Feb. 15, 2012 by Joel Mintz

Will Sackett Sock It To EPA Enforcement?

Two of my CPR Member Scholar colleagues, Nina Mendelson and Holly Doremus have done a first-rate job of previewing and analyzing the oral argument in Sackett v. EPA – a case now awaiting decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

I fully share Professor Doremus's hope that, even if the case results in a loss for the government,  the Supreme Court's decision in Sackett will not be decided on constitutional grounds and will be limited in its impact to the Clean Water Act. At the same time, however, I am less sanguine than she is about the potential that exists for even a relatively narrow decision to damage EPA's underfunded and overstressed enforcement effort.

It is a little known fact – but it is a fact – that the collective resources of EPA and the states have simply not been able to keep up with the challenges of enforcing Clean Water Act requirements. The governments' portfolio of water pollution threats has evolved from visible discharges from factories and sewage treatment plants to include hundreds of thousands of sources of mining wastes, industrial and municipal storm water runoff, spills of sewage from aging sewer systems, and agricultural runoff. In recent years …

Feb. 14, 2012 by Thomas McGarity

Today marks the first anniversary of an event that received little media attention, but marked a major milestone in the progression of a regulation that is of great importance to thousands of Americans whose jobs bring them into contact with dust particles containing the common mineral silica.  Exactly a year ago today the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) completed a proposed rule requiring employers in the mining, manufacturing and construction industries to protect their employees from silica dust particles as they engage in such activities as sandblasting, cutting rocks and concrete, and jackhammering.

Silica dust is no newcomer to the growing list of workplace hazards.  Public health professionals have known for more than one hundred years that exposure to airborne silica dust can cause a debilitating disease caused silicosis. 

In 1929, as the nation entered the Great Depression, hundreds of workers made their way to Gauley …

Feb. 13, 2012 by Robert Verchick

Last fall, in a speech I gave at an environmental justice event in Los Angeles, I ruffled some feathers with an impromptu line that went something like this:  “Believe it or not, federal environmental statutes say nothing directly about environmental justice.” During the “Q & A” I was challenged by an environmental activist and lawyer who listed various ways that advocates had successfully used federal environmental statutes to address inequalities in many of California’s minority and low-income communities.

I saw immediately that I had not been clear.  For what I meant was that although environmental statutes could be used to further the interests of social justice, the terrain was not landscaped for that purpose. It took activists with imagination and grit to climb the peaks my questioner was talking about.  It took lawyers who could scan the glaciers of the federal code and find a foothold …

Feb. 9, 2012 by Rena Steinzor

Political scientists have coined the term “bureaucracy bashing” to connote the temptation now rife among national politicians to beat up on the civil service for reasons that have nothing to do with reality.  Ronald Reagan pioneered this art form of disrespecting bureaucrats in the name of downsizing government, even as federal deficit spending on government programs he favored grew to epic proportions.  Ironically, President Obama has lifted the same hammer in an altogether unsuccessful effort to placate the conservative critics who claim the Reagan mantle.  His efforts to pal around with the right-wing are unlikely to win him many friends, and risk undermining the credibility of the government he so badly wants to lead into a second term.

The most recent example of the President’s penchant for bureaucracy bashing was the State of the Union’s “spilled milk” joke, which went over like a lead balloon …

Feb. 7, 2012 by Rena Steinzor

The debate over whether the government protects people exposed to industrial hazards enough—or whether it engages in ruinous “overregulation”—is only occasionally coherent. Sometimes it’s downright bizarre, and never is it for the faint of heart. Consider the case of kids working on farms. Following a series of gruesome accidents involving teenagers as young as 14 who were smothered in grain elevators or lost legs to giant augers used to shovel crops into storage silos, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a proposal in September to tighten prohibitions on children doing such dangerous work.  Existing rules have proven shockingly ineffective: the fatality rate for young agricultural workers is four times greater than for their peers in other workplaces.  They were written four decades ago, before many of the machines and methods now commonplace on today’s farms were developed.

The new rules would exempt children …

Feb. 6, 2012 by Matthew Freeman

In an article in the most recent issue of The Abell Report, the newsletter of The Abell Foundation, CPR President Rena Steinzor and CPR Policy Analysts Aimee Simpson and Yee Huang take a look at what ails the Chesapeake Bay (Spoiler Alert: it involves years of inaction on pollution), and offer up a number of practical steps the state of Maryland could take to make good on its commitments to clean up this most precious of natural resources.

The article draws on a day-long forum CPR co-sponsored this past October with the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, an event that gathered federal and state officials, as well as leading environmental activists from around the region.

Steinzor, Simpson and Huang make the case that the reason efforts to clean up the Bay have largely failed to date is that the Bay states are fundamentally …

Feb. 3, 2012 by Rena Steinzor

The White House announced Tuesday a legislative agenda it is sending Congress as part of its Startup America initiative to foster the growth of new businesses.

The White House was under some pressure to do wrong here: the President’s “Jobs Council” – a group mostly of CEOs – issued a report last month that included a perhaps unsurprising pile of old anti-regulatory proposals. And Senators Mark Warner and Jerry Moran were pushing the White House to endorse their bill, the Startup Act, which includes anti-regulatory measures that would weaken our existing environmental, health, and safety laws.

But here’s a bit of good news: the White House didn’t include any anti-regulation measures in the Startup America legislative agenda. The document gives just a polite nod to Warner-Moran:

The Administration looks forward to working with sponsors of similar initiatives including S. 1965 (Warner-Moran), S. 1866 (Coons-Rubio), S. 1544 …

Feb. 2, 2012 by James Goodwin

In its public meeting records, the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) frequently misspells the names or affiliations of the attendees. Senator Jon Kyl was once listed as “Sen. Rul.”  And John Ikerd, affiliated with the University of Missouri (MO) and the Sierra Club, was listed as “John Ikend, University of MD/Siemen Club.”

Sometimes the misspelled names or affiliations are easy to figure out; other times they aren’t (see page 77 of our OIRA white paper from November for more examples). The public is supposed to be able to tell who these people are – that’s the whole point, transparency.

The misspellings are troublesome, but a new OIRA meeting record I just noticed takes the cake for leaving the public uninformed:

Why list the affiliation of the attendees at all?!

The occasional typo is one thing, but when OIRA gets it …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Feb. 28, 2012

What Does It Mean that the Public Overwhelmingly Supports Specific Types of Regulation, But Questions 'Regulation' in General?

Feb. 27, 2012

Extending Protection to Wildlife: Why the United States Should Ratify the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Feb. 23, 2012

Can Corporations Violate Human Rights? In <i>Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum</i>, the Supreme Court May Say Yes ... or No

Feb. 22, 2012

Mardi Gras, Check. BP 'Trial of the Century' Here We Come.

Feb. 22, 2012

The Age of Greed: What the Chemical Industry Doesn't Want You to Know

Feb. 21, 2012

EPA's Standing Argument: A Sleeping Giant in the Tailoring Rule Litigation?

Feb. 20, 2012

Placing a Ceiling on Protection for Public Health