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Sept. 25, 2020 by David Flores

New Webinar Series on Toxic Floodwaters: Communities and Advocates Tackle Climate-Driven Chemical Disaster

An extraordinary Atlantic hurricane season is still underway, one that has seen the National Hurricane Center exhaust its supply of names and resort to Greek alphabet for remaining storms. This month was the worst September on record in terms of the number of named storms, and 2020 overall is second only to 2005’s devastating succession of hurricanes (which included Katrina) in the number of named storms over the entire season.

There's no mystery as to why: Climate change is driving an increase in the frequency and strength of Atlantic hurricanes. And it's doing it at a time when affected communities – especially Black, Brown, and low-income communities – are all the more vulnerable to natural disaster due to the Trump administration’s rollbacks of environmental safeguards and its reckless response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Trump is pouring fuel on the fire, 2020’s portent of a future dominated by intersecting environmental and social disasters is made possible only by long-term government inaction and half-measures that fail to address climate change, toxic pollution, and social and economic inequality.

On September 24, CPR and Waterkeeper Alliance convened the first in a series of webinars on climate-driven pollution and chemical disaster. The toxic …

Aug. 11, 2020 by Samuel Boden, Kim Sudderth
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On October 20, 1994, rising floodwaters from the San Jacinto River in Houston, Texas, caused a pipeline to break open, allowing gasoline to gush out and the river to catch fire. Such flooding is increasingly likely as the effects of climate change take hold, and yet, in the quarter century since that disaster, the federal government has implemented no new regulations to ensure that oil and gas operators are adequately preparing for the risks from more frequent and intense floods caused by the climate crisis.

In April 2019, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued an unenforceable notice reminding pipeline operators that severe flooding still threatens the integrity of their infrastructure. Similarly, prompted by chemical disasters during recent hurricanes, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) alerted industrial facilities of the potential chemical disasters that could be …

Aug. 3, 2020 by Matt Shudtz, Brian Gumm
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Based on its current projected path, Tropical Storm Isaias could bring heavy rains up and down the East Coast, from the Carolinas and Virginia to the Delmarva Peninsula, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Along the way, the storm could swamp industrial facilities, coal ash ponds, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and more.

From Hurricane Florence to Hurricane Harvey and beyond, in the past 15 years, we've seen numerous tropical storms flood unprepared facilities. This has caused significant infrastructure damage and unleashed toxic floodwaters into nearby communities and waterways, threatening public health and making residents sick.

While no one can predict the exact path of any given storm, we do know the importance of preparing for extreme weather and adapting to the climate crisis. For resources on this issue, you can review CPR's report on toxic floodwaters in Virginia, our paper on toxic floodwaters and public health, and our …

May 16, 2019 by Brian Gumm
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In April, states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed published drafts of the latest iteration of plans to reduce pollution and protect their rivers and streams. New analyses from the Center for Progressive Reform show that the plans fall far short of what is needed to restore the health and ecological integrity of the Chesapeake Bay.

The draft plans, known as Phase III watershed implementation plans (WIPs), were developed as part of the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) framework that includes all the states in the Chesapeake watershed. CPR Policy Analysts David Flores and Evan Isaacson focused on three states – Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia – that are responsible for nearly 90 percent of nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake and represent more than 90 percent of the remaining pollution reductions needed to reach the final 2025 pollution reduction target.

Isaacson examined and evaluated the draft WIPs with several criteria …

March 6, 2019 by David Flores
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2018 was one of the wettest years on record in Virginia, causing catastrophic floods and landslides, as well as unexpectedly high levels of pollution in the Commonwealth’s waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. While the last waterlogged year is only a recent memory for Virginians, seemingly unremarkable snow and rainfall at the end of February caused the James River to crest last week at its highest level in Richmond in almost ten years. Climate change has clearly transformed our experience with weather and our relationship with water. In a new report published today, the Center for Progressive Reform explores how this drives environmental injustice in Virginia through toxic flooding and the increasing risk of chemical exposures.

Over the last two years, plant explosions in Texas and flooded coal ash impoundments in North Carolina have reminded us about an unmet need to adapt our approach to chemical safety. And …

Nov. 1, 2018 by David Flores
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This op-ed originally ran in the Bay Journal. Reprinted with permission.

Recent extreme weather — Hurricanes Harvey and Florence — caused widespread toxic contamination of floodwaters after low-lying chemical plants, coal ash storage facilities and hog waste lagoons were inundated.

Such storm-driven chemical disasters demonstrate that state water pollution permitting programs are overdue for reforms that account for stronger and more intense hurricanes and heavy rainfall events, sea level rise and extreme heat.

As the District of Columbia and the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed prepare their final watershed implementation plans for cleaning up the Bay, two important lessons should be clear from the recent disasters: First, climate change will greatly complicate Bay cleanup efforts and must therefore be factored into planning. Second, the state regulation of pollution sources can and should be a critical component of the plan.

The potential pollution implications of climate change are many …

Aug. 27, 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. It is based on a forthcoming article that will be published in the Sustainable Development Law & Policy Brief.

As climate change makes extreme weather events increasingly frequent, the risk of flooding on our rivers and shores increases. As I noted in a previous post in this series, this puts us at risk for toxic flooding – the combination of floodwaters and industrial toxic spills unleashed during flooding events. Although the storms themselves are not preventable, we can at least avoid placing toxic chemicals in the path of floodwaters. So what role can the American people play in developing stronger, more proactive policies designed to prevent, rather than merely respond to, toxic flooding? 

The good news is that existing federal and state environmental laws provide vehicles …

July 27, 2018 by Evan Isaacson
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Today, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of the Environmental Protection Agency officially released its assessment of Chesapeake Bay restoration progress. This marked the formal conclusion of the multi-year process known as the "midpoint assessment" for the Chesapeake's cleanup plan.

2017 represents the halfway point for the cleanup, at which time state and federal partners were supposed to have reached 60 percent of their final 2025 nutrient and sediment pollution reduction targets. Unfortunately, 2017 will go down as another in a long line of missed deadlines for the Bay.

Several weeks ago, the Chesapeake Bay Program released the official progress data on the 2017 interim pollution reduction targets. The data reveal that for nitrogen, long considered the limiting pollutant in the Bay TMDL cleanup plan, the seven Chesapeake jurisdictions and all sources combined were only a …

July 25, 2018 by Evan Isaacson
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This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court has enormous environmental and public health implications – true of any high court nomination, but particularly true in this case because he would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, the high court's long-time swing vote.

As it stands, Kavanaugh has already had an outsized impact on the shape and direction of environmental law in the United States. A review of Kavanaugh's judicial opinions shows that he has been one of the most prolific writers of environmental law decisions over the last decade on what is considered the nation's second-highest court, and the one with jurisdiction over much of the federal regulatory system. Only one other judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of …

June 20, 2018 by Mariah Davis
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The Chesapeake Bay restoration effort is arguably one of the largest conservation endeavors ever undertaken. The Bay watershed is made up of 150 major rivers and streams and contains 100,000 smaller tributaries spread across Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. It supplies drinking water for more than 17 million residents and is one of the most important economic drivers on the East Coast of the United States.

The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), enacted in 2010 by the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) in collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay states, is a framework for allocating and eliminating excessive loads of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment polluting the watershed. It was designed to ensure that pollution control measures would reduce persistent dead zones in the Bay and its tidal tributaries by 2025. As part of the TMDL, the states and …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Sept. 25, 2020

New Webinar Series on Toxic Floodwaters: Communities and Advocates Tackle Climate-Driven Chemical Disaster

Aug. 11, 2020

Toxic Floodwaters and Pipelines in Hampton Roads

Aug. 3, 2020

Will Isaias Unleash Toxic Floodwaters along the East Coast?

May 16, 2019

Chesapeake Bay State Plans to Protect Watershed, Reduce Pollution Fall Short

March 6, 2019

New Report: Socially Vulnerable Communities Face Increasing Risks from Toxic Floodwaters in Virginia

Nov. 1, 2018

Bay Journal Op-Ed: State Pollution-Permitting Must Be Reformed to Adapt to Climate Change

Aug. 27, 2018

The National Environmental Policy Act Can Give Communities Impacted by Toxic Flooding a Voice