The clean energy wager

by Joseph Tomain | January 08, 2014

In his 2013 book, The Bet, Yale historian Paul Sabin uses Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon as foils to explain today’s dysfunctional and polarized politics surrounding energy development and environmental protection. In 1980, Ehrlich and Simon bet each other on the price of five minerals (chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten.) Ehrlich, a neo-Malthusian, and father of Zero Population Growth, believed that thoughtless and unconstrained consumption of natural resources by an ever-expanding human population would literally doom the planet.  Ehrlich posited that by 1990, world population growth would exacerbate the scarcity of natural resources and, therefore, resource prices would rise.   

Simon, by contrast, took the position that population growth was an overall benefit to society and that innovation and market pricing would cause resource prices to fall.  Simon argued further that the human creativity that population growth entailed would spur economic growth and increase human well-being.  To Simon, a no-growth policy was unwise, inefficient, ...

Secrecy protects only laggards: why the FDA should disclose which drug companies volunteer for its “judicious use” policy for livestock antibiotics

by Lisa Heinzerling | January 06, 2014
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently recommitted itself to its lame proposal to address the profligate use of antibiotics in livestock by enlisting the voluntary participation of the drug companies that make the antibiotics.  Two documents issued last month reveal the details of the agency’s current plans.   The first is a final guidance document describing the FDA’s process for handling drug sponsors’ voluntary efforts to phase out “production uses” of antibiotics in animal feed and water and to bring ...

Carbon responsibility - producers versus consumers

by Daniel Farber | January 02, 2014
Has the U.S. "exported" its carbon emissions to China by relying on China to manufacture so many of our goods?  There seems to be growing support for the idea that carbon emissions should be tied to consumption of goods rather than their manufacture, as the NY Times reported recently.  There is a grain of truth to the idea.  But consumer responsibility should be considered secondary.  The primary responsibility rests with producers. Most of the debate has been about climate change.  But ...

Roll Call: The good science scam and an undemocratic provision

by Wendy Wagner | December 30, 2013
Some members of Congress apparently do not want agencies to regulate powerful agricultural and pharmaceutical interests in order to protect the public from dangerous risks. Yet, rather than say that — and be held accountable to the electorate for the consequences — they have developed what has become a standard, indeed almost boilerplate pretext to hide their endgame. Specifically, they have drafted a provision snuck in as a rider to a farm bill that requires agencies to develop elaborate “high ...

Climate deniers in the dark

by Erin Kesler | December 23, 2013
Climate change and pollution affects everyone. Global warming-induced hurricanes pummel our coasts and droughts ravage our farmland. Our neighbors, friends, and children develop asthma and heart attacks because of air pollution and our favorite parks and hunting grounds are withering away. The science is conclusive and polls reflect the concern of many Americans about global warming and its related pollution. So what can account for the lack of government action on the issue? The answer has a lot to do with our ...

Democratic Senators eager to screw African-American and Hispanic poultry workers

by Celeste Monforton | December 19, 2013
Many Senate Democrats try to paint themselves as defenders of working people. They rail against their colleagues who are “in the pockets of corporations and the rich.”  But what they say, and what they do are two different things. This time, seven Democratic Senators are ready to screw poultry workers to please the owners of the poultry companies. We’ve been writing for nearly two years on the USDA’s plan to “modernize poultry inspection” (e.g., here, here, here, here). It’s a plan that will give ...

Anti-science and anti-democratic: House Republicans’ farm bill rider seeks to tie up critical safeguards indefinitely

by James Goodwin | December 19, 2013
It’s like a Russian nesting doll of bad policy:  House Republicans have contrived to take one of the most anti-science bills in memory and then place it inside one of the most anti-democratic legislative vehicles available.  It’s part of an attempt to ram through into law new rulemaking requirements that would benefit the already-healthy bottom lines of their corporate benefactors at the devastating expense of the health, safety, pocketbooks, and perhaps even lives of the American public.  That’s what is ...

ACUS’s final statement on OIRA Is weak tea and wide of the mark

by Rena Steinzor | December 17, 2013
Recently, the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) adopted a statement on how to improve the “timeliness” of rule reviews by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). As regular readers know, OIRA has time and again delayed the release of crucial health, safety, and environmental regulations, leaving the public exposed to unnecessary dangers while these rules gather dust on OIRA’s desk—like the proposed rule on silica exposure that was delayed for over two and a ...

Learning from the FDA's Plan B fiasco

by Lisa Heinzerling | December 12, 2013
In  2001, a group of private citizens, public health groups, and medical organizations petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve nonprescription status for the emergency contraceptive Plan B and its generic cousins.  Under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA’s decision was supposed to turn on whether these drugs could be taken safely and efficaciously without the assistance of a licensed health professional.  Instead, an investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and fact-finding by the district court handling litigation over the controversy made clear ...

EPA’s ability to regulate cross-state pollution unnecessarily at stake: SCOTUS should uphold transport rule

by Victor Flatt | December 12, 2013
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in EME Homer City Generation v. EPA.  At issue in the case was the ability of EPA to regulate cross-state pollution, or pollution generated in some states that is carried over to others downwind. Eight “downwind” states, primarily in the Northeast, filed a brief in support of the Court’s review of a previous decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down the rule EPA implemented to regulate cross-state ...

Fiddling while rome burns: 64 dead, 741 sick, and Cass Sunstein’s dangerous love affair with cost-benefit analysis

by Rena Steinzor | December 10, 2013
Former (de)regulatory czar Cass Sunstein is back, full of advice on how to run the government from his perch as a Harvard law professor.  In a “View” column for Bloomberg News entitled “Left and Right Are Both Wrong About Regulation,” Sunstein urges his former allies and enemies to redouble their efforts to “look back” at old rules. He claims that forcing agencies to rummage through their closets in search of bad rules has already saved “billions of dollars,” although the ...

CPR's Tom McGarity in today's NY Times: President's inequality speech left out regulation

by Erin Kesler | December 09, 2013
Today, Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and University of Texas law professor Thomas O. McGarity published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled,"What Obama Left Out of His Inequality Speech: Reguation."  In a speech last week, the President highlighted the problems associated with extreme socio-economic disparity. But, as McGarity notes in his piece: [T]here’s a crucial dimension the president left out: the revival, since the mid-1970s, of the laissez-faire ideology that prevailed in the Gilded Age, roughly the ...

What could MDE do with an extra $400,000?

by Anne Havemann | December 05, 2013
Late last month, the Center for Progressive Reform revealed that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) waives pollution permit application fees for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the state, and that the agency is far behind in processing such applications. Now we're able to put a number on MDE's decision: MDE is waiving $400,000 in application fees this year alone. And what might it do with that money it's choosing to leave on the table for some reason? ...

Making private companies pay their share for climate change: a new study could revive climate change litigation

by David Hunter | November 26, 2013
Efforts to hold private companies responsible for their contribution to climate change just took a big step forward, thanks to researcher Rick Heede.  For the past eight years, Heede has painstakingly compiled the historical contribution of fossil fuel companies to today’s concentrations of greenhouse gases.  According to Heede’s study ”Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010,” which was published in Climatic Change, just 90 enterprises have accounted for over sixty percent of total ...

Dangerous dust and deadly delay: OSHA's proposed silica rule

by Robert Verchick | November 26, 2013
It’s not easy to stare into the eyes of a dying man. But that is what David Michaels, the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), wants you to do. A video called, “Deadly Dust,” featured on OSHA’s website, introduces Bill Ellis, a retired painter and sandblaster. After years of exposure to fine particles of blasted rock, he developed a respiratory disease called silicosis and died, leaving behind his wife, children, and grandchildren. Ellis’s final months were painful. For a ...

Rethinking 'adaptation'

by Daniel Farber | November 26, 2013
I’ve spent a lot of time and energy talking about the need to adapt to climate change, but I’ve also become increasingly uneasy about “adaptation” as a way to think about the situation.  One of the things I don’t like about the term “adaptation” is that it suggests that we actually can, at some expense, restore ourselves to the same position we would have been in without climate change.  For any given amount of climate change, we can do things ...

Should Congress have to pass a bill twice? OIRA’s interference endangers pilots

by James Goodwin | November 21, 2013
When it comes to OIRA’s antiregulatory meddling, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) pilot fatigue rule provides as textbook an example as you could ask for.  Following Congress’s instruction that the rule be based on the best available science regarding human sleep patterns, the agency drafted a rule that set minimum rest standards for all commercial pilots.  But, the rule couldn’t take effect without the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) review and final approval.  After more than four months, the ...

Maryland yanks rule limiting the use of manure as fertilizer…again

by Anne Havemann | November 21, 2013
Lately, press releases from the Maryland Department of Agriculture read like a broken record: MDA Withdraws Phosphorus Management Tool Regulations; Department to Meet with Stakeholders and Resubmit Regulations  -- August 26, 2013   MDA Withdraws Phosphorus Management Tool Regulations; Department to Consider Comments and Resubmit Regulations --November 15, 2013 The second headline is from this past Friday when MDA withdrew a proposed regulation aimed at cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay by restricting the use of manure to fertilize crops. Manure is ...

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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