Legal Experts: Supreme Court Decision on Mercury Pollution Could Undercut Chemical Reform

by Thomas Cluderay | March 31, 2016

Originally published on EnviroBlog by Thomas Cluderay, general counsel, and Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney, for the Environmental Working Group.

You might think you can’t put a price on protecting public health and the environment. But you’d be wrong – especially if we’re talking about the nation's broken and outdated chemicals law, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA.

We’ve written a lot about how the House and Senate are working to amend this defective law (here, here and here) through negotiations to reconcile language in their respective TSCA reform bills.

A critically important issue still under discussion is to what extent the Environmental Protection Agency must consider economic costs as part of its decisions on regulating chemicals. In practice the requirement that EPA balance costs and benefits translates into serious delays – if action at all – when it comes to protecting people and the environment from toxic chemicals. This onerous requirement most notoriously blocked the EPA's efforts to ban asbestos, even in the face of abundant evidence that it is a deadly carcinogen.

Although both the House and Senate bills attempt to minimize considerations of regulatory costs, those efforts could be undermined by the 2015 Supreme Court decision Michigan v. EPA, which stymied EPA’s regulations of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

That's why more than 30 leading legal scholars and public interest lawyers wrote to Congress today (March 31) to urge lawmakers ...

Steinzor, Panel to Explore What Next Administration Will Mean for Public Protections

by Brian Gumm | March 31, 2016
When it comes to public health, the environment, and social justice, Americans are facing a host of challenges that call out for comprehensive, national solutions. Whether it's climate change, threats to water resources like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, or serious injuries and deaths in the workplace, how we respond as a nation has direct impacts on our everyday lives. Strong standards and effective enforcement of our laws and regulations are key to protecting our health and environment, ...

Center for Progressive Reform Welcomes New Communications Director

by Matthew Freeman | March 29, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: CPR Welcomes New Communications Director Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) announced that Brian Gumm has joined the organization as its communications director. Gumm will serve alongside the group’s staff and Member Scholars in their efforts to protect our health, safety, and environment. “I’m excited to welcome Brian Gumm to our team,” said Matthew Shudtz, executive director of CPR. “CPR’s network of legal experts has incredible insights into the heated national conversations about environmental health, climate change, ...

Green Patches Deep in the Heart of Texas

by Daniel Farber | March 28, 2016
The Texas AG’s office seems to do little else besides battle against EPA, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in the vanguard of anti-environmentalism. Yet even in Texas there are some rays of hope. While Texas is attacking the Clean Power Plan, the city of Houston is leading a coalition of cities defending it. Other cities are taking action for non-environmental reasons. The city of Georgetown, Texas, for instance, has announced plans to become 100 percent renewable. Lest there be any misunderstanding, the ...

Ensuring Accountability and Public Participation in Stormwater Permitting

by Katrina Miller | March 25, 2016
As spring rains approach, the need for more stringent stormwater controls comes into sharper focus. Rain is a life-giver, of course, but in our ever more paved environment, it’s also a conveyance for water pollution. Stormwater runoff in urban areas travels across rooftops, roads, sidewalks and eventually into a municipal storm sewer system, all the while accumulating a cocktail of various pollutants that includes oil residue from roads, pesticides and excess fertilizer from lawns and farms, and more. These pollutants ...

OSHA's New Silica Rule: CPR's Matt Shudtz Reacts

by Matt Shudtz | March 24, 2016
Decades in the making, OSHA’s new silica rule will better protect millions of workers from a highly toxic, cancer-causing substance that has killed thousands while the rule slowly worked its way through the regulatory gauntlet, administration after administration. Today, in quarries, foundries, building sites, and kitchen rehab jobs across the country, workers can look forward to breathing cleaner air. But today’s announcement is far from the end of the story. Next comes the inevitable litigation. Following their tired playbook, special ...

When On-the-Job Deaths & Injuries Warrant Prosecution

by Matthew Freeman | March 24, 2016
NEWS RELEASE: New Manual Helps Workplace-Safety Activists Push for Criminal Charges in On-the-Job Tragedies Washington, DC ----- Every year, thousands of workers across the United States are killed on the job — 4,679 in 2014 alone. Thousands more are seriously injured. Many of these deaths and injuries are entirely preventable when employers put in place basic safety measures. Some even result from company policies and practices that encourage and reward behavior that creates unacceptably risky conditions. Ignoring workplace safety requirements is against the ...

Cuba Libre: The Link Between Freedom and Environmental Health

by Robert Verchick | March 23, 2016
Earlier this week in Havana’s Gran Teatro, President Obama urged Cubans in this new century to keep their eyes on the prize of “sustainable prosperity.” His remarks focused on the foundational role of political freedom, but not before underlining the importance of environmental protection too. That’s no surprise. Economic growth in Cuba will depend heavily on the natural systems that keep the island’s 11 million people fed, sheltered, and buffered from storms. Indeed, the U.S. State Department’s negotiations with Cuba ...

USDA Official Throws OSHA Under the Bus

by Matt Shudtz | March 22, 2016
Partisan efforts in Congress to roll back health and safety rules are common fodder on this blog. But last week, we saw a new twist, with a high-level Obama Administration official giving cover to a right-wing attempt to weaken protections for hundreds of thousands of workers in the poultry industry. The workers in question are at the center of the highly industrialized process of turning live chickens into shrink-wrapped skinless parts. That puts them at a critical juncture in the ...

A Sea Change in Climate Politics?

by Daniel Farber | March 21, 2016
There was a surprise question about climate change at the last Republican debate. What was surprising wasn’t the question itself. Instead, it was the source of the question: Tomás Regalado, the Republican mayor of Miami. It turns out that this wasn’t a fluke. Regalado and the Republican mayor of Miami Beach have spoken out in an op-ed about climate change: “The overwhelming scientific consensus is that the rising sea levels are caused by the planet warming, that the burning of ...

Trading, Manure, and the Free Market

by Evan Isaacson | March 18, 2016
Recently, I have been noticing a number of connections between the environmental policies or issues that I’ve been studying and modern economic doctrine. I’m not sure if the number or strength of these connections are enough to claim that we’re seeing a rise in “laissez faire environmentalism” in the Chesapeake Bay region, but the implications are interesting to consider nevertheless. Nutrient trading is the best example. There is little question that the notion of pollution trading stems directly from economic ...

State Court Deals Major Setback to Effort to Reform and Modernize Maryland Stormwater Permits

by Evan Isaacson | March 17, 2016
Maryland’s high court ruled last week in favor of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in a challenge by several advocacy groups against five municipal stormwater (“MS4”) permits issued by MDE. While reading the lengthy opinion on my computer, I felt at times like a raving sports fan yelling at the TV in frustration. My frustration was borne not of the court’s specific arguments, or even of concerns over any far-reaching legal implications of the decision. Rather, to understand ...

18th Straight OMB Annual Report in a Row Finds Total Regulatory Net Benefits

by James Goodwin | March 15, 2016
Over the weekend, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the final draft of its annual report on the costs and benefits of federal regulation, which purports to provide a reasonably complete picture of the total impact that federal regulations have on the U.S. economy. This year’s final report finds that federal regulations generated total benefits in the range of $216 billion to $812 billion (in 2001 dollars; in 2010 dollars, the range recalculates to $261 billion ...

CPR Scholars Testify on Judicial Deference to Agency Discretion

by Matthew Freeman | March 15, 2016
Later today, not one but two CPR Member Scholars will testify today before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law. Emily Hammond and Richard J. Pierce both offer some perspective on the limits and scope of judicial deference to federal regulatory agencies. Pierce sketches out the long history of jurisprudence on the subject, noting that, Until late in the Nineteenth century, courts could not and did not review the vast majority of agency actions. The ...

Regulatory Capture: The Conservative Cure Is Worse Than the Disease

by Sidney Shapiro | March 14, 2016
I was recently a panelist at a Senate workshop on regulatory capture sponsored by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS). In an earlier post about this event, I wrote about the potential of enhanced transparency to reduce regulatory capture, which I discussed at the workshop. Conservative commentators at the workshop argued that agencies are captured by public interest groups as well as by regulated entities. They contended that Congress should thus pass the REINs Act to reduce capture ...

Shining Light on Regulatory Capture: Four Proposals

by Sidney Shapiro | March 11, 2016
The subject of regulatory capture was back on Capital Hill last week as the result of a briefing sponsored by Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS). In 2010, I testified concerning regulatory capture in a Senate hearing chaired by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), but in the midst of the broad-scale conservative assault on regulation, the issue hasn’t gotten nearly the attention it deserves. That’s unfortunate for a simple reason. As Rena Steinzor and I establish in our book, many ...

Environmental Enforcement in the Age of Trump

by Daniel Farber | March 10, 2016
Many thought that the BP Oil Spill would lead to new environmental legislation, as happened after past environmental disasters. That didn’t happen. But something else did happen: BP paid $24 billion in civil and criminal penalties. In an era where any effort at government regulation is immediately denounced as a dire threat to liberty, there was nary a peep out of Republican politicians about these massive penalties. Nor do I hear Trump, Cruz, or Rubio defending Volkswagen from penalties. The moral is ...

Breaking our Pesticide Addiction: A 12-Step Program for Ecologically-Based Pest Management

by Mary Jane Angelo | March 09, 2016
Recently I had the opportunity to spend an entire day at the University of Florida Department of Entomology — the same department where I obtained my M.S. more than 30 years ago. I gave a talk on the law and ecology of pesticides and pest management and met with graduate students and faculty. It was fascinating to hear about the innovative research being conducted related to ecologically based pest management and sustainable agriculture. The discussions that day provided concrete illustrations ...

Deconstructing Regulatory Science

Wagner | Jun 19, 2018 | Regulatory Policy

Agency U-Turns

Farber | Jun 18, 2018 | Regulatory Policy

Laying Down the Law on Rule Delays

Heinzerling | Jun 14, 2018 | Regulatory Policy

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