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 more than a century, tend to resist the imposition of additional environmental regulations. Some resistance is predictable as utilities have sunk trillions of dollars of investments into the construction of generation, transportation and distribution networks..

While this resistance may be understandable, there are two significant rebuttal arguments to it. First, utilities have demonstrated remarkable resilience, particularly over the last three or more decades, to dramatic challenges to the traditional electricity industry. Second, public policy and state regulation have, for almost as long, promoted a clean energy economy. The CPP continues developing that clean economy and utilities have a role to play in a cleaner energy future. Let’s look at both of these points more closely.             

Challenging the Electric Industry

The electricity industry has been roiling for three or more decades.[1] For the first two thirds of the 20th century, the industry continued to realize ...

A Day's Work: Safety Training for Temp Workers Would Prevent Many Injuries and Deaths

by Katie Tracy | September 28, 2015
Lawrence Daquan “Day” Davis, 21, died tragically on his first day of work at his first job, as a “temp worker” at a Bacardi bottling facility in Jacksonville, Florida. He began his shift within 15 minutes of arriving at the facility, after completing some paperwork and watching a very brief safety video. Although working in a bottling facility is a dangerous job, Davis and his coworkers received no real training about the potential hazards or proper safety procedures. Within hours, ...

Dear Jeb: Crippling Federal Agencies Will Not Keep America Safe!

by Robert Verchick | September 22, 2015
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush released a plan meant to make it harder for federal agencies to make rules that protect public health and the environment. That might help some big corporations. But it makes everyday Americans much less safe. The idea is to jam up the federal rule making process with so many requirements that hardly anything important would get done. Safeguards that keep the air clear, the water clean, and the workplace safe would be put on the back burner. Bush’s ...

VW Scandal: Can Anyone Still Doubt the Need for Regulation?

by Robert Verchick | September 22, 2015
Center for Progressive Reform President Robert R.M. Verchick issued the following statement today in response to the burgeoning Volkswagen emissions scandal: With the Volkswagen emissions scandal, hard on the heels of the GM settlement, can anyone doubt the importance of strong regulation and tough enforcement? One automotive giant let a safety problem fester for a decade while more than 120 people died as a result. Another conspired to cheat on state emissions tests, pumping outrageous loads of pollution into the ...

CPR's Steinzor Reacts to Parnell Sentencing

by Erin Kesler | September 21, 2015
Today, Stewart Parnell, former peanut company executive was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in a salmonella outbreak that resulted in the deaths of nine people and the illness of 174. CPR Member Scholar and University of Maryland School of Law professor Rena Steinzor issued the following statement in response to the sentencing: This sentence shows that the courts are willing to drop the boom on white collar criminal defendants whose elevation of profits over safety go ...

Steinzor Reacts to GM Settlement Deal

by Rena Steinzor | September 17, 2015
CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor reacted to today's announcement of a settlement between General Motors and the Justice Department over charges stemming from the company's failure to disclose a deadly ignition defect it millions of its cars. Steinzor said: This settlement is shamefully weak. GM and its executives knew for years that they had a big problem with the ignition switch, which caused cars to stall at high speeds, depriving drivers of power steering, brakes, and airbags.  The company’s dysfunctional ...

CPR's Shapiro Testifies on Regulatory Bills for Senate Hearing

by Erin Kesler | September 16, 2015
Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is holding a Hearing on legislation focused on the regulatory system entitled, "A Review of Regulatory Reform Proposals." CPR Vice-President and Wake Forest University School of Law professor Sidney Shapiro will be testifying. According to his testimony: It is a good thing that Congress has directed agencies to issue regulations to achieve important social goals because these regulations have produced enormous benefits for the American people.[1] Consider the following: The White House Office of ...

FDA's New Regulations for Food Processors: The Devil is in the Implementation

by Thomas McGarity | September 14, 2015
At long last, the Food and Drug Administration has promulgated two critical regulations implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA).  The regulations flesh out the statute’s requirements for facilities that process human food and animal feed.  Of the regulations that FDA has proposed in order to implement the FSMA, these are perhaps the least controversial.  Indeed, they have won praise from everyone from the Grocery Manufacturers Association to the food safety director of the Pew Charitable Trusts.  This ...

Labor Board's New 'Joint Employer' Standard Offers College Football Players a Second Chance

by Katie Tracy | September 10, 2015
Marking a victory for workers, on August 27, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a highly anticipated decision in the case of Browning-Ferris Industries, updating its overly restrictive standard for determining “joint employer” status for purposes of collective bargaining. The decision responds to the increasing reliance on contingent work arrangements that often involve multiple employers, and reflects the Board’s recognition that its application of labor law must be adjusted to address the realities of today’s economy. Much of the ...

Guess Who Benefits from Regulating Power Plants

by Daniel Farber | September 08, 2015
The answer will surprise you. What parts of the country benefit most from the series of new EPA rules addressing pollution from coal-fired power plants?  The answer is not what you think. EPA does a thorough cost-benefit analysis of its regulations but the costs and benefits are aggregated at the national level. In a new paper, David Spence and David Adelman from the University of Texas break down these figures on a regional basis.  What they found may surprise you.  In fact, the areas benefitting ...

Septic System Pollution and the Unheralded Value of Maryland's Environmental Funds

by Evan Isaacson | September 03, 2015
The Bay Journal published another interesting story this week by Rona Kobell about the perseverance it took by some residents and officials of rural Caroline County, Maryland, to finally address the failing septic systems plaguing their community.  The story even highlights how some local officials, after decades of trying to find a resolution, died waiting for it.  In addition to the residents of Goldsboro, Greensboro, and other towns near the headwaters of the Choptank River, another long-suffering character in the ...

From Energy Consumerism to Democratic Energy Participation

by Joseph Tomain | September 02, 2015
The essence of the argument that a new energy and environmental politics is needed is based on the idea that our traditional energy path (as well as its underlying assumptions) has outlived its useful life; the traditional energy narrative is stale. Cheap, but dirty, fossil fuel energy has played a significant role in contributing to economic growth and to the political authority of the United States for most of the 20th century.  By the end of the century, however, the ...

CPR Submits Comments on Labor Department Guidance for Ensuring Federal Contractors are Complying with Labor Laws

by Katie Tracy | September 01, 2015
Every year, the federal government awards private firms billions of dollars in federal contracts. The contracts are supposed to go to “responsible” companies, but that isn’t always the case. According to the Government Accountability Office, between 2005 and 2009, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued 25 of its 50 largest fines against 20 federal contractors who later received over $9 billion in contracts in 2009. Over the same period, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued 8 of ...

Extreme Weather and Climate Disruption Since Katrina

by David Driesen | August 28, 2015
CPR’s Unnatural Disaster report pointed out that current energy policies favoring fossil fuels made it “more likely that there will be disasters like Katrina in the future.” It explained that global climate disruption increases temperatures thereby causing sea level rise, a big threat to the Gulf Coast, and that climate disruption models suggest a shift toward extreme weather events. Since Katrina, we have certainly seen lots of extreme weather. Perhaps most reminiscent of Katrina, on October 30, 2012, Superstorm Sandy ...

Katrina and the Democratization of Energy

by Joseph Tomain | August 28, 2015
Natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina,[1] Superstorm Sandy,[2] and the typhoon that devastated Fukushima,[3] as well as technical weaknesses that caused the Northeast blackout in October 2003,[4] and regulatory failures that ended California electric industry restructuring efforts[5] share two commonalities.  First, they all affect the energy system at enormous costs in economic losses and in disrupted lives.[6] Indeed, severe weather events are the leading source of electricity grid disturbances in the US with 679 widespread power outages between 2003 in 2012. Those outages have been estimated ...

Ignored Facts, Distorted Law, and Today's WOTUS Injunction

by Dave Owen | August 28, 2015
Earlier today, a federal district court judge in North Dakota enjoined implementation of the new Clean Water Rule (also known as the Waters of the United States rule).  And if ever there was a judicial opinion begging for prompt reversal, this is it.  EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers put years of effort into that rule, and drew upon an extraordinary number of studies to arrive at their position.  The court pretended—among other errors—that all that effort and evidentiary support simply ...

Ten Years After Katrina: Government Can Save Lives and Money

by Sidney Shapiro | August 27, 2015
With the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina upon us, looking back on CPR’s landmark report on the disaster reveals two essential public policy insights. One is that a series of government policy failures resulted in a far worse disaster than would have occurred if government had been more pro-active.  The second is that more effective government requires addressing and resolving what are often difficult policy issues, something that requires an ongoing dialogue and attention to what experts know and do not know about ...

Hurricane Katrina and the Perversity Thesis

by Thomas McGarity | August 26, 2015
In Albert O. Hirschman’s brilliant analysis of conservative responses to progressive social programs entitled The Rhetoric of Reaction, he identifies and critiques three reactionary narratives that conservatives use to critique governmental programs -- the futility thesis; the jeopardy thesis; and the perversity thesis. The futility thesis posits that governmental attempts to cure social ills or to correct alleged market imperfections are doomed to fail because the government cannot possibly identify the problem with sufficient clarity, predict the future with sufficient ...

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