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 employees to ignore safety rules so they could “dig coal” faster, and threatening managers with dismissal if they worked to solve ventilation and other problems at the mine, Blankenship made an already hazardous workplace into a horror show that made men fear for their lives every time they journeyed thousands of feet underground.

Defense counsel will undoubtedly make much of the jury’s decision not to convict Blankenship of lying to the government, but those two counts were relatively minor.  The ...

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 ...

What’s on the Labor Department’s Regulatory Agenda?

by Katie Tracy | November 23, 2015
Late last week, the White House released its fall 2015 Unified Agenda—the semi-annual report on regulations under development or review by each federal agency. As usual, and therefore of little surprise, this latest agenda spells delay for a laundry list of critical safeguards at several agencies. According to CPR senior analyst James Goodwin’s review of the regulatory agendas for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and several other agencies, several new protections will be delayed anywhere from ...

Fall 2015 Regulatory Agenda is Out; Clock is Ticking

by James Goodwin | November 20, 2015
Opponents of safeguards are fond of decrying what they claim is a regulatory system out of control, churning out rules at a break-neck pace.  It’s not difficult to refute  this claim when the president releases the twice-annual regulatory agenda, which spells out all the active rulemakings that are currently pending and the expected time Each of these new delays should be of great concern, since they translate into real costs to the public interest.  The costs might be measured in ...

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 ...

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 ...

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