CPR Submits Comments on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement
Maryland faces an important deadline in its long-running effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. By 2017, the state will be legally required to have put in place a number of specific measures to reduce the massive quantities of pollution that now flow into the Bay from a range of pollution sources in the state. Unfortunately, if the terms of a draft Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement are any indication, we’re going to miss the deadline.
Today, CPR President Rena Steinzor and I submitted comments to the Chesapeake Executive Council, a collaborative partnership of Bay state governors currently chaired by Gov. Martin O’Malley, arguing that the Agreement falls well short. As the first interstate agreement since EPA issued the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay, the Agreement is an opportunity to build off the TMDL and tackle the issues that plan does not address. Instead, the draft Agreement ignores some of the most pressing issues facing the Chesapeake Bay today.
Our comments urge the Bay state governors to:
Hold Agriculture Equally Accountable Across State Lines. Agricultural operations are responsible for nearly half of the nutrients now choking the Chesapeake. The authority for the TMDL comes from the Clean Water Act, which does not address nonpoint sources of pollution such as agriculture.
EPA Declares BP a 'Responsible Contractor' Makes It Eligible Again for Federal Contracts in the Gulf
A scant five days before the Department of Interior opens a new round of bids for oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the EPA has blinked, pronouncing BP, the incorrigible corporate scofflaw of the new millennium, once again fit to do business with the government. To get right to the point, the federal government’s decision that BP has somehow paid its debt and should once again be eligible for federal contracts is a disgrace. Not only does it let
CPR Submits Comments on FDA's Proposed Generics Labeling Rule
If you’re harmed by an improperly labeled prescription drug you’ve taken, should your ability to hold the manufacturer accountable in court depend on whether that drug was “name brand” or “generic”? Strangely, it does matter, thanks to the 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Pilva v. Mensing. There, the Court held that because of a quirk in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulations, generic drug manufacturers were shielded against plaintiffs’ state tort law failure-to-warn claims that alleged that a
Enforcement of Environmental Laws a Victim of Obama’s Budget Proposal
EPA’s budget is in free-fall. Members of Congress brag that they have slashed it 20 percent since 2010. President Obama’s proposed budget for 2015, released on Tuesday, continues the downward trend. The budget proposal would provide $7.9 billion for EPA, about $300 million, or 3.7 percent, less than the $8.2 billion enacted in fiscal year 2014. To cope with these cuts, the agency plans to fundamentally change the way it enforces environmental laws. A draft five-year plan released in November
The Keystone EIS’ Grudging Acknowledgment of Environmental Impact
The media has reported, erroneously, that the Obama Administration’s environmental impact statement concluded that the Keystone Pipeline would have no impact on global climate disruption. The facts are a bit more complicated, and much more interesting. Basically, the final EIS concedes that Keystone would increase greenhouse gas emissions, but it uses a silent political judgment masquerading as scientific analysis to minimize its estimate of the increase’s magnitude. Accordingly, President Obama has ample grounds to reject the Keystone Pipeline application. Let
The Lost World of Administrative Law
The regulatory process has become more opaque and less accountable. We need to fix that. Every year, thousands of law students take a course in administrative law. It’s a great course, and we wish even more students took it. But there’s a risk that students may come away with a vision of the regulatory process that is increasingly disconnected with reality. Worse, the leading judicial opinions on the subject suggest that judges may suffer from a similar disconnect. The Administrative
Washington State’s Weakened Water Quality Standards Will Keep Fish Off the Table, Undermine Tribal Health
In recent weeks, celebrations throughout the Pacific Northwest marked the 40th anniversary of the “Boldt decision” – the landmark decision in the tribal treaty rights case, U.S. v. Washington. This decision upheld tribes’ right to take fish and prohibited the state of Washington from thwarting tribal harvest. Judge Boldt’s 1974 decision was intended to close a chapter in our history during which tribal fishers were harassed, beaten, and imprisoned for the act of fishing. In recognition of this anniversary, the
Your Iphone Causes China's Pollution
It sounds like a rare piece of good news about climate change: emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal cause of global warming, grew at a slower rate after 2000 in the United States, and have actually dropped since 2007. In Europe the story sounds even better, as overall emissions dropped from 1990 to 2008, often roughly matching, or in some cases exceeding, the reductions promised under the Kyoto Protocol. Yet the apparent progress on emission reductions in rich countries has
CPR's Michael Patoka Testifies in Support of Maryland Responsible Contracting Bill for Worker Health and Safety
by Erin Kesler | February 27, 2014
Today, Center for Progressive Reform analyst Michael Patoka testified at a Maryland Senate Finance Committee Hearing in support of SB 774, which would require construction companies contracting with the state to be prequalified based on their worker health and safety performance measures. The widely supported legislation would ensure unscrupulous employers do not receive contracts funded by taxpayer dollars. In his testimony Patoka notes: Currently, construction firms are screened on a number of factors prior to bidding, but worker-safety considerations are not included. As a result,
The Regulatory Accountability Act: Or How to Defeat the Public Interest in Just 65 Easy Steps
Cue the majestic fanfare, for this week marks House Republicans’ so-called “Stop Government Abuse Week”—you know they mean business, because they have a clever Twitter hashtag and everything. So how does one celebrate such an auspicious occasion? Apparently, by wasting precious House floor time with a series of votes on several extreme anti-regulatory bills that, if enacted, would make it all but impossible for agencies to carry out their congressionally mandated missions of safeguarding the public against corporate abuses. The
A Win for Nebraska: Lancaster District Court Struck Down Governor's Approval of Keystone Pipeline
A Lancaster County District Court has struck down the governor's decision to approve Keystone XL's pipeline route through the state in Thompson v. Heineman, CI 12-2060 (Feb. 19, 2014). As described in a previous blog, LB 1161 was passed in 2012 to give Governor Dave Heineman the authority to approve the route rather than having the state's Public Service Commission (PSC) make the decision. The court found that the PSC--not the governor--is constitutionally empowered under Nebraska Constitution Art. IV §
North Carolina’s Coal Ash Spills: A Glimpse of the Future under OIRA’s Weak Option
Yesterday, we wrote about OIRA’s role in delaying and diluting the EPA’s long-awaited coal ash rule, in part by introducing and promoting a weak option that would rely on voluntary state implementation and citizen suits, instead of nationwide requirements and federal oversight, to protect the public from dangerous leaks and spills. Anyone who thinks the states can be entrusted with regulating toxic coal ash need only take a passing glance at North Carolina’s track record—a virtual “how to” guide for
Mounting Coal Ash Spills Will Be OIRA’s Legacy
Two and a half weeks ago, a Duke Energy ash pond in North Carolina spilled up to 39,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of contaminated water after a stormwater pipe underneath the pond broke. The spill coated the bottom of the Dan River for 70 miles with gray sludge—five feet thick in some places. Now, investigators have discovered a second pipe underneath the pond that appears to have been leaking contaminated water into the river for a
Executive Fiat or Business as Usual? Claims of Presidential Overreach are Just Politics
by Bill Funk | February 17, 2014
In his State of the Union Address President Obama announced that, while he intended to work with Congress to achieve various goals, he will act unilaterally, invoking his “executive authority,” pending congressional action. There followed a laundry list of initiatives that he said he would take on his own. Predictably, Republicans have railed against the President’s proposed actions, accusing him of subverting the rule of law. It’s all just politics. First guilty party: President Obama. For all his touted exercise
CPR Member Scholars file Comments on OSHA’s Silica Proposal
At long last, the comment period on OSHA’s silica proposal has closed and the next phase in this rule’s protracted timeline will commence. In the four months since OSHA released the proposal, the agency has received hundreds of comments. They run the gamut, from the expected support of unions and other advocates for working people, to the fear-mongering hyperbole of the major trade associations. CPR Member Scholars Sid Shapiro and Martha McCluskey joined us in submitting our own comments to
CPR Scholars Weigh in on 'Secret Science Reform Act'
A group of eight CPR Member Scholars today submitted a letter to Reps. David Schweikert and Suzanne Bonamici, the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on the Environment. The letter levels a series of powerful criticisms at Schweikert's proposed "Secret Science Reform Act," yet another in a series of bills from House Republicans aimed at gumming up efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to exercise authority granted it by Congress to
The Bay-Wide TMDL is None of Alaska’s Business
Anchorage, Alaska is more than 4,000 miles away from the Chesapeake Bay, yet Alaska joined 20 other states on Monday in asking a federal appeals court to overturn the EPA-led plan to restore the Bay, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). While Alaska’s interest in the Bay-wide TMDL is murky, the history of the lawsuit is straightforward. In 2009, the Obama administration issued Executive Order 13,508, directing EPA to take a leadership role in cleaning up the Bay.
Chemical Industry takes Aim at Citizen Suits with 'Reform' Bill
The recent chemical spill disaster in West Virginia has brought into sharp focus the weak measures we have in place for safeguarding people and the environment against exposures to harmful chemicals. State and civil justice systems have helped to fill the resulting void by providing individuals who have suffered harmful exposures with an opportunity to hold accountable any people or corporations responsible for the chemical by seeking reasonable compensation for their injuries. It’s often difficult to win these cases, and