April 15, 2016 by Matthew Freeman

In Advocate Op-Ed, Verchick Explores 'Nonstructural' Adaptation to Climate Change in the Gulf Coast

Center for Progressive Reform President Robert Verchick has an op-ed in The New Orleans Advocate this morning about Gulf Coast efforts to prepare for the effects of climate change that we’re too late to prevent. A New Orleans resident himself, Verchick and his family suffered through Katrina, so he knows what he’s talking about when he says that the Gulf Coast is “staring down the barrel of climate change.”

He writes that in addition to large-scale infrastructure projects like fortifying levees, replenishing sand dunes, and reviving coastal wetlands, the region will need to turn to a number of “nonstructural” adaptation approaches. “Such measures,” he writes, “include elevating homes and other flood-proofing measures, as well as voluntary buy-out programs for specific properties at particular risk. In addition, planners need to examine building codes to make sure new construction is safe from flooding.”

He continues,

Another key is comprehensive disaster planning, a lesson hard-learned during Katrina. By planning for the next inevitable crisis, communities can identify important risks and develop methods to respond when the time comes. Similarly, disaster planning also should include communications strategies so vulnerable communities won’t be left in the dark as disaster response unfolds.

At …

April 14, 2016 by Lisa Heinzerling

How Justice Scalia's Last Canon Is Unhinging Statutory Interpretation

Justice Antonin Scalia was, as much as anything else, known for insisting that the text of a statute alone – not its purposes, not its legislative history – should serve as the basis for the courts' interpretation of the statute. Justice Scalia promoted canons of statutory construction – or at least what he deemed the valid ones – as a way of limiting the power of judges by setting rules for their interpretation of statutes. Yet he also warned, in a 1997 book, against "presumptions and rules of construction that load the dice for or against a particular result." He worried that such "dice-loading" rules might effect "a sheer judicial power-grab." 

It is striking, therefore, that in one of his last majority opinions for the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia went out of his way to create such an interpretive rule. Writing …

April 13, 2016 by Brian Gumm

NEWS RELEASE: New Paper Showcases Best Practices for Protecting, Empowering Vulnerable Gulf Coast Communities in the Face of Climate Change

Most Americans understand the importance of curbing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent a climate catastrophe in the future. But many communities are already feeling the effects of our warming planet. Impacts on the Gulf Coast are particularly challenging. In a new paper released today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) highlights recommendations and best practices for protecting and empowering vulnerable communities as they adapt to climate change. The release comes ahead of an April 15 forum in New Orleans on risk reduction strategies for Louisiana coastal areas. 

The paper, Climate Change, Resilience, and Fairness: How Nonstructural Adaptation Can Protect and Empower Socially Vulnerable Communities on the Gulf Coast, explains that many communities in the region are intimately tied to the area's environment and rich natural resources …

April 11, 2016 by Evan Isaacson

Last month, the California Air Resources Board released a draft Aliso Canyon Methane Leak Climate Impacts Mitigation Program. The program comes in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s January 6 proclamation that Southern California Gas be held responsible for mitigating the estimated 100,000 tons of methane released from the gas storage facility at Porter Ranch, which leaked the equivalent of about one-fifth of all other California sources of the powerful greenhouse gas combined over that same period. While this high-profile case is unique in both its global and local impacts, the response by California may nevertheless be illustrative of certain broader environmental enforcement trends.

Legal scholars from the Center for Progressive Reform and elsewhere have written about a recent policy shift in the federal approach to enforcement, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls “Next Generation Compliance.” Spurred by damaging cuts to the agency …

April 8, 2016 by Brian Gumm

On April 6, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to one year in jail and a $250,000 fine for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. The mine exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010. 

In an April 7 New York Times op-ed, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, explained the significance of Blankenship's conviction and sentence and what it portends for other top managers and CEOs: 

"The first C.E.O. ever to be convicted of conspiring to violate industrial safety standards will soon take his place in prison. 

"The sentence is noteworthy, however, not because of the law, but in spite of it. The Mine Safety and Health Act, the statute …

April 8, 2016 by James Goodwin

Over the last few years, deregulatory advocates have pursued a well-trodden path for advancing their anti-safeguard agenda: Publish a large, glossy "study," replete with impressive mathiness, that purports to measure the impacts of regulation but in fact provides a highly skewed portrayal by consciously ignoring the many benefits that regulations provide. (For example, see here, here, and here.) Last week, the libertarian Mercatus Center did the latest trodding when it released a study that ranked all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) according to how "affected" they are by federal regulation. The usual gloss and mathiness were on full display, but as always, an indispensable guest was left off the invite list: regulatory benefits. 

So, how does the Mercatus Center come up with its rankings? It starts with its RegData dataset, which claims to measure total regulatory impact on the economy by – no joke – counting up …

April 7, 2016 by Christine Klein

Originally published on OUPblog by CPR Member Scholars Christine A. Klein and Sandra B. Zellmer.

The recent tragedy involving toxic, lead-laced tap water in Flint, Michigan highlights the growing gulf between rich and poor, and majority and minority communities. In an ill-fated measure to save costs for the struggling city of Flint, officials stopped using Detroit's water supply system and switched to the Flint River. Although residents complained about the water's foul taste, odor, and color, officials assured them that the water was safe to drink. Later, it became clear that the polluted, corrosive river water leached lead from the city's water pipes, so that the water coming out of the residents' taps contained high levels of lead – a powerful neurotoxin for which there is no safe level of exposure. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning, which causes severe learning disabilities and irreversible …

April 6, 2016 by Rena Steinzor

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship for conspiring to violate federal health and safety standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. Upper Big Branch exploded and killed 29 miners in April 2010. CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, issued the following statement:

"Although Mr. Blankenship won't spend much time in jail, an outcome determined by a disgracefully weak law rather than the case against him, at least he will go down in the record books as the first CEO convicted and imprisoned for causing the death of his workers because he disdained the law. This case should send a shiver down the spine of every top manager who follows the approach described by one witness: 'Run, run, run until we get …

April 6, 2016 by Mollie Rosenzweig

Consumers, take note: Last week, Clean Production Action published a troubling new report, Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA and regrettable substitutes found in the linings of canned food, on the presence of toxic bisphenol-A (BPA) in canned foods. The report, co-written by Breast Cancer Fund, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Ecology Center, and Mind the Store Campaign, found BPA in the lining of the majority of canned foods sold by major retailers across the United States and Canada.

As the Center for Progressive Reform has discussed before, BPA can leach into food and poses a serious threat to human health. As an endocrine disruptor, BPA mimics estrogen in human bodies, which can ultimately play a role in many health problems, including obesity, diabetes, fertility complications, and some cancers. Its continued presence in can liners is a significant problem that calls out for effective, comprehensive action from federal regulatory agencies …

April 5, 2016 by Daniel Farber

Every once in a while, we get reminded of just how much damage the conservative Justices could wreak on environmental law. Last week, Justice Kennedy created shock waves with a casual comment during oral argument. In a case that seemed to involve only a technical issue about administrative procedure, he dropped the suggestion that the Clean Water Act just might be unconstitutionally vague. It didn't seem to faze him that such a ruling would wipe out a statute that has been on the books for over forty years and leave the nation with no protection against water pollution and wetlands destruction. And remember, this is the supposedly most "moderate" conservative Justice on the Court.

This is a truly radical suggestion. Every now and then, a defendant in an enforcement case will argue that the law was unconstitutionally vague under the circumstances of the case. A quick …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 29, 2016

Climate Change Increases Need for Reform of Nonpoint Source Pollution and Stream Flow Approaches

April 28, 2016

Reflections on Workers' Memorial Day

April 28, 2016

CPR's Mintz Outlines Flaws of House Bill That Would Undercut SEPs

April 22, 2016

Genetically Modified Mushroom Moves Forward with No Oversight

April 21, 2016

Heinzerling Calls Out Misleading Cost Claims on Environmental Regulations

April 21, 2016

Saving Endangered Species Requires a Systemic, Nationwide Approach

April 20, 2016

CPR's Glicksman Testifies on Endangered Species Act