The Keystone EIS’ Grudging Acknowledgment of Environmental Impact

by David Driesen | March 07, 2014

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 me explain. The EIS concedes that the construction project creating the Keystone Pipeline would produce .24 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MMTCO2E) per year until TransCanada completes the pipeline. It also admits that operation of the pipeline after construction would produce 1.44 MMTCO2E per year, about the emissions of 300,000 passenger vehicles.

Although this is a lot of emissions, the really huge emissions come not from the construction and operation of the pipeline, but from the extraction and use of tar sands oil. The EIS concludes that the tar sands oil transported through the pipeline would produce a whopping 147 to 168 MMTCO2E per year in lifecycle emissions, approximating the annual emissions of more than 30 million cars. The huge emissions associated with tar sands oil has led James Hansen, a leading climate scientist, to conclude that exploiting tar sands oil means “game over” for climate change.

Now, here is where ...

The Lost World of Administrative Law

by Daniel Farber | March 05, 2014
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

by Catherine O'Neill | March 04, 2014
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

by Frank Ackerman | February 27, 2014
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

by James Goodwin | February 24, 2014
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

by Sandra Zellmer | February 20, 2014
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

by Rena Steinzor | February 20, 2014
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

by Rena Steinzor | February 19, 2014
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

by Thomas McGarity | February 12, 2014
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'

by Matthew Freeman | February 11, 2014
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

by Anne Havemann | February 07, 2014
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

by Sidney Shapiro | February 07, 2014
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 ...

EPA's Enforcement Retreat will Harm the Chesapeake

by Anne Havemann | February 04, 2014
Every day, we are presented with more evidence of the need to inspect for environmental violations and enforce the nation’s laws.  The evidence is stark in the Chesapeake Bay region where, in 2012 alone, just 17 large point sources reported illegal discharges of nitrogen totaling nearly 700,000 pounds.  These violations put the watershed states behind in their efforts to restore the estuary and meet the 2025 goals of the Bay pollution diet.  The problem cries out for stronger enforcement of ...

Two House Hearings, One Bad Theme

by Matt Shudtz | February 04, 2014
Today, separate House committees will hold hearings that address two federal agencies’ efforts to regulate toxic chemicals.  The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy will hold its fifth hearing on issues arising out of ongoing efforts to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Simultaneously, the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections will hold a hearing addressing, among other things, OSHA’s recent attempts to spur better protections for workers who face chemical ...

A Turning of the Tide? More Belief in Government, Less Blind Faith in Markets

by Sidney Shapiro | January 30, 2014
Suddenly politics in this country appears to have taken a turn toward democracy and away from markets. As we develop in a book just published by Oxford University Press, discussing economic inequality. Regulation of Wall Street proceeds apace after the investment banks and mortgage lenders sank the American economy with their recklessness as they now write multi-billion dollar checks for their malfeasance. If indeed the tide has turned, the country is emerging from a cycle deemphasizing government that dates back ...

US Chamber of Commerce: More of the Same

by Joseph Tomain | January 27, 2014
Recently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report entitled Energy Works for US: Solutions for America’s Energy Future.  The data and references in the report are largely accurate, as far as they go, and the report promotes energy efficiency, which is a welcome step.  Ultimately, though, the report is unreliable because it has too narrow a vision of the energy future.  It inaccurately characterizes government regulation and neglects the environmental consequences surrounding the production, use, consumption, and disposal of ...
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