This post was originally published by the American College of Environmental Lawyers. Reprinted with permission.
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 strengthening climate resilience and biodiversity while promoting environmental justice and economic growth.
As laudable as it is, the 30 x 30 concept and the Administration's 30 x 30 action plan, known as "America the Beautiful," overlook a critical component of the conservation goal — they pay virtually no attention to freshwater ecosystems …
On the morning of January 9, 2014, residents of Charleston, West Virginia, noticed an unusual licorice-like odor in their tap water. Within hours, a federal state of emergency was declared as 300,000 West Virginia residents were advised to avoid contact with their tap water, forcing those affected to rely on bottled water until the water supply was restored over one week later.
Even after service was restored, traces of the chemical remained detectable in Charleston's water supply months after the spill. The economy of the region was brought to an abrupt halt and nearly 400 people sought emergency room care with symptoms of nausea, headaches, and vomiting.
The cause of the contamination was methylcyclohexane methanol (“MHCM”), a chemical used in industrial coal processing. Roughly 11,000 gallons of the substance had leaked from a severely corroded aboveground storage tank located a mile and a half north …
This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.
The Biden administration announced on Monday that it would not meet a February target date to issue a revised definition of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. It still plans to issue a revised definition later in the year. That sounds like a very technical issue. But it actually determines the extent to which the federal government can prevent water pollution and protect wetlands across the nation. The Biden proposal basically calls for case-by-case decisions about federal jurisdiction. It's also the latest chapter in one of the most snarled-up regulatory issue of our times.
The story begins with the 1972 passage of the Clean Water Act. The act requires permits for dredge-and-fill operations and for pollution discharges into "navigable waters." Traditionally, navigable waters were tidal waters or waterways that could be used for commercial …
This commentary was originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
Ten years ago, I wrote an essay referring, in now quaint terms, to the “torrents of E-Mail” arriving on regulatory agency doorsteps, including several rulemakings that drew over 10,000 public comments. I have since argued that agencies needed to take these expressions of public views and preferences more seriously.
Over the last ten years, the volume of rulemaking comments has only grown. In 2021, the Government Accountability Office reported on the many millions of public comments submitted to rulemaking agencies between 2013 and 2017. The 2017 Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rulemaking generated over 20 million public comments, and over 4 million comments were submitted in the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2014 Clean Power Plan rulemaking.
These intermittent tidal waves of comments evidence the public’s hunger to participate in government. They also …
This op-ed originally ran in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
In an era when most Supreme Court opinions are sharply divided, recently the high court unanimously rejected Mississippi’s claim against Tennessee in a long-running dispute over the groundwater that lies beneath both states in a common aquifer.
The impacts of this case will extend far beyond Mississippi and Tennessee, as states compete with one another over limited water supplies.
When neighboring states fight over shared rivers, the law has been clear for more than a century: They can settle their differences either by negotiated agreements known as “interstate compacts” or they can ask the Supreme Court to divide up the waters through what is known as an “equitable apportionment.”
But until late November, it was not as clear how states should resolve brawls over water when it is found underground in geologic formations known as aquifers.
The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) joined Coming Clean and more than 100 organizations calling for major transformations to the chemical industry — a significant yet overlooked contributor to the climate crisis and toxic pollution in communities.
The groups unveiled new guidance this week for regulators, policymakers, advocates, and industry to phase out chemicals and their adverse impacts. The guidance – contained in the Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals – was first developed in 2004 by grassroots, labor, health, and environmental justice groups and updated this year to strengthen recommendations as the climate changes.
The updated charter includes 10 planks, or priority areas, alongside reports highlighting policy solutions to phase out persistent, toxic, and cumulative chemical pollution. CPR contributed to the background report for Plank #1, which calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), policymakers, and businesses to address the chemical and petrochemical industry’s contributions to climate …
The Clean Water Act turns 50 next year.
This landmark law has led to some great environmental successes — waterways that were once basically open sewers have been returned to their former scenic beauty, capable of supporting aquatic life and providing drinking water to millions of Americans.
It has also made possible countless water protection careers in public service and private industry, as well as many types of pollution control technologies.
In at least one area, though, public protections related to the Clean Water Act have not advanced at all — despite Congress’ 1972 mandate to the contrary.
Across the country, hundreds of thousands of aboveground storage facilities containing hazardous chemicals — such as arsenic, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene — are not subject to state or federal rules designed to prevent and mitigate spills. These storage tanks sit along our industrialized waterfronts and at agricultural supply depots in our rural communities, threatening …
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 that the …
Carbon capture use and storage is at the center of the national climate policy debate, promoted by the oil and gas industry, the private sector, and even some environmental organizations as a solution to the climate crisis.
The federal infrastructure package that President Biden recently signed into law appropriates more than $10.3 billion for the nationwide buildout of carbon capture infrastructure. Preliminary deals on the Build Back Better Act also contain expansions of the primary federal tax credit incentivizing carbon capture (45Q Tax Credit). The fossil fuel industry is targeting Louisiana as an emerging hub for carbon capture, mainly because of the large concentration of industrial facilities that emit carbon dioxide in the stretch of land between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
While Louisiana must move quickly and aggressively in pursuit of climate change solutions, deploying carbon capture to reach net-zero emissions is not the answer …
Confirming expectations, the Supreme Court on Monday unanimously denied Mississippi’s claim that Tennessee is stealing its groundwater. If Mississippi wants to pursue its groundwater battle with Tennessee, it will have to file a new complaint with the court asking for an equitable apportionment of the Middle Claiborne Aquifer, which lies beneath Mississippi, Tennessee, and other states.
Defying everyone else’s agreement that equitable apportionment was its only cause of action, Mississippi argued before the Supreme Court that Tennessee had invaded Mississippi’s sovereign territory by allowing the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division to pump so much water from the aquifer that it created a cone of depression that extended across the state line and caused groundwater that naturally would have remained under Mississippi to flow into Tennessee. For this …