On the Farm and Looking to the Future of the CWA

by Aimee Simpson | October 18, 2012

Last week I visited a dairy farm with my two year-old son.  Complete with hayrides, homemade ice cream, cows mooing, and a bluegrass band, the fall festival provided us with some good, wholesome entertainment.  My son giggled as the baby cows licked his hand, oohed and awed at the fluffy baby chicks, and, of course, consumed the decadent ice cream as if I had not fed him in weeks. 

It was a memorable scene for us city-dwellers, but as my son climbed over hay bails and pretended to drive a tractor, I found myself longing for the ignorance of childhood.  Because as he moved from one gleeful experience to the other, questions filled my mind as I took in each detail of the land and farming process.  As I listened to the tour leader describe the careful separation of sick and antibiotic-treated cows during the milking process, I was unsatisfied with the mere assurances of this milk being separated from the milk bound for the grocers’ shelves or front doorsteps.  I wanted to know, where did the “bad” milk go—down the drain?  Driving past the chicken barn and cow fields and breathing in the air, pungent with what can only be described as “that farm smell,” made me wonder if they were taking appropriate measures to prevent contamination of surrounding streams, rivers, and even groundwater. 

As I voiced some of these questions to my spouse and friends whose children also ...

The River Ganges Meets Climate Change

by Robert Verchick | October 17, 2012
VARANASI -- We slip into the river at night, and with an easy stroke, our oarsman moves our boat across the chestnut waters of “Mother Ganga,” India’s Ganges River. Spiritual life in Varanasi (also called Benares) is a passion. Hindus all over India save their money for the chance to visit this holy city and bathe in Ganga’s purifying waters. At sunrise, along the string of bathing steps called “ghats,” you’ll see hundreds of people of all shapes and sizes ...

The CWA's Antidegradation Policy: Time to Rejuvenate a Program to Protect High Quality Water

by Sandra Zellmer | October 16, 2012
This post was written by CPR Member Scholars Robert Glicksman and Sandra Zellmer. Visual images of burning rivers, oil-soaked seagulls, and other grossly contaminated resources spurred the enactment of the nation’s foundational environmental laws in the 1970s, including the Clean Water Act (CWA). Similarly, evocative prose like Rachel Carson’s description of the “strange blight” poisoning America’s wildlife due to widespread use of pesticides played a critical role in alerting policymakers and the public to the need for robust legal protections ...

The Clean Water Act at 40: Can We Renew the Vision?

by Robert Adler | October 15, 2012
Congress adopted the “modern” version of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, more commonly known as the “Clean Water Act,” forty years ago this week (Pub. L. No. 92-500, Oct. 18, 1972). As Congress faces persistent efforts to weaken this law, it is important to take stock of why the law was passed, how well we have met its goals and objectives, and how much is left to accomplish. In the current anti-regulatory climate, it is easy to fall prey ...

The Clean Water Act at 40: Up to the Challenge of the Climate Change Era?

by Robin Kundis Craig | October 15, 2012
There is no question but that the Clean Water Act has led to enormous improvements in water quality throughout the United States. Funding for publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) has largely eliminated the use of the nation's waterways for the disposal of raw sewage. Most point source discharges are now subject to permitting and technology-based and/or water-quality based effluent limitations. There is also no question that the Clean Water Act is a statute that is still evolving to address water ...

Forty Years Later, Time to Turn in the CWA Clunker for Something Suited for the 21st Century

by Dan Tarlock | October 12, 2012
As the Clean Water Act (CWA) turns 40, it is useful to compare it to the cars on the road in 1972. Big cars, some still adorned with tail fins and grills, ruled the road, running on 36 cents per gallon gas.  Forty years later, we look back on the early 70s and ask how could we consider these cars, and what we wore driving them, so cool. Today, we are driving smaller, better engineered and designed fuel efficient cars. ...

Ryan Record on Regulation Includes Voting to Gut Clean Air Act Protections Adopted in Bipartisan 401 to 25 Vote

by James Goodwin | October 11, 2012
The Vice Presidential debate is tonight, and I suspect that, among other things, we’ll hear Paul Ryan give some general talk of “reducing red tape” or “reducing government burdens on job creators.”  We probably won’t hear a pitch for blocking air pollution rules that would save thousands of lives—which, after all, doesn’t poll well.  But that’s exactly what Ryan has voted for, over and over. Representative Ryan’s record on regulations and the environment has received relatively little attention outside an ...

Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Pollution Controls for Timber Industry; EPA and Congress Try to Preempt Courts

by Nicholas Vidargas | October 10, 2012
Imagine the ecosystem in which salmon evolved and thrived in the Northwest.  As the region’s celebrated rain falls through old-growth forest, it is filtered through duff as it makes its way to one of thousands of pristine streams.  It is in those cold, clear waters that salmon begin their lives among rock and pebble, the product of their parents’ long journey from the sea, a journey they too will make in years to come.  But in modern times, those salmon ...

The Clean Water Act at 40: Finishing a Task Well Begun

by William Andreen | October 09, 2012
This post is first in a series marking the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. On October 18th, the nation will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  This landmark piece of legislation has proven remarkably successful.  Water pollution discharges from both industry and municipal sewer systems have declined sharply, the loss of wetlands has been cut decisively, and water quality has broadly improved across the country.  The Clean Water Act is, in short, a real success ...

Obama Event Monday Honoring Farmworkers Comes Just Months After Administration Jettisoned Key Farmworker Safety Rule

by Rena Steinzor | October 07, 2012
President Obama travels to Keene, California, on Monday to designate the home of César E. Chávez as a national monument—a worthy honor for a key figure in the ongoing push for safe working conditions and fair pay. One thing the President is unlikely to raise in his remarks is that just a few months ago, his administration took the side of big agriculture against the safety of farmworkers. In April, White House staff jettisoned a key Department of Labor (DOL) proposal ...

New CPR Issue Brief: Regulatory 'Pay-Go' Caps Protections but Not Harms to the Public

by Sidney Shapiro | October 02, 2012
When the government succeeds in protecting the public from harms, is that good news – or something to be atoned for by eliminating other successful protections? If the Department of Labor issues a new rule on construction crane safety, saving dozens of lives each year, should the agency also be required to eliminate an existing safety regulation? A policy of regulatory “pay-go” would prohibit agencies from issuing new rules, no matter how beneficial they are, unless they first identify and ...

Kiobel Returns!

by John Knox | September 28, 2012
Remember Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, argued before the Supreme Court last term?  It’s back – the Court will hear argument again Monday – and bigger than before.  A brief recap:  For decades, Shell has extracted oil from the Niger Delta, causing extensive environmental degradation.  The government of Nigeria, with the alleged support of Shell, cracked down on protests by the local residents, the Ogoni tribe, by executing their leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight others in 1995.  Members of the ...

Fifth Circuit's Reversal on Katrina Litigation Leaves Flood Victims Gasping for Air

by Robert Verchick | September 27, 2012
I’ll forego reporting on India today to address a new development in the post-Hurricane Katrina litigation: Judge Jerry Smith’s breathless hairpin turn in the “Katrina Canal Breaches Litigation.” On Monday, Judge Smith, writing for a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, dismissed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood damage during Hurricane Katrina, a case that could have exposed the federal government to billions of dollars in damages over the next several ...

New Paper: How Chemicals Manufacturers Seek to Co-opt Their Regulators

by Rena Steinzor | September 27, 2012
This post was written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst Wayland Radin. Today CPR releases Cozying Up: How the Manufacturers of Toxic Chemicals Seek to Co-opt Their Regulators, exposing the work of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), two industry advocacy groups that have undue influence on the regulation of toxic chemicals.  The two firms specialize in a particularly insidious brand of “dirty” science by recruiting EPA experts to co-author papers and ...

The Muddy Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Case

by John Echeverria | September 25, 2012
The most interesting issues to watch in Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. United States, which the Supreme Court will hear next week on October 3, are ones the parties have not addressed.  The central issue in the case as framed by the principal briefs is whether a temporary increase in the frequency of inundation of floodplain property as a result of government action should give rise to liability under the Takings Clause.  But there are two other  -- arguably ...

New CPR Report: Maryland and Federal Authorities Should Prosecute Water Polluters More Frequently

by Aimee Simpson | September 24, 2012
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 ...

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

by Daniel Farber | September 19, 2012
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 ...

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