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April 25, 2022 by Daniel Farber

Biden Undoes NEPA Rollback

This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Last week, the White House undid an effort by the Trump administration to undermine the use of environmental impact statements. The prior rules had been in effect since 1978. Restoring the 1978 version was the right thing to do. The Trump rules arbitrarily limited the scope of the environmental effects that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can consider under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Their goal was clearly to prevent consideration of climate change.

More specifically, the Trump revision cut references to indirect or cumulative environmental impacts and discouraged consideration of effects that are remote in time, geographically remote, or the product of a lengthy causal chain. These restrictions flew in the face of everything we know about harm to the environment. We know that harm is often long-term rather than immediately obvious — think of chemicals that cause cancer decades after exposure. We also know that environmental effects aren't limited to the immediate neighborhood — think of the fertilizer runoff in the Midwest that causes dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. In ecology, causal chains are often complex, and the same is true for atmospheric physics …

April 12, 2022 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The Trump administration left a trail of regulatory destruction behind it. Cleaning up the mess and issuing new regulations is Priority #1 for the Biden administration. Under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Michael Regan, the effort is beginning to pick up steam.

EPA has begun the year with several major new regulatory efforts. No one of them is transformative standing alone, but their cumulative impact will be substantially cleaner air and lower carbon emissions.

February 28. EPA proposed an unexpectedly strong expansion of the existing rules governing interstate air pollution. The proposal would strengthen existing limits for coal and gas-fired power plants, but it would also add other categories of industry such as cement. In addition, it adds western states like California to the rule's coverage. EPA estimates that the benefits of the rule …

Feb. 24, 2022 by Joel Mintz
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In its first year in office, the Biden administration has, to its credit, reversed a number of anti-environmental policies initiated by former President Donald Trump.

Gone is the previous administration's infamous "two-for-one" policy, under which federal agencies had to eliminate two regulatory requirements for every new regulation they proposed. Numerous Trump-era initiatives that cut back needed air and water quality protections have also been rescinded. And, thankfully, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies are once again focused on responding to the mounting dangers posed by the climate crisis.

Given these steps forward, it is perplexing that the current administration has not yet restored a critical environmental tool that has proven workable and highly beneficial in past years: EPA's Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs).

Top photo by the Natural …

Feb. 2, 2022 by Robert Glicksman
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During the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of the Interior undermined its statutory obligations to protect lands and natural resources managed by the federal government. It also accelerated the extraction of fossil fuels from federal lands and constructed barriers to a shift to renewable energy, hindering efforts to abate climate disruption.

On March 15, 2021, the Senate confirmed Deb Haaland as new secretary of the department, which houses the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — three agencies that together are responsible for managing millions of acres of some of the nation's most precious terrain.

Before Haaland's confirmation, the Center for Progressive Reform identified five priorities for the department. Here is an update on progress so far.

  1. Restore curbs on methane waste. In his first week in office, President Biden issued an executive order that enunciated a policy …

Jan. 27, 2022 by David Driesen
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This post was originally published on Verfassungsblog. It is reprinted under Creative Commons License Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International.

On the same day, the U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions governing requests for emergency stays of two rules protecting Americans from COVID-19. Both rules relied on very similar statutory language, which clearly authorized protection from threats to health. Both of them presented strikingly bad cases for emergency stays. Yet, the Court granted an emergency stay in one of these cases and denied it in the other. These decisions suggest that the Court applies judicial discretion unguided by law or traditional equitable considerations governing treatment of politically controversial regulatory cases.

Similar cases decided differently

In NFIB v. OSHA, the Court stayed a rule insisting that large employers require either vaccination or testing and masking of their employees, but it denied a stay of a rule demanding vaccination of employees …

Jan. 13, 2022 by Sandra Zellmer
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A global movement is underway to protect 30 percent of the Earth's lands and waters by 2030. More than seventy countries support this goal to combat climate change and slow the pace of species extinction, both of which are accelerating at an unprecedented rate. The two threats are closely intertwined. The greatest drivers of species extinction are climate change and habitat loss; by the same token, the loss of intact, functioning habitat and biodiversity diminishes the capacity for climate resilience.

In the United States, one of President Biden's earliest executive orders, issued in his first week in office, established a goal to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and water and 30 percent of U.S. ocean areas by 2030. The order proclaims an "all of government" approach to …

Dec. 2, 2021 by Minor Sinclair, James Goodwin
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This blog post is the second in a series outlining the Center for Progressive Reform’s new strategic direction. We published "A Turning Point on Climate" in October.

Watch a 2-minute video from James Goodwin as he explains the regulatory system in an approachable and lighthearted way.

Over the last four decades, small government ideologues have waged a coordinated attack against government. The strategy has paid off: Public approval ratings of all three branches of government are at all-time lows.

Nevertheless, the federal government still manages to get things done on a day-to-day basis, and that is primarily due to the so-called 4th branch of government — the administrative and regulatory state that employs 2 million workers, invests trillions of dollars each year on things like air pollution monitoring and cutting-edge clean energy research, and makes rules that protect us all.

This is not to say …

Nov. 8, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Late Friday, the House passed President Biden's infrastructure bill, the Build Back Better law. As The Washington Post aptly observed, the bill is the biggest climate legislation to ever move through Congress. It also attracted key support from some Republicans, which was essential to passing it in both houses of Congress. Biden is pushing for an even bigger companion bill, but the infrastructure bill is a huge victory in its own right.

One major area of spending is transportation. Some of that goes for roads and bridges. But as The Washington Post reports, there's a lot of money for rail and mass transit:

    "Another $66 billion will go to passenger and freight rail, including enough money to eliminate Amtrak's maintenance backlog. Yet another $39 billion will modernize public transit, and $11 billion more will be …

Oct. 14, 2021 by James Goodwin
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This post was originally published on LPE Blog and is part of a symposium on the future of cost-benefit analysis. Reprinted with permission.

Over the last 40 years, the U.S. regulatory system has played an increasingly influential role in redefining our political and economic relationships in fundamentally neoliberal terms. A key but often overlooked institutional force behind this development is the peculiar form of cost-benefit analysis that now predominates in regulatory practice. Building a new regulatory system befitting our vision of a post-neoliberal America requires a formal rejection of prevailing cost-benefit analysis in favor of a radically different approach—one that invites public participation, permits open and fair contestation of competing values at the heart of policy debates, and recognizes and honors our social interdependencies.

The predominant form of cost-benefit analysis—one embraced by neoliberals—finds its theoretical underpinning in the controversial ideology of welfare economics …

Oct. 11, 2021 by Melissa Lutrell, Jorge Roman-Romero
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This post was originally published on LPE Blog and is part of a symposium on the future of cost-benefit analysis. Reprinted with permission.

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is inherently classist, racist, and ableist. Since these are foundational problems with CBA, and are not simply issues with its implementation, they can never be fixed by mere methodological improvements. Instead, the ongoing modernization of centralized regulatory analyses must focus on "moving beyond" CBA, and not on fixing it or improving it. Thus, in implementing President Biden's memorandum on Modernizing Regulatory Review (the Biden Memorandum), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should make explicit that regulatory review no longer requires CBA, even—as will be true in the typical case—when regulatory review does demand economic analysis as part of a holistic, multi-factor regulatory impact analysis.

The Biden memorandum endorses a series of goals that are not premised in the …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 25, 2022

Biden Undoes NEPA Rollback

April 12, 2022

Regan Hits His Stride

Feb. 24, 2022

The Hill Op-Ed: EPA Needs to Reinstate a Critical Environmental Tool Scrapped by Trump

Feb. 2, 2022

The Interior Department's Promising but Unfinished Business

Jan. 27, 2022

The Death of Law and Equity

Jan. 13, 2022

Will the 30 x 30 Initiative Protect 30 Percent of Freshwater Resources by 2030?

Dec. 2, 2021

Strengthening the 4th Branch of Government