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March 31, 2010 by Shana Campbell Jones

Big Chicken Plays Chicken Little in Maryland While Assaulting Academic Freedom and Access to Justice in the Meantime

The proverbial poop has hit the fan in Maryland this month after two environmental groups – the Assateague Coastal Trust and the Waterkeeper Alliance – sued Perdue Farms, Inc. and Hudson Farm, a Perdue-contract chicken factory farm in Berlin, Maryland, for violating the Clean Water Act. Water sampling from ditches next to Hudson Farm found high levels of fecal coliform and E. coli. Phosphorus and nitrogen – nutrients killing the Chesapeake Bay – were also found.

The two environmental groups are represented by pro bono student attorneys at the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law (where I was once a student; I should also note that CPR President Rena Steinzor is the former director of the clinic). The groundbreaking suit not only takes on a chicken farmer, it also targets Perdue – which contracts with farms throughout the state to raise the chickens it processes.

Perdue’s response? To cry "fowl," pardon the pun, of course. Instead of just fighting the lawsuit fair and square in court, Perdue also took its ruffled feathers to the Maryland General Assembly, pressing it to muzzle the student attorneys and send a message to the clinic. Perdue’s claims that the sky is falling …

March 29, 2010 by James Goodwin
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It’s official: Centralized regulatory review is trickling down to the states. Last month, in one of his very first actions as the newly elected Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie issued a pair of sweeping executive orders (no. 1 and no. 2) mandating centralized review of all state agency regulations to ensure that they are justified by cost-benefit analysis (CBA). The orders’ provisions mirror those of a controversial executive order issued by New York Governor David Paterson last August (for critiques of the Paterson order, see Rebecca Bratspies and Sidney Shapiro). New York and New Jersey join a growing number of states that employ some form of centralized regulatory review—a group that includes Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Will more states follow New York and now New Jersey by instituting their own version of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA …

March 26, 2010 by Holly Doremus
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Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

EPA’s seesaw on mountaintop removal mining continues. Last time I wrote about this topic it was to note EPA’s approval of the Hobet 45 project. Today, EPA announced that it is proposing to veto the Spruce No. 1 project, as it had threatened last fall. Should EPA follow through on its proposal, this would be its first veto of a Clean Water Act section 404 permit since 1990. Publication of the proposal in the Federal Register will start a 60-day public comment period, and EPA has promised to schedule a public hearing on the proposal, which is certain to prove controversial.

Indeed, the Coal Tattoo blog reports that Congressman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) has already announced his strong disagreement with the proposal:

“This is an unprecedented, unjustified and undeserved decision and I completely disagree with it as I told EPA Administrator …

March 26, 2010 by Holly Doremus
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Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

Last August, Dan announced “The Death of Yucca Mountain,” pointing to a news story in which Senator Harry Reid ( D – Nev.) declared that he had dealt a fatal blow to plans to store high-level radioactive waste in a repository there.

The Department of Energy sought to pull the plug on the project once and for all early this month, when it filed a motion to withdraw its application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license for a Yucca Mountain geological repository. The motion declares that

the Secretary of Energy has decided that a geologic repository at Yucca Mountain is not a workable option for long-term disposition of these materials.

It seeks dismissal of the application with prejudice,

because DOE does not intend ever to refile an application to construct a permanent geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at …

March 24, 2010 by James Goodwin
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Today, FairWarning—a new non-profit online news journal focusing on stories involving worker and consumer protection issues—went live. On its first day, the site offered dozens of short news stories along with three longer investigative pieces.

FairWarning says its mission is “to arm consumers and workers with valuable information, and to spotlight reckless business practices and lax oversight by government agencies.” The organization says that the mainstream media is no longer able to play this “watchdog” role effectively due to shrinking budgets.

The publication’s first three investigative stories suggest that FairWarning will serve as a valuable resource to public interest organizations and policymakers interested in protecting the health and safety of workers and consumers. For example, one story investigates how General Motors and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have failed to protect consumers from a line of older pickup trucks that frequently combust …

March 24, 2010 by David Driesen
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Last week, Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman (KGL) reportedly released an 8-page outline for a bill mitigating climate disruption that they are crafting in order to try to break the deadlock that has heretofore blocked legislation in the Senate. ClimateWire reported that the KGL bill would incorporate ideas from the bill introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell (D. Wash.) and Susan Collins (R. Maine), the Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal (CLEAR) Act. That incorporation might be a good thing, because CLEAR contains several great ideas.

Last year, Amy Sinden and I characterized the idea of Dirty Input Limits (DILs), limits on inputs causing pollution rather than pollution itself, as the “missing instrument” in environmental law. We used the idea of creating a tradable permit market from limits on fossil fuel production and imports as an illustration of the potential of this instrument, which has been …

March 23, 2010 by Dan Rohlf
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A small group of Senate Republicans – most from conservative western states – have introduced a bill (available via E&E, subs. required) that would require the federal government to annually disclose a list of attorney fee awards it has given to allow public interest plaintiffs to recover expenses when they have successfully challenged decisions of federal agencies. Introduction of the bills was prodded by allegations from Karen Budd-Falen, a Wyoming-based attorney whose firm represents a variety of resource user groups, that environmental organizations are receiving “billions” of dollars from the federal government through attorney fee awards authorized under fee-shifting provisions of federal law, as well as through the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).

EAJA and similar fee-shifting statutes play a key role in allowing public interest organizations to challenge decisions by the federal government in court. Fee awards go to attorneys who successfully litigate a case against a …

March 22, 2010 by Yee Huang
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This post is the first in a monthly series on topics of international environmental law and environmental laws in other countries. Today’s post looks at the evolution of Australia’s water laws.

Australia is one of the driest continents on the planet, making the country a necessary laboratory for innovative approaches to water management and governance. Australia is characterized by a sparsely populated, semi-arid interior that is dominated by agriculture and the relatively water-abundant coastal edges that are home to the country's urban areas. Nearly 40 percent of Australia’s agriculture is in the Murray-Darling River Basin, which straddles four states, with the vast majority located in New South Wales (NSW). Like many other countries, including the United States, Australia has dealt and is dealing with myriad challenges in water resources management, including high extraction and diversion levels; lack of awareness of water as a …

March 19, 2010 by Sidney Shapiro
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The Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing Tuesday on the Protecting America’s Workers Act of 2009, legislation that would, among other reforms, modernize workplace health and safety penalties. More than a decade ago, I testified at a similar hearing in the House of Representatives on the same subject. The need for stronger OSHA penalties was apparent then, and it is no less apparent today.

The hearing is memorable to me because I testified along with a father whose son was killed on a construction site while working at a summer job between years of college. His son was working on one of the floors of a multi-story building under construction. He was asked to carry some construction materials across the floor of the building from one side to the other. He piled up the materials in his arms with …

March 19, 2010 by Ben Somberg
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The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has recently proposed to weaken water quality standards in the state. As the Austin American-Statesman reported earlier this week, 

The proposal would draw new categories for Texas' waterways, basing regulations on how much humans have contact with them. And it would raise the amount of allowable bacteria in the waterways before they are considered impaired, requiring local and state authorities to monitor and clean them.

Today CPR Member Scholar Thomas McGarity has an op-ed in the Statesman arguing that the move would not only be bad policy, but also likely violate the federal Clean Water Act. Concludes McGarity:

If TCEQ is unwilling to protect Texas waters, then the Environmental Protection Agency will have to step in and disapprove this unjustifiable downgrade.

 

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
March 31, 2010

Big Chicken Plays Chicken Little in Maryland While Assaulting Academic Freedom and Access to Justice in the Meantime

March 29, 2010

50 OIRAs? Another State (New Jersey) Drinks the Regulatory Review Kool-Aid

March 26, 2010

If Not at Yucca Mountain, then Where?

March 26, 2010

EPA Proposes to Veto Mountaintop Removal Project

March 24, 2010

New Health and Safety Journalism Publication Launches Today

March 24, 2010

Incorporating the Best of Cantwell-Collins into KGL: Don't Forget the Missing Instrument

March 23, 2010

Republicans Senators Target Fee Recoveries in Public Interest Suits Against Federal Agencies