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Oct. 20, 2009 by Matt Shudtz

Sunstein Watch: OMB Meddling on Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program Means Shifting a Key Burden From Industry to EPA

Greenwire and the Los Angeles Times ran pieces last week shining a light into a dark corner where staff at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs once again meddled in scientific regulatory programs where they do not belong, second-guessing EPA’s administration of the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP). The program, mandated by Congress under the Food Quality Protection Act, is designed to identify pesticides like DDT that cause profound changes in wildlife and, potentially, people, through the ubiquitous application of pesticides. Both articles highlighted the key problem, which is that the OMB-promoted changes to the EDSP would undercut EPA’s attempt to get a full suite of new test data on 67 chemicals’ potential endocrine-disrupting effects. But there's an additional important issue: OMB’s meddling, under the auspices of its power to enforce the Paperwork Reduction Act, shifted a heavy burden from industry’s shoulders to EPA’s.

Put another way, Obama’s OIRA snuck through the back door changes that industry had failed to get through the front door of the normal administrative process during the Bush Administration, ultimately forcing changes that threaten to completely undermine the EDSP, which has been moving at a snail’s …

Oct. 19, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones
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The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009, introduced today by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md), is a marked improvement from legislation in past years and demonstrates the Senator's continued leadership on restoring one of this country's greatest natural resources. The bill rightly emphasizes the implementation and enforcement of the Bay-wide Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which will be issued in draft form by the EPA later this year and finalized by December 2010. It requires Bay states to submit biennial progress reports and empowers the EPA to withhold funding for failure to do so. It also mandates no net increases in nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loading from the urban and suburban sector.

Today's bill takes big steps toward restoring the Chesapeake Bay, but it should be improved by adding an independent evaluator to monitor the states' performance. The bill requires the Inspector …

Oct. 19, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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Before Cass Sunstein had spent much more than a week as the official director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), he invited us over to the White House to talk about how he wanted to shape his small office of economists and statisticians into a strong force for progressive policy within the White House. Followers of the Center for Progressive Reform know that we put out a report in the run-up to his confirmation that was critical of his views on cost-benefit analysis. So I give him credit for opening the door to us, and so soon after his confirmation at that.

It was a good meeting, and we pledged to keep in touch as he undertakes what I hope will be a re-education that will convert his staff from the Bush mode – serving as a sort of waiting room for disgruntled industries – to …

Oct. 16, 2009 by Catherine O'Neill
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With some fanfare, the EPA announced last week that it has selected a cleanup strategy for the Palos Verdes Shelf (PVS) Superfund Site off the coast of southern California – an area that has been termed “ the world’s largest DDT dump.” The EPA touts its plan as “a major milestone” that puts the site “on the road to remediation.” Nowhere, however, does EPA mention that this road is longer and more tortuous than it could or should have been. As I elaborated in an earlier entry, EPA’s selected remedy (its “preferred alternative”) provides for capping a much smaller area of contaminated sediment than another alternative EPA considered but rejected. Its selected remedy also delays the dates by which cleanup levels for DDTs and PCBs will be attained relative to the alternative – putting off until further in the future the time by which fish from the waters …

Oct. 15, 2009 by Robert Glicksman
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Just about a month ago, the New York Times published a story in which it documented an alarming failure on the part of federal and state officials to enforce the principal federal law designed to protect the quality of the nation’s surface waters, including rivers, lakes, and streams. According to that story, fewer than three percent of identified violations of the Clean Water Act result in fines or other significant punishments by state officials. These violations have the potential to threaten the health of people who use the affected waters drinking, swimming, fishing, and other purposes. Yet, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has rarely stepped in to reclaim authority to administer the Act from states failing to fulfill their responsibilities to protect water quality through vigorous enforcement efforts.

EPA officials were well aware of these problems. This summer, less than six months after becoming President …

Oct. 15, 2009 by Ben Somberg
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The EPA today released a 15-page Clean Water Act Enforcement Action Plan prepared by the agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

Back in early July, Lisa Jackson had directed the enforcmeent office to develop a plan, and to "report back to me within 90 days with your recommendations." The EPA seems to be saying the plan released today is the final ("EPA Administrator Announces Plan to Retool and Reinvigorate Clean Water Enforcement Program.")

The announcement came as the House Transportatoin and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing this morning on CWA enforcement, including testimony from Jackson and various stakeholders.

We'll have more on this later.

Oct. 14, 2009 by Holly Doremus
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This item cross-posted from Legal Planet.

On Friday, the New York Times carried a story about Tim DeChristopher, the economics student in Utah who bid on federal oil and gas leases at an auction last December as a form of protest against global warming. DeChristopher was the winning bidder on 14 parcels, but admits that he never had either the intent or the ability to pay the $1.7 million he bid. He is now facing criminal charges of interfering with an auction and making false statements on a bidding form. DeChristopher’s attorney has argued that he should be allowed to present a necessity defense to a jury. In a hearing last month, the judge was unpersuaded, but did give the defense time to submit a written brief in support of its claim.

As the Times reports, the necessity defense is a long shot in a …

Oct. 13, 2009 by Thomas McGarity
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The debate over whether Congress should create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, as recommended by President Obama, has recently taken a disturbing turn. Apparently, some congressional Democrats have been receptive to complaints from the big national banks that the current bill does not preempt state laws and regulations that are more stringent than the regulations that the new agency will promulgate.

National banks have traditionally been protected from state regulation by virtue of express preemption clauses in the federal statutes under which federal agencies like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency provide their charters. This has arguably been a disaster for consumers. For example, when New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo launched an investigation into discriminatory banking practices, the federal agencies literally cut off the investigation in mid-stride by filing a lawsuit in federal court for injunctive relief, and the Supreme Court agreed with the …

Oct. 9, 2009 by Ben Somberg
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I thought that the Alan Carlin story -- the 'suppressed' climate change skeptic at EPA -- was over.

After the initial debunkings, the story kept going, but then I thought the NYT really put it to rest in late September. Apparently not for everyone.

Carlin, many have noted, is an economist at EPA, not a climate scientist. He has one Ph.D. - in economics. But that's no matter. The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel wanted more on the story, and wrote this. Strassel refers to Carlin as a "career EPA scientist." What a scoop!

Oct. 9, 2009 by Ben Somberg
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Congratulations to CPR Member Scholar and board member Rob Verchick! Rob has been appointed to the position of Deputy Associate Administrator in the EPA's Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation (OPEI).

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Oct. 30, 2009

New CPR Papers on Dysfunctional Regulatory Agencies, Costs of Delayed Regulations, and Moving Beyond Cost-Benefit Analysis

Oct. 30, 2009

SuperFreakonomics and Superficial Facts: A Defense of the ADA

Oct. 29, 2009

News on the Political Front

Oct. 29, 2009

CPSC Releases Three Draft Reports on Drywall

Oct. 27, 2009

Super Freakonomics Co-Author on Ocean Acidification: 'Pour a Bunch of Base Into It'

Oct. 26, 2009

Reducing Mercury Emissions From Coal-Fired Power Plants: Yes We Can (And Could Have, Years Ago)

Oct. 23, 2009

CPR Scholarship Roundup: Legal and Policy Implications of Regulating Carbon, from Cap-and-Trade to Coal Sequestration