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Feb. 2, 2021 by Darya Minovi

CPR Report Fuels Legislation that Would Create a Well Safety Program in Maryland

Last week, I joined Maryland Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County) and State Sen. Katie Fry Hester (D-Carroll and Howard counties) to discuss pollution threats to the state’s drinking water and legislation that, if enacted, would create a private well safety program in Maryland.

The quality of drinking water holds personal significance for both legislators. Stewart grew up in a small Alabama town where a Monsanto chemical factory knowingly dumped toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) chemicals in the local water supply. He has since developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a cancer associated with PCB exposure — twice.

Hester has also confronted this issue. When she moved to Ellicott City a few years ago, she discovered that hazardous levels of radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas associated with lung cancer, were leaching into her home’s well water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate radon, so homeowners like her bear responsibility for testing their water and addressing contamination.

Nitrates in Maryland drinking water

Our January 25 conversation focused on a different contaminant: nitrates. Last year, my colleague Katlyn Schmitt and I assessed the extent of nitrate contamination in drinking water on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore. Our findings were published in …

Feb. 1, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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CPR Member Scholar Daniel Farber originally wrote this commentary for The Appeal.

Introduction

Big Tobacco’s Master Settlement Agreement in 1998 was the largest civil settlement in the nation’s history and a transformative moment in the industry’s control. The accord reached by 46 states, five United States territories, and the District of Columbia required tobacco manufacturers to pay the states billions of dollars annually in compensation for the public health crisis their products had created.

Today, an even bigger crisis looms, with increasing demands for accountability. Over a dozen federal cases have now been filed against oil companies, seeking damages for their role in causing climate change. With one exception, the cases have been brought by states or local governments that claim they and their citizens are suffering harm from climate change. (The exception is a case brought by Pacific Coast fishing companies for harm …

Jan. 27, 2021 by Hannah Wiseman
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When President Trump took office in 2017, the Department of the Interior quickly moved to lease nearly all offshore lands for oil and gas development. The map was astounding; for decades, there had been relatively limited drilling in offshore waters, and many state officials and advocates were shocked to see a proposal for such extensive leasing of offshore federal lands. Indeed, notoriously conservative Rick Scott of Florida entered into a handshake deal with former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to avoid drilling near the state. Trump's Interior Department also attempted to lease vast swaths of onshore public lands for fossil fuel development.

President Biden has predictably followed a different approach, announcing his intent to place a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on federal onshore and offshore lands. This is a sensible solution.

The United States is already working to transition to more low-carbon energy production, and oil …

Jan. 27, 2021 by Katie Tracy, Katlyn Schmitt
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The Maryland General Assembly is kicking into full gear — and we at the Center for Progressive Reform are tracking bills that would protect the health and safety of Maryland workers in the food and farm sectors. These protections are urgently needed to protect these workers from COVID-19 infections and keep the public healthy and safe. The bills we're watching would:

  • Protect workers from disease

    Our nation's workers are going the extra mile to help us survive the pandemic. But Maryland isn't providing workers across the state with the protections they need to stay safe and healthy. Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation that would take a step in that direction. Del. Kriselda Valderrama (D) has introduced a bill (House Bill 124) that would require the state to adopt a temporary emergency standard to protect workers, including food and farm workers, from COVID-19. The bill would also …

Jan. 25, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post originally ran in The Conversation and on Legal Planet and is reprinted here under Creative Commons license CC BY-ND 4.0.

The Trump administration dedicated itself to deregulation with unprecedented fervor. It rolled back scores of regulations across government agencies, including more than 80 environmental rules.

The Biden administration can reverse some of those actions quickly – for instance, as president, Joe Biden can undo Donald Trump’s executive orders with a stroke of the pen. On his first day in office, Biden used that power to start bringing the U.S. back into the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization, and to rescind a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and orders restricting travel from several predominantly Muslim and African countries. He also ordered a temporary moratorium on oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Undoing most regulatory …

Jan. 22, 2021 by Katlyn Schmitt
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The Maryland General Assembly is back in session — and we at the Center for Progressive Reform are tracking a number of bills that, if passed, will have a lasting impact on the people of Maryland and their environment. Several could also spur other states to improve their own environmental and public health protections.

We’re watching bills that would:

  • Ensure clean drinking water

    Everyone needs and deserves safe drinking water. Yet well owners in Maryland are largely left on their own to ensure their water is safe. Some 2 million Marylanders rely on well water as their primary water source, yet many well owners incorrectly believe their well water is safe to drink. Many don’t test their water annually or understand the importance of doing so.

    The Maryland Private Well Safety Program would address these problems. This would help well owners cover the costs of testing …

Jan. 22, 2021 by Joseph Tomain
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President Joe Biden named Commissioner Richard Glick as Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) January 21. Glick succeeds Chairman James Danly. The Commission is expected to retain its Republican majority until Commissioner Neil Chatterjee's term is up on June 30.

Glick previously served as a FERC Commissioner nominated by President Trump in August 2017 and confirmed by the Senate later that year.

Before joining FERC, Glick was general counsel for the Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, serving as a senior policy advisor on numerous issues, including electricity and renewable energy. Prior to that, he was vice president of government affairs for Iberdrola, a Spanish multinational electric utility. At Iberdrola, Glick focused on the company’s renewable energy, electric and gas utility, and natural gas storage businesses in the United States. He ran the company’s Washington, DC, office and was responsible …

Jan. 21, 2021 by Katie Tracy
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Editor's update: On April 9, 2021, President Biden nominated Doug Parker to lead OSHA. If confirmed, he'll replace Jim Frederick as Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health in the Department of Labor.

President Joe Biden has tapped three seasoned experts to jumpstart the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal government's main worker health and safety agency. Jim Frederick will serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary of OSHA and will head the agency until a permanent Assistant Secretary is confirmed. Frederick’s experience includes over two decades working for the United Steel Workers' health, safety, and environment department. In his latest role, Frederick served as the assistant director and principal investigator for the department. Biden has also named Chip Hughes, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Worker Education and Training Program, as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Pandemic and Emergency Response. This will …

Jan. 20, 2021 by James Goodwin
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The pro-Trump insurrection that took place at the United States Capitol on January 6 was the most serious threat to the rule of law in our country in well over a century. Unless we fully grapple with the conditions and causes that gave rise to it, this threat will linger, waiting for the next spark to reignite it.

The Capitol insurrection is the predictable culmination of decades of self-serving attacks on "government." Especially since the Reagan administration, conservative lawmakers have increasingly amassed political fortunes by stoking the anger and resentment of millions of Americans who have been left behind by an ever more lopsided economy.

Their formula rests on a self-fulfilling prophesy: Attack government effectiveness to justify deep cuts to government functions, which in turn fuels new attacks on government and new calls for even deeper cuts.

Ordinarily, our free press would be responsible for halting …

Jan. 19, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Conservatives love to complain about faceless bureaucrats, but blaming bureaucrats for regulations is hopelessly out of date. When Elena Kagan was a professor, she wrote an article called “Presidential Administration.” The article applauded her former boss Bill Clinton for seizing greater control of the regulatory process, away from agencies. That trend has accelerated to the point where the White House controls even the fine details of regulation.

Two things can get sidelined in presidential administration. One is agency expertise. No one in the White House has as much knowledge as agency experts about air pollution, or climate change, or endangered species.

The other thing that gets sidelined is active implementation of the law actually passed by Congress. The White House staff who review regulations care only about costs and benefits. The president and the higher-level staff …

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