The Reality of U.S. Oil Transport

by Alexandra Klass | May 20, 2015

The major oil pipeline spills along the Santa Barbara coast and into the Yellowstone River in Montana this past year are only the most recent chapters in the growing list of major spills associated with oil transportation in the United States. These recent spills of 100,000 gallons and 50,000 gallons of oil, respectively, follow a nearly 1 million gallon spill of Canadian tar sands oil from an Enbridge pipeline that burst in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010, and other similar spills around the country. These spills and many others like them have resulted in significant harm to public health and the environment, created panic among residents, and forced state officials to declare states of emergency in affected area.

These more frequent pipeline spills are inevitable in light of the massive increases in oil and gas production in North America since 2007. Technological developments such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing have opened up vast new sources of shale oil and gas in traditional oil producing locations like Texas but also in North Dakota and Montana—states that have not been major oil producers for over 50 years. Between 2011 and 2012, U.S. crude oil production increased 790,000 barrels per day, the largest increase in annual output since the start of U.S. commercial development of crude oil in 1859. U.S. production of shale oil now makes up 35% of total U.S. oil production and, in ...

Counting Sheep: Livestock Stream Fencing Accounting as Easy as Herding Cats

by Evan Isaacson | May 18, 2015
Recently, the Chesapeake Bay Commission released a report Healthy Livestock, Healthy Streams to advocate for stream fencing, one of several dozen longstanding agricultural best management practices (BMPs) recognized by the Chesapeake Bay Program.  Promoting stream fencing is common sense: when livestock loiter near streams, they compact soil, clearing a path for runoff; when they enter the stream, they erode its bank and send sediment into the channel; and when nature calls, they deposit “nutrients” directly into the stream.  It is ...

More Right-Wing Pseudo-Research on the Costs of Regulation

by James Goodwin | May 13, 2015
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is out with the latest in a series of industry-friendly reports overcooking the supposed costs of regulation, while understating or simply ignoring the vast benefits to health, safety and the environment. Not surprisingly, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times were good enough to put the right-wing echo chamber in motion in its service. A few quick thoughts: This report isn’t scholarship, it’s arithmetic advocacy—and it’s poor arithmetic at that.  The organization that sponsored the report is more ...

Sunshine in the Forecast for Maryland Government

by Evan Isaacson | May 12, 2015
Spring is here in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which means plenty of sunshine ahead, and not just in the weather.  Several important government transparency actions taken by the Maryland General Assembly before it adjourned the 2015 legislative session a few weeks ago will provide Marylanders with greater access to state records and shed new light on compliance with environmental goals.  First and foremost, Marylanders for Open Government spearheaded an effort to address longstanding problems facing concerned citizens, stakeholder groups, and ...

Supreme Court To Hear Major Energy Law Federalism Case

by Joel Eisen | May 06, 2015
As many scholars have noted (see here and here, for example), the Federal Power Act’s bright line jurisdictional split between “retail” sales of electricity (regulated by states) and “wholesale” sales (regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) is untenable in the modern era. The interconnected nature of the electric grid – electricity flows freely throughout the nation - means that many activities at one level affect the other, and vice versa. The precise allocation of state and federal jurisdiction to ...

Katrina Ruling Breaches Sovereign Immunity

by Robert Verchick | May 03, 2015
Almost a decade after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans-area residents are still trying to hold their government accountable for mistakes that allowed a monstrous flood to devastate their city. Last week, in a case called St. Bernard Parish v. United States, a federal judge helped their cause. In a dispute involving a major navigation channel controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, Judge Susan G. Braden of the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., found that the Corps’ negligence ...

GM and Its No Good, Very Bad Year

by Rena Steinzor | May 01, 2015
With the announcement that GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra received the outsized compensation of $16.2 million in 2014, what should have been a year of humiliation and soul-searching for that feckless automaker instead ended on a disturbingly self-satisfied note.  Purely from a public relations perspective, Barra worked hard for her money.  Appearing repentant, sincere, and downcast, she persuaded star-struck members of Congress that the company was committed to overhauling a culture characterized by what she called the “GM shrug,” ...

The Horne Case and the Public Trust in Wildlife

by John Echeverria | April 29, 2015
Who could have imagined that the takings case of Horne v Department of Agriculture argued in the Supreme Court last week might portend revival of the doctrine of public trust ownership of wildlife?  But it might. Really. The Horne case involves a claim that an arcane raisin-marketing program administered by the Department of Agriculture effects a taking by requiring raisin growers, in certain years, to turn over a portion of their crop to the government in order to keep raisin prices high.   While there ...

The Merits of the Clean Power Plan Challenge: It all depends on Chevron

by Kirsten Engel | April 27, 2015
Further reflections on the April 16th Oral Argument in Murray v. EPA and West Virginia v. EPA In an earlier blog entry, I predicted that the D.C. Circuit will refuse, on standard administrative law grounds, to consider the arguments of the petitioning states and coal and utility companies for overturning EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plant rule.  In short, a challenge to an on-going rulemaking is not ripe for judicial review until the agency issues its final rule. But whether I am wrong or ...

Workers Are Safer at Work, But Not as Safe as They Could and Should Be

by Sidney Shapiro | April 27, 2015
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that the occupational fatality rate of 3.3 deaths per 100,000 workers for 2013 was the lowest reported rate since the BLS started using its current tracking methodology in 2006.  That’s good news, but we’ve got a very long way to go still. The simple truth is that workers are not as safe as they could and should be. Although the fatality rate is down, there were still 4,585 occupational fatalities in 2013.  ...

Remember the Gulf Walrus! One Big Lesson from the BP Oil Spill

by Robert Verchick | April 23, 2015
Nearly five years ago, BP introduced a flippered mammal Americans never knew we had: the Gulf Walrus! If you don’t know the story, you should, because the tale of the Gulf Walrus tells you everything you need to know about what was wrong with deepwater drilling back in 2010, and worse, still is.  The story goes like this: After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, leaving 11 workers dead and a gusher of oil billowing a mile under the sea, ...

Urban Parks and the Public Trust Doctrine: A Pending New York Lawsuit and Its Implications

by Joel Mintz | April 22, 2015
Urban parks are a much-prized resource. They provide city dwellers with safe places to relax, walk their dogs, supervise their children at play, plant gardens, contemplate nature, pursue recreational activities, and escape the multiple stresses of urban life. At the same time, however, particularly in prosperous cities where open land is scarce and real estate values are high and growing ever-higher, some urban parks are under threat. Where they feel they can find legal avenues to do so, developers who ...

The First Earth Day and Current Political Gridlock

by Sidney Shapiro | April 22, 2015
Forty-five years ago I joined hundreds of people in Fairmont Park in Philadelphia for the first Earth Day.  The sad state of the environment on that day was all too apparent.  The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland was so polluted that it caught on fire the year before.   The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill is still the third largest oil spill in American history. The air pollution in America’s cities – palpable air – had reached epidemic proportions.  Rachael Carson’s book, ...

The Importance of the Murray Energy Case and Administrative Procedure

by Emily Hammond | April 21, 2015
Last week, the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument on a highly unusual attempt to short-circuit EPA’s rulemaking process for greenhouse gas regulation of existing power plants.  Despite statutory and constitutional hurdles to premature litigation, the petitioners—the coal-fired industry and coal-producing states—argued that the importance of the proposed rule justifies court intervention. The rule’s importance is precisely why it is critical that the agency complete the administrative process. That industry groups will file lawsuits over EPA’s greenhouse gas initiatives is unremarkable.  ...

Meet CPR’s New Chesapeake Bay Policy Analyst

by Erin Kesler | April 20, 2015
The Center for Progressive Reform is excited to welcome its new policy analyst, Evan Isaacson who will focus on the Chesapeake Bay.  Isaacson succeeds Anne Havemann, and will continue her sterling work on the intersection of state and federal environmental regulations and the Bay. Mr. Isaacson joins CPR after eight years on staff at the Maryland General Assembly, where he served as an analyst in the Natural Resources, Environment, and Transportation workgroup, as well as counsel to the Joint Committee ...

The Stuff of an 'Extraordinary Writ' or a Hum-drum Administrative Law Case?

by Kirsten Engel | April 20, 2015
Reflections on the April 16th Oral Argument in Murray v. EPA and West Virginia v. EPA In a rulemaking there is a provision for judicial review, right, it’s not going to be a question that’s avoided . . . when the rule comes out, it’s going to be challenged, we’re going to get to it.  Why in the world would we resort to an extraordinary writ, which we have never used before?  So it really is quite unusual. -  Judge Griffiths, remarking on ...

Becoming an Environmentalist on the Neches River

by Thomas McGarity | April 17, 2015
Growing up in Port Neches, Texas, long before anyone ever heard of Earth Day, it was not hard to be an environmentalist.  When my father announced that the family would be moving to Port Neches, he tried to soften the blow to his 13-year-old son by stressing the fact that we would be living across the street from the city park and that the Neches River ran along one end of the park.  For the remainder of the summer, I ...

CPR Announces Appointment of New President: Robert R.M. Verchick

by Matthew Freeman | April 16, 2015
Rena Steinzor Steps Down after Seven Years at Helm, Succeeded by Loyola  University New Orleans College of Law Professor, Former EPA Official  The board of directors of the Center for Progressive Reform today announced the appointment of Robert R.M. Verchick to be the organization’s third president, succeeding Rena Steinzor, who has served in the post for the past seven years. Verchick holds the Gauthier~St. Martin Eminent Scholar Chair in Environmental Law at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, and ...
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