Confusion, Frustration as Maryland High Court Hears Stormwater Permits Case

by Evan Isaacson | November 18, 2015

Last week the Maryland Court of Appeals heard several hours of oral argument in back to back (to back) cases regarding whether five different municipal stormwater (“MS4”) permits issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) complied with the federal Clean Water Act and state water pollution laws. Although divided into separate cases due to their unique procedural histories, the three cases were consolidated into one marathon oral argument due to the substantial overlap of the issues involved. The legal arguments have changed significantly since the first motions and petitions were filed several years ago, with some of the most ambitious legal theories having fallen away. What remains in dispute in these cases are largely procedural, though still crucial, issues regarding how to structure the permits so as to ensure that the permits are enforceable and that the counties are accountable to the public. Basically, the cases boil down to a total and justifiable lack of trust in MDE and the counties to get the job done.

In fairness to MDE, it must be noted that the permits contain some very ambitious and laudable goals, which represent some of the most stringent MS4 permit terms in the country. The issue is that neither the counties, nor MDE has come close to living up to the promise of these permits.

A little background is in order. MS4 permits are a unique regulatory tool of the Clean Water ...

CPR's Joel Mintz on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

by Matthew Freeman | November 17, 2015
In an op-ed for The Hill, CPR Member Scholar Joel Mintz takes a look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and concludes that it’s insufficiently protective of the environment, the Administration’s assertions notwithstanding. In his piece, he notes that the TPP “contains no mention whatsoever of what is widely seen as the most pressing threat to the global environment: disruption of the earth’s climate from the release of greenhouse gases.” Indeed, he notes, the TPP could encourage more fracking, thus contributing to greenhouse ...

Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones Suffering at the Slaughterhouse

by Katie Tracy | November 10, 2015
A startling new report by Oxfam America reveals just how dangerous it is to work inside a poultry processing plant. The report is packed full of alarming statistics and heart-breaking personal stories from brave workers, exposing an industry that fails to protect workers from well-known hazards and that discourages workers from reporting injuries when they occur. Despite the underreporting of injuries and illnesses, the poultry industry’s safety record is dismal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry had ...

Shallow, Shallower, Shallowest

by Matthew Freeman | November 09, 2015
Fostering informed debate about sound regulatory policy to protect health, safety, and the environment is one of the Center for Progressive Reform’s fundamental objectives. Presidential candidates, on the other hand, like to focus on the issues that get them elected, not necessarily the issues that are important. Unfortunately, the media is increasingly complicit in avoiding genuine issue discussions. Weekend before last, GOP candidate Carly Fiorina appeared on ABC’s Sunday public affairs talk show, “This Week,” and in response to an ...

Law Schools Doing Good

by Daniel Farber | November 04, 2015
How Law Schools Serve the Public Most people probably think of law schools, when they think of them at all, as places that train future lawyers.  That’s true, and it’s important, but law schools do a lot more.  Faculty scholarship makes a difference — law review articles laid the foundation for many of the ideas now guiding judges (both on the Right and the Left).  But I’d like to focus here on another, more recent activity by law schools — the environmental ...

EPA Cracks Down on Stormwater Pollutants in Rhode Island

by Evan Isaacson | October 27, 2015
Here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, polluted runoff from impervious surfaces, such as roofs, driveways, parking lots, and a vast network of roads, is a huge problem.  In fact, while pollution from wastewater treatment plants has decreased significantly since EPA established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) several years ago, and while overall agricultural pollution has even decreased slightly during that same general period, nitrogen pollution from stormwater has actually increased since 2009. The lack of progress in ...

Addressing Externalities: A Modest Proposal

by Daniel Farber | October 22, 2015
How to make health and safety a personal priority for industry officials. According to economists, firms have little reason to take into account the cost of externalities — that is to say, the harms their activities may impose on others. The traditional solutions are damage remedies or taxes to transfer the financial cost to the industry, or regulation to force industries to limit their harmful activities. Why not try a more direct solution? Why not require owners and managers to ...

Steinzor to Senate Subcommittee: What's the Cost of Preventing an Asthma Attack?

by Erin Kesler | October 21, 2015
This morning, CPR Member Scholar and University of Maryland School of Law professor Rena Steinzor testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste and Regulatory Oversight for a hearing focused on, "Oversight of Regulatory Impact Analysis for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regulations."  In her testimony, Steinzor noted the limitations of "Regulatory Impact Analysis," or RIA, which agencies are mandated to conduct on all rules they finalize and measures the rules' "costs and benefits."  When measuring the costs and benefits of EPA rules ...

Pound-Wise and Penny-Foolish in the Chesapeake Bay

by Evan Isaacson | October 19, 2015
It’s a staple of the right-wing assault on government that “bloated” government programs, like those intended to protect the environment, are a burden to taxpayers. In my home state of Maryland, the numbers demonstrate otherwise. The percentage of taxpayer dollars spent by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is tiny and getting tinier.  In 2014, less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the state’s general funds were expended by MDE, a 40-percent reduction in this share since 2004.  In ...

Too Little and Far Too Late, EPA Releases a Disappointing eReporting Rule

by Evan Isaacson | October 15, 2015
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a long overdue rule that was designed, according to EPA’s description, to move the agency “into the 21st Century.” Since many of the rules’ provisions still will not be in effect more than two decades after the turn of the century, this rulemaking plays right into the hands of those who insist that the federal government cannot work efficiently — ironic, because efficiency is the very purpose of the eReporting rule. In this ...

The Irony of the Sixth Circuit's Clean Water Rule Stay

by Dave Owen | October 14, 2015
Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a nationwide stay of implementation of the new Army Corps/EPA Clean Water Rule.  This sounds like a very big deal, and the state plaintiffs who won the stay will no doubt describe this as a major victory.  Those proclamations will conceal, however, a few layers of complexity and irony. The legal basis for the ruling is an administrative law principle known as the logical outgrowth rule.  Under this principle, ...

The Media Is Missing the Most Important Part of the VW Scandal

by Matthew Freeman | October 09, 2015
Courtesy of the New York Times, here’s a bit of reporting that is emblematic of the way the press has covered the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal: Volkswagen said on Tuesday that the scandal would cut deeply into this year’s profit. And the company’s shares plunged again, ending the day 35 percent below the closing price on Friday, before news of the diesel deception broke. As a result, the company’s stock market value has declined about €25 billion in two days of ...

Gag Clauses Chill Consumer Rights

by Mollie Rosenzweig | October 08, 2015
Modern-day snake oil peddlers may have found a way to keep consumers quiet about their ineffective products: non-disparagement clauses, also known as gag clauses. These clauses, slipped into the fine print of form contracts, can restrict a consumer’s ability to post negative reviews of a product online. Non-disparagement clauses, which can vary in scope, generally prevent consumers from publicizing negative reviews of a product or company. This restriction includes comments made on online forums like Yelp or even complaints to ...

New National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone: A Primer

by Robin Kundis Craig | October 07, 2015
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone pursuant to the federal Clean Air Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 7409. The new regulation reduces both the primary and secondary NAAQS for ozone from 0.075 to 0.070 parts per million (ppm) (or from 75 to 70 parts per billion) averaged over eight hours in order to better protect human health, welfare, and the environment. The new regulation has not yet been ...

John Boehner, Volkswagen, and the Role of Government

by Sidney Shapiro | October 06, 2015
The resignation of House Speaker John Boehner and the VW diesel car scandal -- two rather extraordinary events -- might not initially appear to be related, but there is a connection. The most conservative members of the Republican caucus celebrated Representative Boehner's resignation because they felt he did not fight hard enough to shrink the size of the federal government through more aggressive tactics, like government shutdowns. Although one of government's most important functions is to deter behavior such as ...

Ten Things I Hate About Jeb's Antiregulatory Regulatory Reform Plan

by James Goodwin | October 05, 2015
Consistent with his ongoing efforts to distinguish himself among the Republican presidential candidates as a serious “policy wonk,” Jeb Bush, “rolled out” his “regulatory reform” plan last week.  The sad truth, though, is that the plan contains little of what might be considered sober or intellectually rigorous.   Rather, it is simply a mishmash of warmed over ideas from candidate Mitt Romney’s 2012 regulatory reform plan and from the various antiregulatory bills that have been festering in Congress the last several ...

CPR's McGarity Responds to EPA's New Ozone Standard

by Thomas McGarity | October 01, 2015
The new primary ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) is definitely a step in the right direction, but it has taken EPA far too long to make this much-needed change. We should not forget, however, that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a proposed standard of 65 ppb to the White House in August 2011, but was told explicitly by President Obama to withdraw it because the White House economists thought it would be too costly for business, despite ...

Nudging Utilities Into the Future

by Joseph Tomain | October 01, 2015
Two of the most important aspects of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) are the flexibility afforded states as they design compliance strategies and the plan’s openness to all energy resources. A state can satisfy its emission-reduction targets through the use of cleaner or more efficient coal-fired generation, natural gas or nuclear power as well as through increased use of renewable resources and energy efficiency. Regardless of this flexibility and openness, investor-owned utilities (IOUs), which have dominated the electricity market for ...

A Final 2017 Dose of Op-Eds

Freeman | Dec 28, 2017 | Regulatory Policy

The Off-Switch Is Inside the Fenceline

Farber | Dec 27, 2017 | Energy

Steinzor: Trump's reform won't stop mass incarceration

Freeman | Dec 21, 2017 | Good Government

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