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April 14, 2021 by Alina Gonzalez, Allison Stevens

Advocates, Scholars of Color Call for Bold Action to End Environmental Racism

Scholars and advocates of color last week hailed the Biden administration’s efforts to ensure that disadvantaged communities reap the benefits of federal climate investments — but added that the administration must be held accountable for following through on it.

“This is our moment,” said Shalanda Baker, deputy director for energy justice at the U.S. Department of Justice and a Member Scholar with the Center for Progressive Reform who is on leave while serving in the administration. 

Others said the administration’s efforts don’t go far enough and instead called for an overhaul of governance, philanthropy, and an economy that exploits people of color and the planet.

The comments came during a day of dialogue among public officials and climate justice scholars, organizers, and funders representing the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community. Participants emphasized the importance of climate justice and culturally responsive climate action at an upcoming environmental summit in honor of Earth Day. 

At the heart of the conversation was a provision in a recent executive order to direct 40 percent of benefits of certain federal environmental investments to disadvantaged communities. The provision — known as the Justice40 Initiative — also calls for the development of an …

April 13, 2021 by Katlyn Schmitt
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At midnight on April 13, Maryland’s 2021 legislative session closed out with the passage of a law (House Bill 1069) that will provide meaningful drinking water protections for tenants who rely on well water. The measure, sponsored by Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County), passed with bipartisan support in the Maryland Senate but faced hurdles in the House due to a last-minute filibuster attempt.

Public drinking water is regularly monitored and tested to meet certain safety standards set out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Safe Drinking Water Act. The safety of drinking water from a private well or smaller community system, on the other hand, is solely up to the owner of that well or system.

In CPR’s recent report, fellow Policy Analyst Darya Minovi and I found that Maryland lags far behind most states in terms of protections for well …

April 6, 2021 by Sarah Krakoff
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This commentary was originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

A citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, Deborah Haaland is the first Native American woman to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Haaland will oversee the federal agencies that manage nearly 480 million acres of federal public lands, while the head of the U.S. Forest Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) manages the remaining 190 million acres.

Haaland and her colleague, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, have a tall double-order ahead. In his flurry of first-day executive orders, President Joe Biden announced the entwined goals of addressing racial, economic, and other forms of injustice, as well as tackling the country's most serious environmental challenges. Reflecting these goals, during his confirmation hearing, Vilsack pledged to address "discrimination in all its forms across USDA agencies," and "to root …

April 5, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Last Friday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision in a lawsuit against the oil industry. New York City had sued oil companies for harms relating to climate change. The appeals court ordered the case dismissed, on the ground that any harm relating to fossil fuels is exclusively regulated by the Clean Air Act. The ruling is a setback for the plaintiffs in similar cases, though how much of a setback remains to be seen.

The court's analysis is complicated and involves some fairly esoteric legal arguments. I'll try to avoid the fine points. In the end, the court's argument comes down to two points. The first point relates to fuels used in the United States. The court argues that by authorizing EPA to regulate carbon emissions, the Clean Air Act indirectly eliminates …

April 2, 2021 by Minor Sinclair
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Through the heroic legal efforts of our friends at Public Citizen and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, workers won a huge victory this week in federal court. A federal district court judge in Minnesota ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it eliminated line speed limits, and “cited mounds of evidence showing a relationship between high speeds and musculoskeletal injuries, lacerations, and amputations.” The judge vacated the Trump-era rule, showing that there is a limit to high line speeds — and corporate rapaciousness.

For the 500,000 workers in America’s meatpacking and poultry industry, few jobs have been more dangerous and less rewarding. Low wages, injury, and death have continued to characterize this workplace jungle since Upton Sinclair’s 1905 muckraking book The Jungle. (No relation, sadly.)

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the toll with 57 …

March 31, 2021 by Maxine Burkett, Minor Sinclair
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Maxine Burkett

To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for Native Americans. 

This week, CPR’s Executive Director, Minor Sinclair, spoke with Member Scholar Maxine Burkett, professor of law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Burkett has written extensively in diverse areas of climate law with a particular focus on climate justice, exploring the disparate impact of climate change on vulnerable communities in the United States and globally. Their conversation explored the roots of climate justice and its connections to present day climate action. 

MS: Natural disasters can be discriminatory for a host of reasons, and climate change is part of that. Why are certain communities more vulnerable …

March 30, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Coal- and gas-fired power plants are a major source of U.S. carbon emissions. The Obama administration devised a perfectly sensible, moderate policy to cut those emissions. The Trump administration replaced it with a ridiculous token policy. The D.C. Circuit appeals court tossed that out. Now what?

It wouldn't be hard to redo the Obama policy based on all the changes in the power industry since he left office, which would result in much more rigorous emissions controls. The problem is that the ultra-conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to be very skeptical of the legal basis of any plan that, like Obama's, requires states to expand use of renewable energy.

Opponents of Obama's plan made two legal arguments, which both came up again in the litigation over the Trump rule …

March 26, 2021 by Laurie Ristino, Maggie Dewane
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Laurie Ristino

To commemorate Women’s History Month, we’re interviewing women at the Center for Progressive Reform about how they’re building a more just America, whether by pursuing a just transition to clean energy, protections for food workers, or legal support for Native Americans. 

This week, we spoke with Board Member Laurie Ristino, a policy and law expert on food security, climate change, ecosystem services, and land stewardship. Her work concerns developing new policy and civil society innovations to address climate change and social injustice while improving environmental and economic sustainability.

CPR: What motivated you to become an expert in food security policy and a voice for equal justice in America? Is there historical context to this or a moment in history that stood out to you as motivation or inspiration?  

LR: I don’t consider myself a food security expert as much as I consider myself …

March 25, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

If you ask Supreme Court experts what keeps them up at night, the answer is likely to be the non-delegation doctrine. If you are among the 99.9 percent of Americans who've never heard of it, here's an explainer of the doctrine and what the 6-3 Court might do with it.

What's the nondelegation doctrine?

Simply put, the doctrine says that only the legislature can create new rules of law and that Congress cannot transfer this power to the executive branch or the judiciary. That sounds very reasonable. The big problem is that Congress often has to give discretion to the people implementing a law to fill in gaps, apply rules to particular circumstances, and deal with ambiguities. For instance, there are hundreds of toxic chemicals, and it's not realistic to think that Congress could make …

March 24, 2021 by James Goodwin
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In a little-noticed move on Day One, President Joe Biden issued a memo designed to institute a more progressive process for developing new regulations. Such an effort is essential, given that timely, effective regulations will play a key role in achieving Biden-Harris administration's policy agenda. To succeed, however, it must also tackle the conservative philosophy that guides our government's rulemaking process.

Biden's memo focuses on the mechanics of the rulemaking process, and especially two institutions that heavily influence regulatory decisions: centralized, White House review of proposed rules and economics-focused assessments of them. President Reagan and his successors have issued a string of executive orders to govern these institutions. Biden's memo addresses flaws in the current iteration, Executive Order 12866 (along with some other, related orders). Fixing these flaws is necessary to create a more progressive regulatory system that better protects people and the planet.

A flawed foundation …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 14, 2021

Advocates, Scholars of Color Call for Bold Action to End Environmental Racism

April 13, 2021

Maryland Adopts Law to Ensure Safe Drinking Water for Tenants

April 6, 2021

Equity and Justice Should Begin at Home

April 5, 2021

Appeals Court Nixes New York City Climate Lawsuit

April 2, 2021

A Victory in the Meatpacking Jungle

March 31, 2021

Women’s History Month Q&A with Maxine Burkett

March 30, 2021

Biden's Dilemma: Limiting Carbon from Existing Power Plants