WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg
Nov. 30, 2010 by Yee Huang

Most Chesapeake Bay Watershed States Submit Cleanup Plans; A First Look at Virginia's

Yesterday was the deadline for Bay states and the District of Columbia to submit their final Phase I Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP). These WIPs are roadmaps that describe how Bay jurisdictions will meet their pollutant reduction obligations under the Bay TMDL. Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia submitted their plans by the deadline, while Maryland expects to submit in the coming days. New York, which has taken a position essentially in opposition to the Bay TMDL, has not said when it plans to submit its WIP. 

As the plans are made public, CPR will evaluate the plans based on metrics that we developed, and publish a report card. In the meantime, we’ll provide a look at some of the highlights and lowlights in the plans. Today, Virginia:

  • Significant improvement, but still lacking specific funding commitments. Virginia’s final WIP is a significant improvement from its draft WIP because it provides more concrete details regarding Chesapeake Bay-specific pollution reduction programs. However, it still does not provide estimates of resources needed and resources available to implement its programs. Without funding estimates, Virginia’s plan may never get off the ground. 
  • Increased detail on nutrient trading program. The …

Nov. 30, 2010 by Dan Rohlf
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

First the good news: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) last week designated a huge expanse of barrier islands, denning areas, and sea ice in the Arctic as “critical habitat” for polar bears under the federal Endangered Species Act. The largest such protected area in the ESA’s history, the new critical habitat covers an area larger than the states of Oregon and Washington combined.

FWS listed polar bears as “threatened” in 2008, after a petition from environmental organizations and a study by the U.S. Geological Survey indicated that shrinking sea ice caused by climate change could reduce the polar bear population by two-thirds within fifty years. Polar bears have since become a powerful symbol of the overwhelming threats to species and ecosystems posed by global warming.

Critical habitat under the ESA refers to the area containing the biological and physical features essential to …

Nov. 24, 2010 by Holly Doremus
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality has issued the first of three expected final guidance documents for federal agencies implementing the National Environmental Policy Act. This one, which covers the use of categorical exclusions, is an excellent start.

NEPA is the “look before you leap” environmental law. It requires that federal agencies publicly evaluate environmental impacts before taking action. That means preparing an Environmental Impact Statement before taking actions that significantly affect the quality of the human environment, or an Environmental Assessment if it’s not clear whether an EIS is required.

Categorical exclusions minimize needless paperwork by allowing agencies to identify in advance actions that, individually and collectively, do not have significant environmental impacts and therefore do not require either an EA or an EIS. But it’s important that categorical exclusions accurately identify actions that don’t have significant environmental …

Nov. 19, 2010 by Ben Somberg
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

"In order for CBA cost benefit analysis to be workable, regulators need to have a relatively restricted range of possibilities." That's what OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein wrote in a 2007 book. So how about from $82 billion to negative $251 billion, a third of a trillion dollars – is that a relatively restricted range?

Those are the estimated net benefit figures, over 50 years, in the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) for EPA's "strong" coal ash regulation proposal. Do those numbers actually mean much? No. Yet there they are, trumpeted as if they have meaning. They don't.

As regular readers know, the regulation of coal ash has been quite the journey. We take the next step in the trek today, when the public comment period ends on EPA's current proposals. CPR President Rena Steinzor submitted comments on the coal ash rulemaking this morning (press release …

Nov. 19, 2010 by Ben Somberg
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Senator Mary Landrieu released her hold on the nomination of Jacob Lew for Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Senate confirmed Lew by voice vote Thursday evening.

Back when Lew had his confirmation hearings, CPR President Rena Steinzor wrote here about the challenges Lew will face on the regulatory front ("OMB Nominee Jacob Lew, Meet Broken Regulatory State").

Nov. 17, 2010 by Victor Flatt
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Last week the EPA released its “PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance For Greenhouse Gases.” This Guidance was designed to give the states direction in how to implement permitting requirements for new sources for other criteria pollutants that also produce greenhouse gases on January 2, 2011, and new sources of greenhouse gases following in May, 2011, under the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration Program.

The Guidance does an excellent job of summarizing and explaining how the EPA’s current PSD permitting program works (it is the best succinct and correct explanation I have seen), and explains how the procedure applies with the addition of greenhouse gases to the list. Importantly, it reaffirms the current five-step standard for determining what is “Best Available Control Technology” under the PSD program. The Guidance first advises permitting authorities in making an applicability determination based on whether there is …

Nov. 17, 2010 by Rena Steinzor
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

One of the most powerful sleights of hand achieved by Republicans during the last election cycle was their renewed declaration of war on regulation. It’s no secret which of their interest groups are most passionate about this aspect of their agenda. Tuesday's LATimes previewed a plan by the Chamber of Commerce, to be announced today, to further unleash its lobbying legions against regulations as soon as the new congress is anointed. But it's unlikely the Chamber will get too specific on which popular regulation it wants to kill, just as Republicans have neglected to specify which budgets will be cut. First build to a fever pitch and then—only at the last minute, mind you—admit the substance.

No surprise there. As the Chamber and John Boehner know all too well, dead regulations, just like specific budget cuts, inevitably generate mourners. West Virginia’s …

Nov. 15, 2010 by Ben Somberg
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

The EPA announced this morning that it has finalized numeric nutrient criteria for Florida waters -- specific limits on the amounts of nutrient pollutants allowed in the state's water bodies. These criteria will in turn limit discharges by point and non-point sources. Currently, nutrient limits are set only by "narrative" water quality standards -- which have little teeth.

The EPA agreed last year to set the limits following a consent decree reached after a coalition of environmental groups sued the agency. Yee Huang explained in this space why the plan could be a huge step toward cleaning Florida's waters, and could help set a precedent for other states.

Affected industries and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have lobbied hard against the EPA plan. The White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs hosted a meeting on the issue back in January, and another meeting in …

Nov. 11, 2010 by James Goodwin
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Late last month, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) posted on its website a document called Agency Checklist: Regulatory Impact Analysis, which, according to the document, is intended to assist federal regulatory agencies with Executive Order 12866-required cost-benefit analyses (CBAs). Such analyses have become a standard, if fatally flawed, stage in the regulatory process.  Substantively speaking, OIRA’s document contains nothing new or particularly earth-shattering—instead, it is merely a checklist of some of the requirements for CBAs established by Executive Order 12866 and Circular A-4, a document issued by OIRA in 2003 to provide agencies with comprehensive guidance on how to produce CBAs.

Significantly, though, Executive Order 12866 also establishes several responsibilities for OIRA to guide its participation in the regulatory review process. As CPR’s previous work has made abundantly clear, however, OIRA fails to live up to many of …

Nov. 10, 2010 by Matt Shudtz
WorkerSafetyCollage_wide.jpg

Every year, OSHA mails a letter to about 15,000 employers who run high-hazard worksites, warning them that their most recent annual injury and illness rates were well above average. According to OSHA,

For every 100 full-time workers, the 15,000 employers had 4.5 or more injuries or illnesses which resulted in days away from work, restricted work or job transfer. The national average is 2.0.

The letters went out in March, but I just got around to digging into the list of recipients (zip file), and thought I’d share some analysis that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Sorting the list by industry code, I put together a chart of the industries that received the most total letters -- down through the top 10 percent of them. The chart gives some additional detail (like the percent of surveyed employers who received letters in each …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Nov. 30, 2010

FWS' Critical Habitat Area Designation for Polar Bears is Good News, but How Much Difference Will it Make?

Nov. 30, 2010

Most Chesapeake Bay Watershed States Submit Cleanup Plans; A First Look at Virginia's

Nov. 24, 2010

CEQ Finalizes Guidance for Categorical Exclusions

Nov. 19, 2010

Coal Ash Comments Submitted: Get Serious, Please

Nov. 19, 2010

Jacob Lew Confirmed as Director of OMB

Nov. 17, 2010

War on Regulation Coming to the States? Why IPI's Plan For Centralized Regulatory Review Isn't What We Need

Nov. 17, 2010

Welcome Clarity and Few Surprises in EPA's Guidance on Greenhouse Gas Permitting