May 7, 2010 by Yee Huang

New CPR Briefing Paper Recommends Next Steps on Chesapeake Bay Policy

Today the Center for Progressive Reform releases a briefing paper on Chesapeake Bay policy in anticipation of the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration. The Choose Clean Water Coalition also today sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stressing that EPA's strategy for the Bay must have robust requirements and tough consequences.

By next Wednesday, one year to the day after the Executive Order, the Federal Leadership Committee—made up of representatives from a range of federal agencies—is required to release its final Strategy for Restoration and Protection of the Chesapeake Bay. The final Strategy will integrate the draft reports issued under section 202 and the draft Strategy issued under section 203, all of which were previously released for public comment (See our comments from January). In the coming months, the future of Chesapeake Bay restoration will take shape. In addition to the release of the final Strategy, Bay states will begin to submit their preliminary Phase I Watershed Implementation Plans and EPA will finalize the Bay-wide Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Collectively these developments promise to do what past Bay restoration efforts have not: to hold Bay jurisdictions …

April 26, 2010 by Yee Huang

This is the April installment of CPRBlog’s series of posts highlighting legal developments in other countries and in international environmental law.

Last month the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted a hearing to the residents of Mossville, Louisiana, based on their petition asserting that the U.S. government has violated their rights to privacy and racial equity by failing to address toxic pollution in their community. Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, the legal advocacy organization that filed the petition on behalf of the Mossville residents, says this hearing represents the first time IACHR has granted a hearing on complaints of environmental racism by the United States.

Located in southwest Louisiana, Mossville is a small community of roughly 375 residents, the majority of whom are African American. Fourteen industrial facilities—ranging from an oil refinery and a vinyl manufacturer to …

April 22, 2010 by Yee Huang

Earlier this month an Oklahoma jury awarded $7.3 million to current and former poultry growers for fraud, negligence, and violations of a state consumer protection act committed by Tyson Foods, Inc. This verdict is not surprising as Tyson, like other major poultry processors, wields considerable economic clout in its relationship with poultry growers. This imbalanced relationship suggests that the “independent contractor” status of poultry growers that Tyson and other major poultry processors describe is a trick for the companies to disclaim any responsibility for the highly pollutant-concentrated poultry waste, which contaminates waterways around the country.

Like other corporate poultry processors, Tyson relies on a network of poultry growers around the country. The growers enter into a contract with the company, which retains nearly total control of the growers’ poultry operations. Tyson provides the physical materials for the poultry operations—from chicks to feed—and specifies the …

April 19, 2010 by Yee Huang

A recent Water Policy Report article reported that EPA is considering dramatic changes to its Clean Water Act enforcement and permitting program and oversight of state permitting programs. Many of the changes under consideration, including prioritizing the most significant pollution problems, strengthening oversight of states, and improving transparency and accountability, are long overdue. Passed in 1972, the CWA contains much of the authority needed to clean up water pollution from point sources and certain other sources, but strong enforcement is the key to ensuring the Act’s goals are achieved.

EPA has long applied deterrence-based enforcement, which is based on the idea that regulated entities weigh the cost and benefits of complying with regulations. If the costs of complying with the law are lower than the costs of violating it, a rational regulated entity will comply with the law, goes the theory. If, however, the size of …

April 9, 2010 by Yee Huang

In preparing CPR’s recent white paper, Failing the Bay: Clean Water Act Enforcement in Maryland Falling Short, we conducted interviews with sixteen stakeholders across Maryland to assess MDE’s enforcement program as it operates on the ground. Collectively the stakeholders have decades of experience with enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as from environmental and industry perspectives. A full summary of the interviews can be found in the report, but a handful of surprising comments stood out. Comments on four areas stood out to me:

Maryland's Enforcement Compared With Other States. While Maryland prides itself on a strong environmental reputation, some interviewees tempered this pride. One environmental interviewee described MDE’s enforcement program as “middle of the pack – slightly under par,” while an official evaluated the program more positively, noting the “considerably higher” number of violations flagged for formal enforcement actions …

April 8, 2010 by Yee Huang

Today CPR releases a new report, Failing the Bay: Clean Water Act Enforcement in Maryland Falling Short. The report, which CPR Member Scholar Robert Glicksman and I co-authored, details the results of an investigation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) enforcement program at the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). CPR provided a copy of this report to MDE, and its response (and CPR’s follow-up) is included as an appendix to the report.

Overall, we found that state of Maryland is failing to enforce existing water pollution laws, allowing illegal pollution that damages Maryland waters and the Chesapeake Bay. The report focuses on three specific areas:

  • Funding. MDE is drastically underfunded and is being tasked with greater responsibility despite overall decreases in funding. Between 2000 and 2009, the budget for the Water Management Administration (WMA) at MDE declined nearly 25 percent while the number of permits …

March 22, 2010 by Yee Huang

This post is the first in a monthly series on topics of international environmental law and environmental laws in other countries. Today’s post looks at the evolution of Australia’s water laws.

Australia is one of the driest continents on the planet, making the country a necessary laboratory for innovative approaches to water management and governance. Australia is characterized by a sparsely populated, semi-arid interior that is dominated by agriculture and the relatively water-abundant coastal edges that are home to the country's urban areas. Nearly 40 percent of Australia’s agriculture is in the Murray-Darling River Basin, which straddles four states, with the vast majority located in New South Wales (NSW). Like many other countries, including the United States, Australia has dealt and is dealing with myriad challenges in water resources management, including high extraction and diversion levels; lack of awareness of water as a …

March 17, 2010 by Yee Huang

This week Water Policy Report (subs. required) reported on EPA’s exercise of residual designation authority (RDA) over stormwater discharges and a pilot stormwater-reduction trading program in Massachusetts. Together, these actions have the potential to significantly reduce stormwater discharges into local waterways. If successful, this pilot trading program could be a template for similar trading programs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and across the country.

Stormwater discharges occur when impervious surfaces such as roads, rooftops, and parking lots channel high volumes of contaminated water into a nearby waterbody. In the absence of impervious surfaces, the water would be absorbed or stored in the ground and then slowly released back into the water cycle. EPA implemented two phases of stormwater regulation in 1990 and again in 1999. Today, three categories of stormwater are regulated: certain municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) that serve populations of 100,000 or …

Nov. 24, 2009 by Yee Huang

On Monday, CPR Member Scholars and others sent a memorandum to Senator Ben Cardin that addressed the constitutionality of S. 1816, the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009. At a Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife hearing earlier this month, one witness contested the key provisions of S. 1816, asserting that they are unconstitutional with respect to the Tenth and Eleventh Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The memo, signed by CPR Member Scholars Robert Adler, William Andreen, Holly Doremus, Daniel Farber, Robert Glicksman, Rena Steinzor, Dan Tarlock, and Sandra Zellmer; by University of Maryland School of Law Professors Jane Barrett and Robert Percival; and by CPR Executive Director Shana Jones and myself, concludes that S. 1816 is grounded in constitutional principles and supported by existing case law and statutes. With a bit of technical clarification, S. 1816 will deserve a clean bill of …

Nov. 18, 2009 by Yee Huang

A few months ago, I wrote about a landmark agreement by the EPA to set numeric, statewide nutrient pollution limits  -- the first of its kind in the United States. Florida, like most states, has qualitative nutrient pollution limits, which are written in terms such as, “in no case shall nutrient concentrations of body of water be altered so as to cause an imbalance in natural populations of flora or fauna.” Terms like this are difficult to measure objectively and consistently, endangering water bodies across the country and underlying the importance of this agreement by the EPA.

Back in August, the EPA had agreed to the settlement, but it still required approval by a judge. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle approved the agreement, dismissing arguments by opponents -- agriculture and paper interests, local governments, and even the state Attorney General and Agricultural Commissioner -- that the EPA …

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