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Nov. 4, 2020 by Laurie Ristino

CPR Urges Vote Count to Continue Free from Political Interference

American democracy, if it is to mean anything, demands that all eligible voters get to exercise their right to vote and that their votes actually be counted. We have watched with alarm as the former principle has come under unilateral attack from one political party for self-serving reasons in recent weeks. We are outraged to see the president attack the latter.

CPR is committed to meaningful public participation in all of America’s democratic institutions. We believe such participation is essential for ensuring more just and effective policies, but also for imbuing those policies with legitimacy and public confidence. Public participation is critical to empowering all Americans to have their say in our centuries-long project of forming a more perfect union.

As of early this afternoon, the presidential election is still undecided. Millions of votes in states that will ultimately determine the outcome remain uncounted. We join with others in demanding that those states be allowed the freedom to complete those counts without political interference.

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Nov. 4, 2020 by David Flores
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The Virginia General Assembly has wrapped a special legislative session to reform the Commonwealth’s budget. The story Virginians often hear is that lawmakers were busy pursuing social justice, spurred on by COVID-driven economic hardships and a historic demand for reforms. However, this story belies the fact that the Assembly failed to pass the meaningful social justice reforms called for by working-class Virginians, while giving away half a billion dollars in customer overcharges to Dominion Energy’s shareholders.

With the climate and COVID crises at the fore, state and local environmental regulation and decision-making has taken on greater weight. As CPR Policy Analyst Katlyn Schmitt points out in a new paper, there is still some low-hanging fruit to be picked before Virginians can be equitably served by and participate in the Commonwealth’s environmental decision-making process.

For one, public notice and comment procedures for proposed environmental rules …

Oct. 30, 2020 by Matthew Freeman
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Seventeen years ago, I had lunch at a suburban diner with Rena Steinzor, then a stranger to me, now an old friend. She'd found me through a colleague at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who'd suggested to her that I might be able to work with her and the other founding members of what was then the Center for Progressive Regulation as they sought to add some media know-how to their fledgling organization. If you've ever met Rena, you might know that her full-court press is second only to LBJ's. I took the gig, coming on board as a consultant, and have been here ever since.

Today, I take my leave after 17 terrific years. During that time, the organization has grown to be a true player on the issues we care about, producing smart, hard-hitting, idea-rich reports that create powerful intellectual ammunition for the progressive …

Oct. 29, 2020 by James Goodwin
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This week, I’m posting a new web article documenting the arbitrariness and subjectivity that cost-benefit analysis injects into regulatory decision-making, the latest installment in CPR’s Beyond 12866 initiative. Specifically, the piece explains how cost-benefit analysis deploys a wide variety of methodological techniques that can be clumsy, unscientific, ethically dubious, and, too often, downright absurd. As a result, the “information” that cost-benefit analysis generates is so lacking in credibility and rigor that it is arguably worse than useless. In many cases, agency decision-makers would be better off if the analysis had never been performed at all.

It is particularly important to understand the inescapable subjectivity and irrationality of cost-benefit analysis, since defenders of the methodology like to claim that it is necessary to ensure that objectivity and rationality guide regulatory decision-making. The web article offers several recent case studies unequivocally demonstrating how cost-benefit analysis consistently fails …

Oct. 28, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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If you want to know what the world will look like as the climate crisis ramps up, you don't need a crystal ball. In fact, you need look no further than the past few months of 2020. Western states are fighting record-breaking wildfires, major flooding has plagued the Midwest, and we are in the midst of a historic hurricane season. This year marked the second time in history that the National Hurricane Center ran out of “human names” for tropical storms. They are now using the Greek alphabet, with Hurricane Zeta currently on its way to the Gulf Coast.

On October 20, CPR convened a group of researchers, advocates, and community organizers to discuss how the increasing frequency of extreme weather may impact coastal communities, especially those near hazardous industrial facilities vulnerable to damage. In the event of a power outage or flood, for example, these facilities …

Oct. 22, 2020 by Katlyn Schmitt
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Earlier this month, Congress overwhelmingly passed America's Conservation Enhancement Act (ACE). The legislation's dozen-plus conservation initiatives include reauthorizations for important programs that help protect the Chesapeake Bay and wetlands across the country.

Among other provisions, the legislative package authorizes $92 million in annual funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program through 2025, a $7 million annual increase. The program provides funding for states, local governments, and other partners to take measures that improve Bay water quality, and it also helps coordinate restoration efforts in the watershed. While Congress has appropriated funds to the program every year since it was created in 1987, its authorization expired in 2005. This reauthorization and increase in funding are a good sign for the future of Bay cleanup efforts, provided, of course, that Congress follows through with appropriations at the authorized level.

ACE also established a …

Oct. 21, 2020 by Darya Minovi, Katlyn Schmitt
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Dangerous nitrate pollution has contaminated the groundwater that supplies private drinking water wells and public water utilities in several agricultural regions across the United States, posing a significant threat to people's health. A new report from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) indicates that this problem has reached Maryland's Lower Eastern Shore, an area that's home to hundreds of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and millions of chickens.

Nitrates are a compound formed when nitrogen, largely from manure and fertilizer, breaks down. When manure is overapplied or mismanaged, rainfall or irrigation can cause nitrates to trickle down through soil into groundwater resources. Tainted Tap: Nitrate Pollution, Factory Farms, and Drinking Water in Maryland and Beyond notes that a single poultry CAFO raising 82,000 laying hens can produce 2,800 tons of manure a year, more than three times the amount produced by the Maryland Zoo in …

Oct. 19, 2020 by James Goodwin
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This post was originally published on the Union of Concerned Scientists' blog. Reprinted with permission.

For many of us, the prospect of a Supreme Court with Judge Amy Coney Barrett giving conservatives a solid 6-3 supermajority is nightmare fuel. The consequences extend beyond hot-button social issues, such as women's reproductive rights or individual access to affordable health care. If confirmed, Barrett would likely spur the aggressive pro-business agenda that the Court has pursued under the auspices of Chief Justice John Roberts.

A key item on that agenda is overturning something called Chevron deference, which some business groups have made a top priority in their broader campaign to bring about, as former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon put it, the "deconstruction of the administrative state." In other words, changing this key doctrine would undermine the ability of Executive branch agencies to regulate on a huge range …

Oct. 15, 2020 by James Goodwin
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Recently, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) launched its Beyond 12866 initiative, which seeks to promote progressive regulatory reform as a key component of the progressive movement’s efforts to build a more socially just and equitable America. To accomplish this goal, though, we must come to grips with how the regulatory system is perpetuating racial injustice and reinforcing race-based inequities. In a new web article, I take this first step by sketching out some of the ways in which cost-benefit analysis has contributed to structural racism in the broader regulatory system.

As the piece explains, regulatory cost-benefit analysis purports to adhere to a kind of “moral objectivity,” which precludes considerations of important American values like equity, justice, and fairness. Conveniently, this studied “see no evil” approach has rendered the methodology an effective conduit for injecting racism into regulatory decision-making – much as facile claims of “color blindness …

Oct. 5, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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Amidst the president and First Lady testing positive for COVID-19, an embarrassing spectacle of a presidential "debate," and a pandemic that has now claimed more than 200,000 lives in the United States and 1 million worldwide, the West Coast wildfires have lost the attention of the national news cycle. But California and nearby states are still very much ablaze.

As I write, 70 active large fires are raging in 10 western states. More than a third of these are in California, where more than 2 million acres of land are currently burning (an area larger than the state of Delaware). Four of the five largest fires in the state’s history started in the last two months.

These historic fires have already killed at least 35 people, forced thousands to evacuate, and exposed hundreds of thousands to extremely hazardous levels of fine particulate matter, or …

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