CPR Scholars on the Nation's Opinion Pages

by Matthew Freeman

CPR Member Scholars published another bumper crop of op-eds this past month. We maintain a running list on our op-eds page, but to save CPRBlog readers a click or two, here's a quick rundown:

On March 3, David Driesen had a piece in The Hill – that's a Washington, D.C., outlet aimed at the policy community – headlined, "Ruling by Decree." Driesen takes the president to task for issuing a series of executive orders aimed at undercutting duly enacted laws. "No president," he writes, "has devoted the first month of his presidency to promulgating a collection of executive orders that so blatantly ignores our constitutional system's fundamental tenets."

On March 9, Tom McGarity published a piece in the Corpus Christi Caller Times, headlined, "EPA Just Adopted a See-No-Evil Policy." McGarity focuses on a little-covered gift from EPA chief Scott Pruitt to the oil and gas industry: the withdrawal of a request to 15,000 oil and gas companies for information on releases of methane from their onshore operations. McGarity observes that if EPA "cannot gather information on methane emissions from these facilities, it will be unable to write defensible standards for reducing those emissions. And that is precisely why the state officials [nine GOP state attorneys general and two GOP governors] demanded that the EPA withdraw the request. They were carrying the oil and gas industry's water to give the impression that it was not the industry, but the people of Texas and the other states who didn't want the agency to write methane standards for the oil and gas industry." McGarity's article subsequently ran in The Waco Tribune and the McAllen (Texas) Monitor.

Rena Steinzor's topic in a piece co-authored with Maxine Lipeles was the congressional assault on our safeguards. In the Columbia Missourian, they note that the Regulatory Accountability Act under consideration in Congress would create a series of barriers to addressing unsafe lead levels in community drinking water supplies. They offer examples of the problem in urban and rural settings alike. They write that the legislation would cause "paralysis by analysis," "compel[ling] agencies to prepare so many reports and make so many calculations that it could take a decade or more to produce a new lead standard."

The president's proposed budget is Joel Mintz's subject in "Trump Cuts and the EPA: Making America Less Healthy Again," in the March 22 South Florida Sun Sentinel. Mintz observes that EPA would absorb the "most drastic cut" if the president's budget were adopted and says that a closer look at the details of the plan reveals the "truly radical nature of the proposal. It calls for the elimination of all funding for EPA work that relates to climate change – zero dollars to combat the greatest environmental threat facing the planet, and nothing even to gather data that would let us learn more about it." He goes on to sketch out the budget's implications for toxic waste site cleanups and various other cleanup and enforcement efforts.

On April 1, Victor Flatt had an op-ed in the Raleigh News & Observer, observing that the president's path to dismantling the Clean Power Plan might not be as easy as he imagines. "Trump's order directs the EPA to take steps to get rid of the Clean Power Plan…and begin rolling back an Obama era rule on restricting methane emissions," Flatt writes. "These rules went through a full and complete rulemaking process; in order to undo them the administration will have to undertake its own rulemaking." That process will be subject to judicial review, which means, as the piece is headlined, Trump can order, but federal judges will decide on climate rules.

The next day, Sidney Shapiro and Vanessa Zboreak co-authored their own piece in the News & Observer, looking at a bill in the North Carolina legislature transparently aimed at inoculating a factory farm operation in the state from a lawsuit filed by nearby landowners. The farm's neighbors object to the water, air, and odor pollution they suffer, a product of the operation's vast quantities of pig manure. The stink is a big part of the complaint, but plaintiffs also cite "harms to their health, including respiratory complications and heightened blood pressure." The authors conclude, "By stripping landowners of their ability to seek compensation for harms to their health or quality of life, the General Assembly is poised to take away constitutionally enshrined protections."

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