An Energy No-Brainer

by Daniel Farber | April 24, 2013

Reposted from Legal Planet, by permisison.

There are a lot of things to disagree about in terms of energy policy.  One thing that ought to be common ground, as discussed in a Washington Post column, is increased research in energy R&D.  As this chart shows, federal support for energy R&D is smaller than it was under Ronald Reagan:

The economic argument for supporting R&D is simple.  Private firms don’t have enough of an incentive to engage in basic research because intellectual property law doesn’t allow them to capture the full benefits of the resource. For that reason, government support for the research is necessary.  Moreover, really new ideas have a high risk factor that may make them unattractive to private investors (a problem addressed by the ARPA-E program.)

For this reason, it’s good news that the President’s proposed budget includes substantial increases for DOE energy research in general and for ARPA-E in particular.  Specifically, as Scientific American ...

Blistering Comments on State's Draft Keystone XL Environmental Impact Statement

by Sandra Zellmer | April 23, 2013
Monday was the deadline for public comment on the State Department's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Keystone XL Pipeline. Mine, which I submitted with the support of two of my University of Nebraska colleagues, are here. The State Department had initially announced that it would take the unusual path of refusing to make all of the comments available to the public absent a Freedom of Information Act request, but after a storm of criticism, the Department has reversed ...

Death of a Statute: The Kiobel Ruling

by John Knox | April 19, 2013
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ended a generation of human rights litigation in the United States by holding, in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, that the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) does not apply to actions occurring in foreign countries. The ATS allows plaintiffs to sue in federal courts for torts committed in violation of international law and, since 1980, plaintiffs have used it for claims of grave human rights violations, such as torture, crimes against humanity, extrajudicial killing, and even genocide, ...

CPR Briefing Paper: Chesapeake Bay States Need to Strengthen Penalty Policies to Make Sure there is No Profit in Pollution

by Robert Glicksman | April 19, 2013
Industries that discharge water pollution are required to abide by clean water laws and regulations that limit how much they can pollute the nation's rivers, lakes, streams, and other bodies of water. If they exceed their limits or fail to implement appropriate methods for controlling their pollution, they violate the law. Such violations should trigger appropriate sanctions to deter all regulated entities from committing future violations. Unfortunately, polluters may weigh decisions about whether and how much to pollute from a dollars-and-cents perspective ...

The Reliability of the Sun and the Wind

by Lesley McAllister | April 17, 2013
The following is reposted from the Environmental Law Prof Blog. The electric utility industry often complains that renewable energy proponents don’t pay enough attention to the intermittency of renewable resources.  A common refrain is “the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.”  The industry then reminds us that, for a reliable electricity grid, supply and demand must be in balance at all times. The implication is that this will be impossible if we rely heavily on renewable energy. A new report published by the ...

Letting Nature Do Its Thing for Our Benefit

by Yee Huang | April 17, 2013
In the decades since Congress and state legislatures passed most of the nation's most significant environmental laws, our knowledge about ecosystems has increased dramatically. We know much more about the “goods and services” that ecosystems provide—more, for example, about the migratory species that sustain agriculture by functioning as pollinators, and more about how healthy ecosystems help to filter and clean our water. But our policymakers haven’t yet taken advantage of much of that new knowledge. As ecologists learn more about ...

A Tribute to Joe Feller

by Robert Glicksman | April 16, 2013
Last week, CPR lost one its most dynamic scholars, Joe Feller, in a tragic accident. Joe was deservedly well known as a staunch and vigorous advocate on behalf of natural resource preservation, especially the public rangelands that he loved. Joe was not cut from the typical academic mold. Although he wrote frequently and with vision about subjects that included rangeland protection and water law issues, he was at least as comfortable leading environmental protection efforts in the agencies and the courts. Joe filed administrative ...

Steinzor Testifies Today on Proposed Giveaway to Energy Industry

by Matthew Freeman | April 12, 2013
This morning, CPR President Rena Steinzor will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the proposed Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013 (ECRA), yet another in a series of bills from House Republicans aimed at blocking federal regulatory agencies from fully implementing the nation's health and safety laws — in this case such landmark legislation as the Clean Air Act, and any other law enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency that is in any sense "energy-related." Here's the ...

President's Proposed Budget Assumes Savings from Finalizing Proposed USDA Poultry Inspection Rule That Would Be Harmful to Food Safety, Workers, and the Environment

by Matt Shudtz | April 10, 2013
For more than a year now, food safety and worker safety advocates have been fighting a proposal out of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service that would pull most government inspectors off poultry slaughter lines in favor of potentially un-trained company inspectors, speed up the lines, and allow companies to use additional antimicrobial chemicals to cover up expected increases in contamination.  Today, President Obama released a proposed budget that indicates USDA’s proposal will be finalized before the start of FY2014 (see ...

USDA's Poultry Rule Will Exacerbate Water Pollution, in Addition to Its Negative Impacts on Food and Worker Safety

by Michael Patoka | April 09, 2013
The Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal to “modernize” the poultry inspection system by replacing government inspectors with company employees, and speeding up the processing line to a staggering 175 birds per minute, has been exposed on numerous occasions as a disaster-waiting-to-happen for food and worker safety. In its zeal to save money for poultry corporations, the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) failed to conduct its much-vaunted “interagency review” before giving the proposed rule its stamp of ...

Updating OSHA Inspection Policies

by Adam Finkel | April 05, 2013
This post originally appeared on Harvard Law School’s Bill of Health and on RegBlog and is cross-posted with permisison. For many of the federal agencies that promulgate and enforce regulations to protect public health, safety, and the environment, the era of “big government” never even began.  The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a prime example: the agency employs about 2,000 inspectors, who are collectively able to visit roughly 100,000 establishments each year to look for unsafe and unhealthy conditions in the ...

Simpler Government, or Secret and Unaccountable Government?

by Ben Somberg | April 04, 2013
Over at Climate Progress, CPR Member Scholar Lisa Heinzerling critiques Cass Sunstein's new book, “Simpler: The Future of Government." Rules on worker health, environmental protection, food safety, health care, consumer protection, and more all passed through Sunstein’s inbox. Some never left. ... In Sunstein’s account, OIRA’s interventions also ensured “a well-functioning system of public comment” and “compliance with procedural ideals that might not always be strictly compulsory but that might be loosely organized under the rubric of ‘good government’.” No theme more ...

Who Will Run the EPA?

by Ben Somberg | April 01, 2013
From Member Scholar Lisa Heinzerling's new article in the Yale Journal on Regulation: With President Obama's nomination of Gina McCarthy as the new Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), much attention has turned to her record as the EPA official in charge of air pollution programs, experience as the head of two states’ environmental agencies, and views on specific policies and priorities. And with the President’s nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the Director of the Office of ...

Rep. Duckworth's Small Business Paperwork Relief Act is a Flawed Solution for the Wrong Problem

by Sidney Shapiro | March 28, 2013
Rep. Tammy Duckworth appears to have been caught up in the anti-regulatory fervor that has continued to afflict the House of Representatives ever since the GOP took control there in 2010.  On Monday, Representative Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, announced a plan to address what she said was a problem: “For businesses with less than twenty employees, the annual cost of federal regulation can be over $10,000 per worker.”  But before we get to the proposed solution, there’s a problem with ...

Taking ACUS to Task for Industry Bias in 'International Regulatory Cooperation' Project

by Michael Patoka | March 22, 2013
In late 2011, a little known but surprisingly influential independent federal agency called the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) conducted a research project on “International Regulatory Cooperation” (IRC), culminating in a set of recommendations to U.S. agencies. In a letter sent yesterday (March 21), CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Thomas McGarity, and I urge ACUS Chairman Paul Verkuil to look back over the project’s many flaws, which reflect—in both process and substance—ACUS’s pervasive bias toward the views of ...

Friday in DC: Creative Approaches to Critical Habitat Protection Under the ESA

by Dave Owen | March 20, 2013
Two months ago, a federal district court in Alaska set aside the Department of the Interior’s designation of critical habitat for the polar bear.  This had been the most geographically extensive critical habitat designation ever under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but it provoked adamant opposition from the petroleum industry and the state of Alaska.  That isn’t atypical; critical habitat designations often generate controversy.  But one might wonder why. The ESA’s only provision directly targeted at critical habitat protection is ...

Refinery Rule Returned to EPA for Additional 'Analysis': How Big Oil, OIRA, and the SBA Office of Advocacy Teamed Up to Delay Progress

by Rena Steinzor | March 19, 2013
On Friday, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) returned a proposed rule on air pollution standards for oil refineries to EPA, insisting that the agency complete “additional analysis” before moving forward. EPA’s efforts to reduce hazardous pollutants from these facilities will be delayed for months or likely years.  And that additional analysis?  OIRA won’t even say what it’s for.  “Trust us” is not the most reassuring government transparency. EPA was proposing to revise the emissions standards for ...

Power Plant Regulation and the Rhetoric of Reliability

by Emily Hammond | March 15, 2013
The coal-fired power plant industry has always fought air-emissions standards enacted pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA).  But the industry has increasingly raised the specter of reliability problems, arguing that EPA’s recent “tsunami” of regulations will cause a “train wreck,” forcing companies to retire aging plants so rapidly that lost capacity will outpace the development of new sources.  The result, they maintain, will be such an unmanageable strain on the regional grids that they will have to impose brownouts ...

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