Obama’s Path to Progress: Protecting America’s Wetlands and Other Fragile Water Resources

by James Goodwin | December 03, 2014

Over the next two weeks, CPR will publish a series of blog posts highlighting several key regulatory safeguards for protecting the integrity and health of U.S. water bodies against damaging pollution—rules that are currently under development by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and included in our recent Issue Alert, Barack Obama’s Path to Progress in 2015-16: Thirteen Essential Regulatory Actions.  Today’s post will examine the clean water safeguard that has attracted perhaps the most vociferous opposition from industrial and agricultural polluters along with their antiregulatory allies in Congress: the EPA’s pending rule to clarify the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, which seeks to ensure that certain classes of critical water bodies—many of which are smaller and often overlooked—receive the statute’s full protections.

Given all the histrionics and overblown exaggerations from industry, it’s easy to lose sight of what is really at issue with the EPA’s “Waters of the United States” rule.  Generally speaking, there are classes of waters that are clearly covered by the Clean Water Act—rivers, lakes, and streams that support a variety of uses, including drinking water, commerce, wildlife habitat, and more—and then there are classes of water that are clearly not covered because they are so remote and isolated that they are essentially disconnected from other bodies of water that are covered by the statute (for this latter category of waters, states retain primary responsibility ...

Support CPR this Giving Tuesday

by Matt Shudtz | December 02, 2014
This Giving Tuesday, I hope you'll consider donating to the Center for Progressive Reform. We've had a banner year and are looking forward to many great things in 2015. Above all, CPR's staff and Member Scholars promote a positive and progressive vision for environmental policy and workers' rights. We need your support to continue that work. Two days after the midterm elections, we released "Barack Obama's Path to Progress," an Issue Alert laying out an affirmative and politically realistic vision for ...

CPR's Victor Flatt Submits Comments on EPA's Rule to Curb Greenhouse Gas Emissions

by Erin Kesler | December 01, 2014
Today is the deadline for comments from the public on EPA's proposed rule to limit carbon emission from existing power plants. CPR Member Scholar and University of North Carolina School of Law professor Victor Flatt submitted a comment on the rule. According to his comments: What I would like to focus on is suggesting that the agency definitively interpret Section 111(d) to allow states to utilize a greenhouse gas market reduction strategy that allows greenhouse gas reductions to come from any source. ...

The Death of Deference?

by Daniel Farber | November 26, 2014
Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted cert. in several cases to hear the following question: “Whether the Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.” The fundamental issue is whether it was unreasonable for EPA to interpret section 112 to preclude consideration of cost at this particular stage of the regulatory process — not only different from what the Court thinks is the best interpretation, but a position ...

EPA's Long-Delayed Ozone Proposal

by Rena Steinzor | November 26, 2014
How much is it worth to save the life of a grandfather with lung disease or to keep an asthmatic child out of the hospital?  The ozone rule, which EPA proposes today after years of politically motivated delay and while staring down the barrel of a court order, responds to the urgent calls of a gold-standard panel of scientists, who have been pleading with the agency to lower the existing standard of 75 parts per billion to the lower end of ...

Obama’s Path to Progress: Protecting Families and Children Against Dangerous Food Imports

by James Goodwin | November 26, 2014
As I noted in an earlier post, families and friends all across the United States will gather to observe the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow.   Compared to many other countries, we are lucky that during such occasions we are able to focus on the celebrations enjoyed in the company of our loved ones—and not have to worry so much about whether the meal might cause a foodborne illness.  This is because, while far from perfect, the United States has one of the ...

Rena Steinzor: Supreme Court Agrees to Review Challenge to EPA's Mercury Pollution Rule

by Erin Kesler | November 25, 2014
Today, the Supreme Court agreed to review a challenge to an EPA rule to reduce mercury pollution.  The Utility Air Regulatory Group and the National Mining Association, and twenty-one states, appealed an April 2-1 federal appeals court ruling that upheld EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. According to Center for Progressive Reform President and University of Maryland School of Law professor Rena Steinzor: The Supreme Court’s decision to grant review is lamentable. It’s no surprise that the coal-fired power plants want to overturn ...

Center for Progressive Reform Announces New Executive Director Matthew Shudtz

by Erin Kesler | November 25, 2014
The Board of Directors of the Center for Progressive Reform today announced the selection of Matthew Shudtz as Executive Director of the 12-year-old organization. Shudtz, who succeeds Jake Caldwell, has been Acting Executive Director of CPR since July of this year. Shudtz joined CPR’s staff in 2006 as a Policy Analyst, and was subsequently promoted to Senior Policy Analyst. His work has focused on OSHA and related workplace health and safety regulations and toxic chemical control and reform. He has ...

CPR is Hiring a Chesapeake Bay Policy Analyst

by Rena Steinzor | November 25, 2014
CPR is on the hunt for an energetic, organized, and dedicated advocate to join our staff as a Policy Analyst. The focus of this position is restoring the Chesapeake Bay through strong implementation of the Bay TMDL. We are especially interested in candidates who have a background in the legal and policy issues related to both clean water and climate change adaptation. Expertise in GIS and other mapping software is a plus. For a full job description, please see our ...

Obama’s Path to Progress: Safeguarding Families Against Tainted Processed Foods and Produce

by James Goodwin | November 24, 2014
Later this week, most of us in the United States will gather together for the simple but meaningful act of sharing a meal as a way to celebrate and reflect upon the relationships and blessings that enrich our lives.  The menus will differ from table to table, and family to family, of course.  But very few of us will give much thought to whether the food is safe to eat whether it’s been tainted with bacteria or other pathogens. All ...

New Legislation: How the House of Representatives Would Use Scientific Uncertainty to Stop Environmental Legislation

by Sidney Shapiro | November 20, 2014
The House of Representatives has passed legislation (H.R. 1422) that prohibits academic scientists on EPA’s Scientific Advisory committee from participating in “activities that directly or indirectly involve review of evaluation of their own work,” but allows scientists who work for industry to serve on the Board as long as they reveal their respective conflicts of interest. To understand the House’s real motives, it is necessary to appreciate how industry seeks to use scientific uncertainty as an excuse not to act ...

Obama’s Path to Progress: Protecting Farmworker Kids

by Matt Shudtz | November 19, 2014
Next week in this space, we’ll ask you to think about the food on your Thanksgiving table and what FDA ought to do to keep it safe. Today, I want to focus on how the food gets there—in particular, the work children contribute to the farms where our food and other crops are grown. Many people hold on to the image of children gathering eggs in the yard or dumping a pail of slop in front of an appreciative sow ...

Oral Argument Begins in Farm Lobby’s Misguided Challenge to Bay Pollution Diet

by Anne Havemann | November 18, 2014
Today, the Third Circuit will hear arguments in a case to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overstepped its authority when it established a pollution diet for the Chesapeake Bay. After decades of failed attempts to clean up the Bay, the pollution diet imposes strong, enforceable deadlines for cleanup. Even without distracting and misguided legal challenges from out-of-state lobbying groups, the restoration battle won’t be easy. The plan has been in place since 2010 and still the Bay experienced ...

Obama’s Path to Progress: Protecting Workers from Deadly Silica Dust

by Matt Shudtz | November 17, 2014
In 1997, when OSHA first placed the silica standard on its to-do list, Titanic and Good Will Hunting were hits at the box office and the Hanson Brothers’ “MMMBop” was topping the charts. Pop culture has come a long way since then. OSHA, however, has only made modest progress on the silica rule. It took until 2013—sixteen years—for OSHA to get from saying “we plan to create a new standard” to actually proposing the text. Now the agency is reviewing ...

Why I Wrote This Book: Why Not Jail?

by Rena Steinzor | November 17, 2014
I have spent 38 years in Washington, D.C. as a close observer of the regulatory system, specifically the government’s efforts to protect public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment. The system’s a mess. Regulatory failure has become so acute that we truly are frozen in a paradox. On one hand, people expect the government to ensure that air and water are clean, workers don’t die on the job for avoidable reasons, food is safe, and drugs are efficacious. ...

Blankenship Indictment 'An Example for Every Prosecutor in the Country'

by Rena Steinzor | November 13, 2014
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin has set an example for every prosecutor in the country by indicting Don Blankenship, the venal, punitive, flamboyant, and reckless former CEO of Massey Energy. For years, Blankenship demanded updates on coal production every two hours and, the indictment reveals, browbeat senior managers to cut cost and violate crucial safety.  In one handwritten note, he told one such target, “You have a kid to feed.  Do your job.”  When the Upper Big Branch mine exploded, propelling ...

Reports of the Death of the Obama Administration Are Greatly Exaggerated: The US-Chinese Climate Agreement

by James Goodwin | November 12, 2014
The commentary following last week’s elections has largely been a variation on either of two themes:  (1) how strong Republicans are now that they have secured majorities in both houses of Congress or (2) how correspondingly weak the Obama Administration will be for the remainder of its time in office when it comes to advancing its policy goals.  This commentary may be true insofar as it relates to new legislation.  (Even there, nothing will really change as the prospects for ...

Obama’s Path to Progress: Protecting People and the Environment Against Harmful Ozone Pollution

by James Goodwin | November 12, 2014
A few months back, President Obama visited several kids receiving treatment for asthma at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC.  Afterwards, he reflected on the critical importance of environmental safeguards, such as those to limit ozone pollution, saying: [E]very time America has set clear rules and better standards for our air, our water, and our children’s health—the warnings of the cynics have been wrong.  They warned that doing something about the smog choking our cities, and acid rain ...

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