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Dec. 2, 2021 by Minor Sinclair, James Goodwin

Strengthening the 4th Branch of Government

This blog post is the second in a series outlining the Center for Progressive Reform’s new strategic direction. We published A Turning Point on Climate in November.

Over the last four decades, small government ideologues have waged a coordinated attack against government. The strategy has paid off: Public approval ratings of all three branches of government are at all-time lows.

Nevertheless, the federal government still manages to get things done on a day-to-day basis, and that is primarily due to the so-called 4th branch of government — the administrative and regulatory state that employs 2 million workers, invests trillions of dollars each year on things like air pollution monitoring and cutting-edge clean energy research, and makes rules that protect us all.

This is not to say that the administrative state hasn’t been the target of conservative attacks, too. These attacks have left federal regulatory system battered, bruised, and starved for resources. Nevertheless, the genius of its design — including such factors as a professional bureaucracy, science-based policymaking, strict transparency measures, and a commitment to public participation — has enabled it to persevere in the face of these challenges.

Simply put, the administrative state makes our lives our better, and we would …

Dec. 1, 2021 by Katlyn Schmitt
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Carbon capture use and storage is at the center of the national climate policy debate, promoted by the oil and gas industry, the private sector, and even some environmental organizations as a solution to the climate crisis.

The federal infrastructure package that President Biden recently signed into law appropriates more than $10.3 billion for the nationwide buildout of carbon capture infrastructure. Preliminary deals on the Build Back Better Act also contain expansions of the primary federal tax credit incentivizing carbon capture (45Q Tax Credit). The fossil fuel industry is targeting Louisiana as an emerging hub for carbon capture, mainly because of the large concentration of industrial facilities that emit carbon dioxide in the stretch of land between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

While Louisiana must move quickly and aggressively in pursuit of climate change solutions, deploying carbon capture to reach net-zero emissions is not the answer …

Nov. 23, 2021 by Robin Kundis Craig
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This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

Confirming expectations, the Supreme Court on Monday unanimously denied Mississippi’s claim that Tennessee is stealing its groundwater. If Mississippi wants to pursue its groundwater battle with Tennessee, it will have to file a new complaint with the court asking for an equitable apportionment of the Middle Claiborne Aquifer, which lies beneath Mississippi, Tennessee, and other states.

Defying everyone else’s agreement that equitable apportionment was its only cause of action, Mississippi argued before the Supreme Court that Tennessee had invaded Mississippi’s sovereign territory by allowing the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division to pump so much water from the aquifer that it created a cone of depression that extended across the state line and caused groundwater that naturally would have remained under Mississippi to flow into Tennessee. For this …

Nov. 23, 2021 by Robin Kundis Craig
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This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. Reprinted under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

Less than two months after oral argument, in its first interstate groundwater case, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that Mississippi must rely on a doctrine known as equitable apportionment if it wants to sue Tennessee over the shared Middle Claiborne Aquifer. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court squarely rejected Mississippi's claim that Tennessee is stealing Mississippi's groundwater, noting that it had "'consistently denied' the proposition that a State may exercise exclusive ownership or control of interstate waters."

The Supreme Court's decision

As expected, the court's opinion in Mississippi v. Tennessee is short — 12 pages, half of which recount the long history of the case. Nevertheless, in this first opinion about states' rights to interstate aquifers, the court made three important decisions that are likely to guide …

Nov. 22, 2021 by Karen Sokol
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During a historic hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform on October 28, the executives of ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute (API), refused to admit to their decades-long climate disinformation campaign that is now well-documented in publicly available documents uncovered by journalists and researchers.

If that weren’t enough, the executives continued to deny climate science under oath, albeit with a slight twist from their previous disinformation campaign. Instead of denying the science establishing that fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis, they’re now denying the science establishing the urgent need for a rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

In other words, they’re still lying — a strategy that was on full display in this blockbuster hearing.

The ultimate questions at hand were whether the chiefs of the oil and gas industry would:

  1. Admit to their companies’ decades-long …

Nov. 18, 2021 by Maggie Dewane, Catalina Gonzalez
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The reactions are pouring in following the closing of the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow. Generally, while some progress was made, the news across the board is that not enough was accomplished to keep the planet under the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold necessary to stave off climate catastrophe. There was, however, a  noticeable shift from years’ past: the U.S. presence.

President Joe Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office, fulfilling a campaign promise immediately and noting to the world, “The U.S. is back.” At the meetings in Glasgow, it was clear the Biden administration wanted to show this return to global leadership by sending an extensive contingency to represent the U.S. government. In addition to Biden’s Climate Envoy John Kerry, 12 cabinet members and senior administration officials were tapped, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer …

Nov. 16, 2021 by M. Isabelle Chaudry, Emily Ranson
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Although vaccination rates continue to rise and coverage on COVID-19 is fading away from prominent news dashboards, our rates are still higher than in summer 2020. While we still adapt to living and working with COVID-19, we must prepare for future public health emergencies so we do not lose another year figuring out our response.

While many provisions of the Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act (MEWPA) expired when Gov. Larry Hogan ended Maryland’s state of emergency, one important, future-looking provision remained. Under the law, the Maryland Department of Health is required to develop a template catastrophic health emergency preparedness plan.

The statutory requirement is supposed to provide a plan we can reach for if we are faced with future pandemics. We need to have the best practices, plans and lessons learned compiled and prepared for the next disaster …

Nov. 15, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The decision at the Glasgow climate conference to phase down fossil fuels is an important step forward — and not just because of climate change. We think of fossil fuels as a source of climate change, but that's only a one part of the problem. From their extraction to their combustion, everything about them is destructive to the environment and human health.

Our system of environmental regulation divides up regulation of a single substance based on each of its environmental impacts. Thus, the regulatory system sees the "trees," not the "forest." That muddies the waters when we are talking about regulatory priorities, strategies, and long-term goals. It can also lead to framing issues in ways that may weaken environmentalist arguments, since the various harms of a substance or activity get fragmented into different silos.

Fossil …

Nov. 11, 2021 by Richard Pierce, Jr.
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This commentary was originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

While most people were following the developments at the G20 meeting and the Climate Change Summit last week, or immersed in watching the outcomes of key elections in several states such as Virginia and New Jersey, I was waiting to learn the results of a referendum in Maine.

Last Tuesday, Maine voters approved a measure that prohibits the construction of a transmission line that would have delivered hydropower generated in Quebec to New England. New Hampshire refused to permit construction of the same transmission line last year.

The largely ignored vote in Maine may have a greater effect on the future of the United States than any of the highly publicized events of the past week. When states and localities block electricity transmission projects that are in the national interest, they threaten the country’s …

Nov. 8, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Late Friday, the House passed President Biden's infrastructure bill, the Build Back Better law. As The Washington Post aptly observed, the bill is the biggest climate legislation to ever move through Congress. It also attracted key support from some Republicans, which was essential to passing it in both houses of Congress. Biden is pushing for an even bigger companion bill, but the infrastructure bill is a huge victory in its own right.

One major area of spending is transportation. Some of that goes for roads and bridges. But as The Washington Post reports, there's a lot of money for rail and mass transit:

    "Another $66 billion will go to passenger and freight rail, including enough money to eliminate Amtrak's maintenance backlog. Yet another $39 billion will modernize public transit, and $11 billion more will be …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Dec. 2, 2021

Strengthening the 4th Branch of Government

Dec. 1, 2021

The False Promise of Carbon Capture in Louisiana and Beyond

Nov. 23, 2021

Court Unanimously Favors Tennessee in Groundwater Dispute with Mississippi

Nov. 23, 2021

In Dispute over Groundwater, Court Tells Mississippi It's Equitable Apportionment or Nothing

Nov. 22, 2021

Fossil Fuel Industry Continues to Deny Climate Science & Climate Justice . . . Under Oath

Nov. 18, 2021

U.S. Uses COP26 to Signal Leadership on Climate, but More Action Needed

Nov. 16, 2021

Maryland Matters Op-ed: Learning Lessons to Protect Workers through Pandemics