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Aug. 31, 2016 by James Goodwin

Presidential Transitions Are Important. So Why Aren't They More Transparent?

Next Wednesday, Public Citizen is holding an important event that aims to promote greater transparency in the presidential transition process. The transition process is among the most critical events in our constitutional system of democracy. As the Center for Presidential Transition lays out in detail in its Presidential Transition Guide, this process is where the incoming president's policy agenda is formulated, where candidates for key administrative posts are selected, and where at least the first year of budget priorities are translated into hard numbers. 

When it comes to policy formulation, personnel selection, and budget number crunching, the stakes in this year's presidential transition may be the highest in recent memory. With at least two more years of divided government likely, administrative policymaking, as distinct from legislation, will continue to take on a dominant role. Bottom line: The agenda the next president adopts, and the appointees he or she entrusts with implementing that agenda, will likely determine whether and how we as a nation navigate the policy challenges we face now, as well as any new ones we might encounter over the next several years. 

Remarkably, though, the presidential transition process remains largely shielded from public view. Depending on …

Aug. 29, 2016 by Brian Gumm
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It's common knowledge that our energy choices impact the planet's climate, but less widely known is how climate change and its intensified storms, heat waves, droughts, and water shortages affect our energy grid. Already vulnerable, the grid can suffer catastrophic damage when a storm like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy strikes. 

In an Aug. 26 article in Slate, Center for Progressive Reform Board President Rob Verchick explores these vulnerabilities and connects the dots between climate change and the grid. He writes:

From rancid food to emergency-room nightmares, communities take a punch when the lights go out. The nation's aging power grid leaves us very susceptible to such risks. And the growing intensity of floods and storms on account of climate change make things even worse.

We hear a lot about how energy policy will affect climate impacts. Less appreciated, but equally important, are the …

Aug. 25, 2016 by Matthew Freeman
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Over the course of the last few decades, one of the great communications challenges facing progressives has been, and continues to be, how we talk about climate change. The difficulty in persuading politicians and the public about the need for action isn’t just that the effort has run head-long into a massive and well-funded industry campaign designed to sow confusion. It’s also that the policy changes needed to  make a difference fairly drip with disruption of one sort or another — new and different sources of energy, impacts on local industry and job markets, conservation of energy that affects individual behavior and more.

Our current dialogue about climate change understandably reflects its origins in the scientific and environmental communities. Proponents of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including CPR’s scholars and staff, often point out the vast potential damage to the environment, and the corresponding threats to …

Aug. 23, 2016 by James Goodwin
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Yesterday, several CPR Member Scholars and staff formally submitted comments on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) proposed rule to limit the use of forced arbitration agreements in consumer contracts for financial products like credit cards and bank accounts. 

CPR Member Scholars and staff have been tracking this rulemaking for over a year and in May 2016 published a report that assessed several key issues shortly before the CFPB released its proposal. In particular, our report evaluated the CFPB's preliminary outline for the rule and a comprehensive study that the agency conducted to inform the rulemaking's provisions. Among other things, the report highlighted the important role of the civil justice system in reinforcing and complementing the U.S. regulatory system. By denying citizens access to the courts, forced arbitration effectively undermines the proper functioning of the civil justice system, thereby weakening regulatory programs aimed …

Aug. 18, 2016 by Brian Gumm
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In a new op-ed published in the Raleigh News & Observer, Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and Board Member Sidney Shapiro examines two recent examples of politics getting in the way of protecting people and the environment in North Carolina. As he explains, the politicization of science by state officials has serious ramifications for the ability of agencies and scientists to safeguard residents from toxic chemicals, rising sea levels, and more. 

The following is an excerpt from the op-ed:

Recently, two prominent scientific experts resigned from the North Carolina government to protest the state's disregard for scientific input in state policy.

Dr. Megan Davies, a state epidemiologist, resigned to protest state environmental officials' rejection of stringent testing standards to determine the safety of private drinking water wells near coal ash ponds that have leaked dangerous chemicals into the water supply. Earlier, Dr. Stan Riggs, a …

Aug. 15, 2016 by James Goodwin
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While the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get You Want" may be an ill-advised campaign song, perhaps it can still serve as the official theme song for Sen. David Vitter's (R-LA) Government Accountability Office (GAO) report requests. The anti-regulatory senator had requested that the GAO audit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – a favorite punching bag of the right – to determine whether it is complying with the small business outreach requirements imposed by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). Last week, the GAO released the findings of its audit. Just one tiny problem, though: They are probably not what Vitter wanted to hear. 

Before getting into the GAO's specific findings, a little background is in order. Anti-regulatory members of Congress like Vitter continuously peddle the narrative that the federal agencies that previous congresses have charged with protecting public health, safety, the environment …

Aug. 11, 2016 by Katie Tracy
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Last month was the hottest July on record for several cities across the southern United States, thanks to a heat wave that brought extreme temperatures to most of the country. But even when temperatures aren't record-breaking, extreme heat can be dangerous and potentially fatal if proper precautions aren't taken. Between 2003 and 2012, more than 30 workers died annually from heat-related illnesses and injuries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2014, 18 workers died and another 2,630 workers suffered injuries or illnesses related to excessive heat exposure. Yet OSHA has repeatedly declined to adopt a national standard, instead offering guidance to employers on preventing heat-related illnesses. 

Excessive heat exposure is a widely recognized occupational hazard for outdoor and indoor workers that can cause illnesses ranging from cramps to death. Heat can also raise the risk of injuries due to variations …

Aug. 10, 2016 by Maxine Burkett
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This excerpt is drawn from a post originally published on Aug. 8, 2016, by the Wilson Center's New Security Beat.

The idea that climate change is causing migration and displacement is entering the mainstream, but experts have warned against using the term "climate refugees" to describe what we're seeing in small islands, coastal regions, and even conflict zones like Syria.

Geoff Dabelko's 2007 post on climate change and migration was an early and important clarification of this emerging phenomenon. He noted that the term "refugee" is problematic because of limitations under international law. He also noted that migration is multi-causal. In fact, the numerous triggers that collide to spur an individual's decision to migrate make it difficult to peg his or her movement to climate change. That difficulty also means that deriving a number for climate migrants remains elusive. Almost 10 years later …

Aug. 10, 2016 by Katie Tracy
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UPDATED (8/10/2016): On August 9 and 10, Center for Progressive Reform Policy Analyst Katie Tracy delivered remarks at two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stakeholder meetings on risk evaluation, prioritization, and the revised Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

August 9 – Risk Evaluation Rule

Thank you for the opportunity to present today. My name is Katie Tracy. I am a policy analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform. I would just like to share a few brief comments with you today, which will be followed by written comments submitted to the docket. 

Scientific Uncertainty and Variability 

The first point I'd like to make is that the way EPA treats scientific uncertainty in its risk evaluations is critically important. Chemical risk assessment is inherently uncertain. Individual variations in exposure pathways, durations, physiological responses, and numerous other factors prevent researchers from establishing a precise estimation of chemical risks …

Aug. 10, 2016 by Evan Isaacson
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Two people died on July 30 after a 1,000-year storm brought devastating flooding to the lovely and historic Ellicott City, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. The 6.5 inches of rain that fell over the course of a few hours damaged or destroyed more than 150 vehicles and scores of buildings, and forced the rescue of dozens of people. It also sent more than 5 million gallons of sewage per day from several different sites into the Patuxent River and out to the Chesapeake Bay.

It didn't take long for a public official to ask if this tragedy was caused by climate change. I'll leave that question alone and let the scientists who study this sort of thing determine which specific weather-related disasters are most likely to be linked to climate change. But I'll raise a different question more specifically tied to the Ellicott City flood …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Aug. 31, 2016

Presidential Transitions Are Important. So Why Aren't They More Transparent?

Aug. 29, 2016

Verchick in Slate: Connecting the Dots Between Climate Change and Our Vulnerable Energy Grid

Aug. 25, 2016

'Cultural Cognition' Theory Offers a Path to Climate Change Progress

Aug. 23, 2016

Comments from CPR: Forced Arbitration Proposal Is Strong but Should Be Stronger

Aug. 18, 2016

CPR's Shapiro Takes on the Politicization of Science in North Carolina

Aug. 15, 2016

Sorry, Senator Vitter. The CFPB Is in Full Compliance with Small Business Outreach Law.

Aug. 11, 2016

It's Well Past Time for OSHA to Act on Heat Stress