage designed to spread like a communicable disease the dysfunction that has long characterized the legislative branch to the executive branch. Given the unrepentant nihilism, many political observers were quick to pen their epitaphs for ...

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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