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Feb. 28, 2018 by James Goodwin

Trump White House: Safeguards Produce Huge Net Benefits; Also Trump White House: Repeal Them Anyway

Last week, the Trump administration released the annual Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations. As befitting this auspicious occasion, the administration pulled out all the stops: targeted op-eds from high-ranking administration officials; relevant operatives dispatched to the leading Sunday morning talk shows; and even a televised press conference with the president himself. 

Just kidding. They buried it. Quietly. Late on a Friday afternoon. When Congress was away on recess. 

And even though it's already February, this was the 2017 draft report, not the 2018 one. The data on offer run through the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 – that is, the end of September of 2016. (For context, that's roughly one month before my daughter was born. She's walking now and her vocabulary encompasses three-and-a-half words.) The final 2017 report should have been out months ago, let the alone the draft, which is presented for public inspection and comment. Indeed, we should be expecting the draft 2018 report, containing data through Fiscal Year 2017, soon. (And not for nothing, the Trump administration never bothered issuing the final 2016 report, which would have followed up on the draft report issued during the …

Feb. 28, 2018 by David Flores
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At a workshop on Friday, March 2, representatives of the Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions will meet in Baltimore to make important final decisions about how to address pollution – previously accounted for – from the Conowingo Dam and climate change. Decisions these representatives make about how to address pollution loads through the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) agreement will shape how and whether Bay jurisdictions are able to meet their Bay restoration goals during the crucial third and final phase of the restoration compact before its 2025 deadline. 

Recent research by Bay Program scientists suggests that climate change has already increased nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake substantially. Observed increases in rainfall from climate change – along with other factors – could burden the Bay with an additional 9.1 million pounds of nitrogen and 490,000 pounds of phosphorus on an annual basis by 2025. The additional pollution runoff, warming …

Feb. 22, 2018 by Rena Steinzor
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This op-ed originally ran in The Hill.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has wasted little time portraying himself as the prosecutor-in-chief of street — as opposed to white collar — crime, rejecting this month even a broadly bipartisan effort to reduce sentences for nonviolent crime supported by a coalition that spans the Koch brothers and the NAACP.

Civil enforcement has also fallen off, as documented in investigative reporting by The New York Times and others. Both trends will almost certainly continue given the more subtle sabotage of corporate enforcement implemented in a series of largely overlooked policy changes announced by memoranda and speech.

The campaign began last June, when Sessions wrote a memorandum to U.S. attorneys and DOJ senior managers instructing them not to enter into any settlements that provide for a "payment or loan to any non-governmental entity." His targets were the nonprofit groups enlisted to provide counseling …

Feb. 15, 2018 by Evan Isaacson
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This year more than most, it bears repeating that a budget is a moral document, or at least that it has moral implications. It's particularly important to remember not just because President Trump's budget is so appallingly skewed in favor of military spending – this looks to be one pricey parade – but also because of the administration's puzzling infrastructure proposal. 

It is no surprise that the Trump administration would craft an infrastructure plan heavily tilted toward the shiny objects of the infrastructure world – roads and bridges – even though a boost in drinking and wastewater projects could help deliver that "beautiful, clean water" that candidate Trump declared was very important to him, and which many of his supporters so desperately need. It is similarly unsurprising that Trump would take this opportunity to attack bedrock environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Clean Water Act's provision …

Feb. 15, 2018 by Dave Owen
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Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog.

Last week, the Ninth Circuit decided Hawai'i Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui, a case involving Maui County's practice of pumping wastewater into wells, from which the wastewater flowed through a subsurface aquifer and into the Pacific Ocean. The county, according to the court, needed a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for this practice. It did not matter that the county's wastewater traveled through groundwater on its way to the ocean; according to the Ninth Circuit, releasing pollutants from a point source to navigable waters still requires permitting even if those pollutants' pathway is indirect.

The decision is well-reasoned and carefully explained. The Ninth Circuit grounded its holding in both the text and purposes of the Clean Water Act and in a series of prior decisions (including Justice Scalia's Rapanos plurality opinion), and the …

Feb. 14, 2018 by Matt Shudtz
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It was an early holiday present to the nation's biggest polluters. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced in early December that he was drastically changing the way EPA reviews polluters' compliance – or lack thereof – with the Clean Air Act. Today on Capitol Hill, CPR Member Scholar Emily Hammond will explain that this dramatic shift in policy is a complete abnegation of EPA's statutory responsibilities and, beyond that, puts lives and economic opportunity at risk.

Professor Hammond is testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on the Environment. You can preview her testimony and watch the hearing live at 2 p.m. Eastern.

What's especially valuable about Hammond's testimony is the context she provides. Clean Air Act regulations are betes noires for our country's most vocal opponents of strong public health protections. That is because when EPA enforces the Clean Air Act …

Feb. 8, 2018 by Laurie Ristino
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This blog post is part of a series on the 2018 Farm Bill.

Since the 1930s, Congress has tried to formulate an effective farm “safety net,” oscillating among different schemes in order to protect farmers from the severe economic impacts of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. What started as a New Deal emergency intervention has become an entrenched legislative ritual. Indeed, this perennial Farm Bill debate remains a relic of 20th century policy. It’s designed to perpetuate, not to innovate.

The farm safety net incentivizes commodity producers to maintain a business-as-usual approach because farmers are guaranteed a rate of return by the federal government. In particular, under the current Farm Bill, adopted in 2014, producers are eligible for crop insurance supported by taxpayer-subsidized premiums of 62 percent on average. In addition, corn, soybean, and other commodity producers can receive price and income supports when prices …

Feb. 6, 2018 by Alyson Flournoy
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On January 4, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released its draft proposed program for oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The proposed plan would end a broad ban on drilling imposed by President Obama and allow leasing and drilling on over 98 percent of the OCS, including the waters off Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The Eastern Gulf of Mexico is subject to a congressional moratorium until 2022, but the new plan would commence sales in that region in 2023.  

On January 9, after a brief meeting with Florida Governor Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that, contrary to the proposal, he was removing Florida's coast from any consideration for new "oil and gas platforms." Zinke's reported explanation for his decision referenced the governor, his leadership and trustworthiness, his work with the administration on Everglades restoration, Florida's …

Feb. 5, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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Today, six CPR Member Scholars and staff members sent a letter to the Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division, calling on the agency to withdraw its proposal to repeal an Obama-era rule aimed at preventing employers from taking workers' hard-earned tips. Last week, Bloomberg Law uncovered a deliberate effort by the DOL to conceal an analysis showing that the proposal would allow business owners and managers to steal and misappropriate billions of dollars – that's "billions" with a "b" – of tips from workers. This theft would be especially devastating for the thousands of restaurant workers and bartenders whose tips represent the vast majority of their take-home pay. 

According to the Bloomberg Law article, DOL leadership balked at the original cost-benefit analysis that career staff had produced because it showed precisely what worker advocates claimed it would: This attack against a sensible safeguard could result …

Feb. 1, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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On the morning of January 26, 2016, Seattle police were called to a construction site where a worker, Harold Felton, was trapped in a collapsed trench. By the time officers arrived, the rescue operation had turned into a recovery; Felton, 36, had died at the scene. 

Felton was working as part of a two-man team employed by Alki Construction to replace a sewer line. According to the police report, 10 minutes before the trench collapsed, the man working alongside Felton had moved to another area about 40 feet away to work on another part of the pipe. He heard a worrisome clunk that he thought sounded like tools hitting the pipe, so he went to check on Felton. Unable to find him, he immediately started digging and made a call to his employer and Alki's owner, Phillip Numrich, who had left the worksite to buy lunch …

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CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Feb. 28, 2018

Trump White House: Safeguards Produce Huge Net Benefits; Also Trump White House: Repeal Them Anyway

Feb. 28, 2018

If Chesapeake Bay Jurisdictions Are Serious About Restoration, They Must Take Climate Change into Account

Feb. 22, 2018

The Hill Op-ed: Justice Dept's Enforcement Policies Make Change for the Worse

Feb. 15, 2018

The Environmental Injustice of Declining Budgets for Water Infrastructure

Feb. 15, 2018

The Ninth Circuit, the Clean Water Act, and Septic Tanks

Feb. 14, 2018

CPR's Emily Hammond Testifies About Health and Economic Benefits of Clean Air Act Regulation

Feb. 8, 2018

Is the Farm 'Safety Net' Safe?