New CPR Report: Maryland and Federal Authorities Should Prosecute Water Polluters More Frequently
Today, CPR releases a new white paper examining criminal enforcement of water pollution laws in Maryland. In Going Too Easy? Maryland’s Criminal Enforcement of Water Pollution Laws Protecting the Chesapeake Bay, CPR President Rena Steinzor and I analyze a number of key questions concerning the critical, deterrence-based enforcement mechanism of criminal prosecution and its role in the Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts:
- What have water pollution criminal enforcement efforts in Maryland looked like for the past 10 to 20 years?
- What institutional challenges did criminal enforcement of water pollution laws in Maryland face?
- What improvements could regulators, legislators, and practitioners make to better utilize this critical accountability tool?
In answering these questions, we reviewed publicly available data on criminal enforcement cases at both the state and federal level involving water pollution in Maryland, interviewed a number of past and present environmental prosecutors, and reviewed the existing policies and laws that enable criminal enforcement for certain kinds water pollution violations.
Our overall finding was that criminal enforcement was underutilized in Bay restoration efforts, by both federal and Maryland authorities. A few of the specifics:
- During the past five years, federal water pollution concluded cases in Maryland shifted away from Clean Water Act-based charges to those involving violations of maritime laws, focusing on a narrow subset of pollution in the Bay;
- At the federal and state levels, courts rarely impose incarceration for water pollution-based convictions, thus significantly reducing the
Food Safety and Worker Safety Advocates Urge Vilsack to Withdraw Poultry Inspection Rule
by Ben Somberg | September 20, 2012
A host of concerned groups and individuals wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today urging him to withdraw proposed changes to poultry inspection rules until food safety and worker safety concerns are addressed. The letter was signed by a range of food safety and worker safety groups and individual signers, including CPR Member Scholars Martha McCluskey, Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro, and Rena Steinzor. The letter explains the food safety and worker safety issues at stake, and takes USDA to
Supersized Drinks, Social Welfare, and Liberty
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. Obesity is an environmental issue because the food system (from farm to table) uses a lot of energy and produces significant water pollution. More food equals a bigger environmental footprint. Sweetened soft drinks are a good example: they use corn sweetener, and corn production has a large footprint because so much fertilizer is required. There is a growing epidemic of obesity and of childhood obesity in particular. The New Scientist has a very thoughtful review of
Navigating the High Seas: Why the U.S. Should Ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty
a(broad) perspective Today’s post is the last in a series on a recent CPR white paper, Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership: Why the United States Should Ratify Ten Pending Environmental Treaties. Each month, this series will discuss one of these treaties. Previous posts are here. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and Agreement Relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the Convention Adopted and Opened for Signature on December 10, 1982. Agreement on Part XI Adopted
What Does The Indian Public Think About Climate Change?
I had been wondering what ordinary people in India think about climate change. So last week on my ride home from the office, I asked my auto-rickshaw driver. He was a talkative guy, bearded, with black spectacles and a navy blue turban. He had been keen on identifying for me the many troubles a man like him endures on the subcontinent. “Too many people!” he shouted, his voice competing with the cab’s rattling frame and the bleats of oncoming horns.
Key EPA Air Pollution Rule Runs Past 120 Day Deadline at White House
by Ben Somberg | September 15, 2012
The Administration has just missed another deadline on issuing the final revised “boiler MACT” rule. The revised version of the rule will provide less pollution reduction than the original version, but is still expected to prevent thousands of deaths each year. The EPA had pledged for many months that the rule would be finalized in April. It later said the rule would be finalized in the “spring.” On May 17, the agency sent the rule to the White House’s Office of Information
New CPR White Paper: How Agricultural Secrecy Gives Agribusiness a Federally Funded Free Ride
by Yee Huang | September 14, 2012
Agricultural producers in the United States receive billions of dollars in federal subsidies, crop insurance, conservation payments, and other grants. Defying fundamental principles of transparency and openness in a democracy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is authorized to keep secret much of the basic information that farmers provide to qualify for this public funding. Congress granted this unprecedented loophole in the nation’s sunshine laws by inserting section 1619 into the 2002 Farm Bill and later amending it in the
The Unpopularity of Cost-Benefit Analysis
If cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is really part of the furniture, you wouldn’t think recently departed OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein would need to dedicate a column to convincing us it’s so. But there it is, and though Sunstein is now but a private citizen like the rest of us, the claims merit a response. We’re told “cost-benefit analysis has become part of the informal constitution of the U.S. regulatory state,” but that’s some odd constitution – not approved by any legislative
Keeping the Independent Agencies Independent
The proposed Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act, S. 3468, is a troubling idea. As Rena Steinzor explained here when the bill was introduced, it would authorize the President to bring independent agencies under the purview of OIRA. This proposal is worrisome given the persistent flaws inherent in OIRA’s cost-benefit approach; extending the reach of a poorly functioning process is hard to justify. But even more problematic is where S. 3468 treads: the domain of independent agencies. This development calls for
Bill Clinton: After Oklahoma City Bombing, I Promised Myself I Would Never Bash Government Bureaucrats
by Ben Somberg | September 12, 2012
Former President Bill Clinton, campaigning for President Obama in Florida on Tuesday, the 9/11 anniversary, offered a passionate defense of government employees, the AP noted. I was curious about the whole quote, so I watched and wrote it out (via C-SPAN, at 34:55): On this day, of all days, we should know that there are good and noble people who work for the government. I remember when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred – which, before 9/11, was the biggest terrorist
Everywhere, All the Time: Why the U.S. Should Ratify 3 International Agreements on Persistent Organic Pollutants
a(broad) perspective Today’s post is the seventh in a series on a recent CPR white paper, Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership: Why the United States Should Ratify Ten Pending Environmental Treaties. Each month, this series will discuss one of these treaties. Previous posts are here. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are toxic substances that remain in the environment for long periods of time. They travel long distances via the wind and water and bio-accumulate in the food chain. POPs have been found
Romney Falsely Claims Health Benefits of Utility MACT Are Due to Bankrupting Coal Companies -- Not Pollution Reduction Equipment
by Ben Somberg | September 06, 2012
Mitt Romney added a new twist Tuesday to false right-wing claims about the EPA’s regulation limiting mercury and other pollutants from coal power plants. EPA estimated that the “utility MACT” will have annual monetized benefits of $37-90 billion and costs of $9.6 billion. A critique we’ve heard over and over again from the industry and its supporters goes something like this: “But only $6 million of those benefits come from reducing mercury pollution, the top target of the rule!” It’s sort of
TSCA Reform and the Presidential Election
When Barack Obama took office, reform of U.S. chemical regulation appeared to be an area of some bipartisan agreement, especially when compared to climate change, where it was clear a contentious fight would loom on Capitol Hill. Prominent Members of Congress had called for reform of the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson soon laid out the Administration’s key principles for TSCA reform, and the largest chemical industry trade association acknowledged that TSCA needed
The Republican Platform’s Plan to Eviscerate Environmental Protection
Ben Somberg posted here recently about the Republican platform and the environment. He noted that the platform uses a discredited estimate of regulatory costs, calls for making environmental regulations into guidance documents for industry, and proposes a moratorium on new regulations for the indefinite future. Unfortunately, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. If you can think of an anti-environmental measure proposed by any Republican since Reagan took office, there’s a good chance you’ll find it tucked away somewhere in this
Regulation as a Dynamic Macroeconomic Enterprise
Reposted from RegBlog. Traditionally, the field of law and economics has treated government regulation as if it were a mere transaction. This microeconomic approach to law assumes that government regulators should aim to make their decisions efficient by seeking to equate costs and benefits at the margin. As I argue in a new book, The Economic Dynamics of Law, the microeconomic model of government regulation misconceives the essence of regulation. Government regulation produces not an instantaneous transaction, but a set of
NEW DELHI — Here’s what monsoon season looks like in India. This summer, the northern states have been lashed with rain. In the northeastern state of Assam, July rains swamped thousands of homes, killing 65 residents. Floods and mudslides in northeast India sent nearly 6 million people heading for the hills in search of temporary housing (a tarp, a corrugated roof) and government aid (when they can get it). In New Delhi, the monsoon hasn’t caused anything nearly as traumatic.
Draft Republican Platform Cites Debunked Regulatory Costs Study, Suggests Rules be Only a 'Helpful Guide'
A draft of the Republican party platform, posted by Politico on Friday afternoon, reveals that the party has incorporated some of the more absurd claims and proposals on regulations pushed by House Republicans and some more radical trade organizations. The draft claims regulations cost $1.75 trillion each year – that’s from a discredited study sponsored by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. It turned out that 70 percent of that figure came from a regression analysis based on opinion
New Briefing Paper: States Can Lead the Way to Improved Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards
Today CPR releases a new briefing paper explaining how states can spearhead improving energy efficiency standards for home appliances. The paper, States Can Lead the Way to Improved Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards, draws on ideas discussed in Alexandra B. Klass’s article State Standards for Nationwide Products Revisited: Federalism, Green Building Codes, and Appliance Efficiency Standards. I co-authored today’s paper with CPR Member Scholars Klass and Lesley McAllister. Traditionally a strongly bipartisan issue, support for energy efficiency has been eroded by