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April 30, 2018 by Daniel Farber

The Questionable Legal Basis of the EPA 'Transparency' Proposal

"They sat at the Agency and said, 'What can we do to reimagine authority under the statutes to regulate an area that we are unsure that we can but we're going to do so anyway?'"

When he said those words, Scott Pruitt was talking about the Obama administration. But it seems to be a pretty accurate description of the "transparency" proposal he issued last week.

Everyone agrees that it would be good to increase the public availability of scientific information for independent validation. But Pruitt's proposal is designed to provide EPA with a license to ignore studies that it views as insufficiently transparent – for example, when it cannot agree with investigators over how to protect patient confidentiality if health data is made public. This would allow it to ignore inconvenient evidence about the dangers of various forms of pollution. The proposal cites a string of congressional enactments as its basis, with no explanation of their relevance. But then it asks the public for suggestions about whether there are additional or different provisions it should be citing. Obviously, EPA is not at all confident that it has found the right legal peg on which to hang the proposal.

In …

April 25, 2018 by Laurie Ristino
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Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed a pock-marked, micro-legislated Farm Bill along strict party lines. It's a shameful goody bag of legislative delights for a few that comes at the expense of the majority of the American people. 

Some lowlights: The bill holds our hungriest Americans hostage by conditioning SNAP benefits (food stamps) on job training (what kind of country withholds food from its citizens?); reduces conservation dollars that are critically needed given the pitiful state of soil health and our waterways; and provides commodity supports to producers who are wealthy and don't need the help. 

Fortunately, unlike the old days, Americans are starting to pay attention to the Farm Bill. Given the opaque and highly consolidated nature of our food system, people are increasingly concerned about how and where their food is produced. And for good reason. The United States is plagued by …

April 25, 2018 by Katie Tracy
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On Saturday, April 28, CPR will observe Workers' Memorial Day by remembering fallen workers whose lives were taken from this world too soon and by renewing our pledge to fight for all working people. 

Every day in this country, 14 workers leave for work, never to return home. One worker is killed on the job every two hours in the United States. In 2016, 5,190 workers died earning a living, the highest number on record in eight years. That doesn't account for the hundreds of lives lost daily to occupational diseases from exposures to toxic chemicals and substances. Nor does it include the thousands of hard-working Americans who incur severe injuries or contract illnesses on the job each day. 

When I think about what each of these workers and their families endure, I struggle to see why politics so often stands in the way of …

April 24, 2018 by James Goodwin
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Tomorrow, anti-environmental members of the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing provocatively titled, "The Weaponization of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Implications of Environmental Lawfare" – yet another in a long line of conservatives' attempts to justify myriad legislative attacks against this bedrock environmental law. As more than 100 CPR Member Scholars and other academic leaders explain in a letter to committee members, though, the hearing would be more aptly titled "The Mythification of NEPA." 

The apparent premise of the hearing is that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is being wielded as a "weapon" by public interest groups at the expense of responsible economic activity. Reality, as it so often does, does not corroborate the conservatives' narrative, however. 

Rather, the scholars' letter marshals actual data and statistics that together show that relatively few actions covered by NEPA are ever subjected to "environmental impact …

April 18, 2018 by Elena Franco
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This post is part of a series about climate change and the increasing risk of floods releasing toxic chemicals from industrial facilities.

As Hurricane Harvey lingered over Texas in 2017, it created a wall of water that swallowed much of Houston. Catastrophic flooding over a wide swath of southern Texas left towns, cities, and the countryside under feet of water. The floodwaters sloshed toxic chemicals from the area's 10 oil and gas refineries, 500 chemical plants, and 12 Superfund sites around "like a wet mop," according to one resident who lives near the ExxonMobil refinery and chemical plant. The torrential rainwaters engulfed her home, and she was forced to swim with her four young children through a toxic soup that smelled like "a rotten sewer." Their exposure to contaminated floodwaters likely accounted for the skin and strep throat infections her children later developed. Rice University researchers …

April 13, 2018 by Daniel Farber
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An MIT professor has a great idea for a molten metal battery that could outperform lithium batteries. Of course, like many great ideas, this one might not pan out. But even if it does pan out technically, Grist explains one reason why it might never get to the commercial stage:

Ultimately, the thing that makes lithium-ion so tough to topple is something called the "experience curve." The curve maps how, over time, in many different sectors, increases in scale lead to a reliable and predictable decrease in price. It works for solar panels and semiconductors, even contact lenses and motorcycles, and it definitely works for lithium-ion batteries, says Chris Shelton, chief technical officer at energy company AES. In other words, every time you double the volume of lithium-ion battery production, you reduce the cost by more than 15 percent.

A 2017 paper by Liscow and Karpilow explains …

April 12, 2018 by James Goodwin
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This morning, CPR Member Scholar and George Washington University Law Professor Emily Hammond is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law at a hearing that will look at two highly flawed bills. While their particulars differ, each is conspicuously (if a bit clumsily) designed to rig the environmental permitting process to allow industry groups to ram through big infrastructure and construction projects while shutting out the public from its traditional and vital role of meaningful participation and engagement. 

Hammond's testimony provides a devastating and thorough critique of each of the two bills under consideration – the Permitting Litigation Efficiency Act of 2018 (PLEA) (H.R. 5468) and the North Texas Water Supply Security Act of 2017 (H.R. 4423), respectively. The "problem" these bills try to "solve" is that existing administrative laws and procedures have a pesky …

April 11, 2018 by Matthew Freeman
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CPR’s Member Scholars and staff are off to a fast start on the op-ed front in 2018. We list them all on our op-ed page, but here’s a quick roundup of pieces they’ve placed so far.

Member Scholar Alejandro Camacho joins his UC-Irvine colleague Michael Robinson-Dorn in a piece published by The Conversation. In "Turning power over to states won't improve protection for endangered species," they summarize their recent analysis of state endangered species laws and state funding for enforcement. They write, “Our review shows that most states are poorly positioned to assume primary responsibility for endangered species protection. State laws generally are weaker and less comprehensive than the Endangered Species Act,” and the states themselves are contributing just 5 percent of funding for enforcement of the Act.

In the Bay Journal, Rena Steinzor and David Flores update an op-ed from the end …

April 9, 2018 by Evan Isaacson
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The Center for Progressive Reform has been closely watching the development and implementation of the Chesapeake Bay restoration plan since its inception. As part of our ongoing commitment to ensure the success of the plan, known as the Bay TMDL, we have developed a new web-based resource focused on the issues and decisions related to the TMDL's midpoint assessment process. The page is a one-stop shop for advocates, members of the media, and residents concerned about restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as the streams and landscapes throughout its watershed. 

The page, "Halftime for the Bay," provides visitors with ongoing updates of the policy decisions made by EPA Region 3 and the state and federal partners in the Chesapeake Bay Program, as well as analysis of progress made by the states now that they have passed the 2017 interim deadline under the …

April 5, 2018 by David Flores
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A new report in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A published earlier this week presents a suite of new scientific and policy research meant to improve and drive forward progress under the Paris Climate Agreement. The report – from the oldest science journal in the western world – is the culmination of presentations first delivered by attendees at the 25th anniversary conference of the University of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute. CPR Board President and Member Scholar Rob Verchick is among the contributing authors. 

In his article, Verchick argues that the rise of global temperatures by an additional half a degree above the agreement's target could hamper our ability to address the unavoidable harms of climate change to the world's most vulnerable populations. In "Can Loss and Damage Carry the Load?" Verchick explains that developed nations have a moral and political obligation to address "the …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 30, 2018

The Questionable Legal Basis of the EPA 'Transparency' Proposal

April 25, 2018

Recipe: Turning the House's Lemon of a Farm Bill into Lemonade

April 25, 2018

Workers' Memorial Day 2018

April 24, 2018

Scholars Call Out Congressional Committee for 'Mythification' of NEPA

April 18, 2018

Unlearned Lessons from the 'Toxic Soup': Floods, Industrialization, and Missed Opportunities

April 13, 2018

Promoting Energy Innovation

April 12, 2018

At House Judiciary Hearing, CPR's Hammond Calls Out Efforts to Rig Environmental Review Process