Catching Up on CPR's Recent Op-Edery

by Matthew Freeman

Unless you regularly read newspapers from markets ranging from Baltimore to Houston to the San Francisco Bay area, chances are that you missed some of the op-eds that CPR’s scholars and staff published in the nation’s newspapers in February. We post links on our website, of course; you can find them on the various issue pages, as well as on our op-eds page. But we thought CPRBlog readers might appreciate a quick rundown from last month, so here goes:

  • In a February 2 piece in the Houston Chronicle, CPR’s Tom McGarity warned about the dangers of the Regulatory Accountability Act, which had recently zipped through the House of Representatives. He wrote, “The proponents of the bill insist that it will improve federal regulation, but the real purpose and effect of the bill is to stall the overall process­ making it harder for federal agencies to adopt rules that prevent companies from harming their workers, their customers and their neighbors.”
     
  • Two days later, McGarity was in the Waco Tribune, writing about the House GOP’s pending use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to undo a regulation adopted in the wake of the West, Texas, chemical explosion that killed 15 people in 2013. He highlighted a little-appreciated provision in the CRA that bars agencies from promulgating substantially similar regulations to ones that have been repealed via the act. McGarity warned that if Congress and the president repeal the rule, the EPA will thereafter be barred from modernizing the “outdated regulations [that] failed to prevent tragic deaths of emergency responders in West … until a perennially gridlocked Congress tells it to do so.”
     
  • Dan Farber’s February 9 piece in The Hill took aim at President Trump’s executive order directing agencies to repeal two regulations for every new rule they put in place, a bad but familiar idea that has bumper sticker appeal on Capitol Hill. Farber described the legal problems with the order and pointed to an opinion by the late Justice Antonin Scalia as a particular problem for the order’s backers. Farber explained that “In a case involving a new EPA rule, Justice Scalia said that it would be irrational to issue a rule without taking into account all of its costs — not just direct compliance costs but environmental impacts and other harms. There seems to be a strong argument that Trump’s executive order violates this standard of rationality. It directs agencies to make priority decisions based on the costs of new rules without considering their benefits.”
     
  • In the Salt Lake Tribune on February 12, Robert W. Adler called out the president for his Twitter tantrum(s) after a 9th Circuit judge and appellate panel ruled against his travel ban. Adler described Trump’s hostility toward the courts, highlighting the “extreme danger of this unprecedented presidential attack on the integrity and independence of the judiciary.”
     
  • The next day, Frank Ackerman had a piece posted on CommonDreams about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The economist deconstructed the argument that the pipeline will create jobs. “[A]lmost all the jobs created by building DAPL have already happened, because the pipeline is almost complete. It makes no sense to count past jobs as future benefits. If construction jobs are an important benefit of the pipeline, I hope you enjoyed them; they’re all but over. Once a pipeline is completed and in operation, it needs very few workers to keep it going.”
     
  • Two days after that, Joel Mintz had a piece in the Palm Beach Post, in which he observed that “Just a few weeks into his presidency, Donald Trump has already begun living down to the low expectations many people had for him with respect to the environment…. It is difficult to understand how gutting safeguards for health and the environment is part of ‘making America great again.’”
     
  • Two CPR scholars published op-eds on the president’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Dan Farber focused his piece in The Daily Californian on February 21 on Gorsuch’s views on the limits of presidential power, writing, “Will Gorsuch be willing to stand up for the rule of law and against arbitrary executive orders or agency decisions? In terms of Gorsuch’s general temperament, he seems to care deeply about the importance of following the law, regardless of personal inclinations about the outcomes of cases. That respect for the law and for the role of judges is a good sign.” But he went on to observe that Judiciary Committee senators should press the nominee on his willingness to “stand up to the abuses of the law by Trump.”
     
  • The next day, Joseph Tomain was in the Cincinnati Enquirer, also wondering where a Justice Gorsuch would come down on Trump’s disregard for the other branches of government, writing, “Where does Gorsuch stand? Will he be beholden to a White House that nominated him? Or will he exercise his considerable talents, rely on his commitment to the rule of law and use the judicial independence granted him by the Constitution to safeguard us? As citizens, we can learn much from the confirmation hearings. Hopefully, Gorsuch will also learn that constitutional values, the separation of powers and the common good are cherished by the citizenry and are to be protected by him as he takes his seat.”
     
  • Richard Pierce published a piece The Hill that same day, sketching out the many legal difficulties the president’s “two-for-one regulation” order will present for agencies that try to follow it. Addressing himself to a hypothetical agency, he wrote, “Each of the existing substantive rules you issued reflected tens of thousands of hours of analysis by your staff. Each was subjected to cost-benefit-analysis by the Office of Management and Budget. Each was determined to yield benefits that are, on average, seven to eight times the costs the rule imposes. And, each was upheld by a court. Any attempt to repeal such a rule is likely to be rejected by a reviewing court as arbitrary, capricious and not in accordance with law.”
     
  • And finally, David Flores had a February 27 piece in the Baltimore Sun, urging policymakers in the Chesapeake Bay region to account for the effects of climate change on the Bay as they pursue cleanup strategies. “[The] challenges require immediate attention and urgent action,” he wrote. “That's why Maryland's cabinet secretaries should seize the moment to address two crucial goals: restoring the bay and adapting to climate-­related impacts on the region.”



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