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April 28, 2021 by Minor Sinclair

Climate, Equity, and Worker Justice: Two Job Openings at CPR

It’s heartening to see that not all of the noise generated by the 2020 presidential campaign has dissipated in these post-election times.

President Biden pledged last week to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 — making good on a big campaign promise and possibly nudging some of us out of the still-skeptical category.

When I think about climate, I think about equity. Low-income people spend more of their paychecks on energy and transportation costs. Those sweet rebates on electric vehicles? They don’t go to people who can’t afford a new car, much less an electric one. As CPR Member Scholar Maxine Burkett notes, environmental degradation creates “sacrifice zones” — and communities of color pay the price. We simply cannot address climate change without addressing racism, and environmental racism in particular.

When I think about climate, I also think about jobs. Jobs that don’t expose workers to toxins, COVID-19, or abuse. Quality jobs for workers and communities that reduce our carbon footprint and facilitate our transition to a clean economy. Jobs with protections and security in a changing economy. We simply cannot protect public health and the environment without addressing workers’ rights.

With this in mind …

April 27, 2021 by James Goodwin
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President Joe Biden's April 28 speech to a joint session of Congress — his first major address since his inauguration — offers him a chance to outline and defend his policy priorities. He should use this opportunity to articulate a positive vision of regulation as an institution within our democracy and to champion the crucial role it plays in promoting the public interest.

Biden will likely focus much of his speech on his ambitious infrastructure plan, from which he can easily pivot to regulation. After all, robust regulations are essential to the success of the U.S. economy, no different from traditional "gray" infrastructure like roads, bridges, pipelines, and power lines.

Strong regulatory protections provide a foundation of trust, which is critical for keeping our economy humming. Imagine, for example, if the Biden administration's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its long overdue emergency temporary standard to protect …

April 26, 2021 by James Goodwin
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Making Congress functional again is having a moment. The debates over ending the filibuster and legislation to prevent hyper-partisan congressional districts have received the most attention in this space so far. But lawmakers did quietly take an important step forward on mending congressional dysfunction when they reinstated the practice of earmarking the federal budget, reversing a decade-old ban.

Lawmakers should build on this fix to the budget process by cracking down on “poison pill” appropriations riders, a gimmick that proliferated in the vacuum left by the earmark ban.

These riders are the inverse of earmarks, which direct federal agencies to spend a certain portion of funds on a specific activity (like building a bridge or community center, for example). Poison pill riders, on the other hand, bar agencies from using funds for certain activities. They don’t repeal agencies …

April 23, 2021 by Alejandro Camacho
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On April 22, the White House confirmed that President Joe Biden will nominate Tracy Stone-Manning to head up the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a federal agency charged with overseeing national monuments and other public lands, as well as key aspects of energy development.

A longtime conservation advocate, Stone-Manning has worked for the National Wildlife Federation, served as chief of staff to former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and advisor to Sen. Jon Tester, and led Montana's Department of Environmental Quality.

If confirmed, she will oversee an agency of the U.S. Department of Interior that was used and abused by the Trump administration, Interior Secretaries Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt, and Acting BLM Director William Pendley, who was removed from the post after serving illegally for more than a year. During the previous administration, the agency shrank national monuments, threw open the doors to fossil fuel extraction …

April 22, 2021 by Brian Gumm
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The Center for Progressive Reform's Connect the Dots podcast returns for Season Five. This season, guests and host Rob Verchick will focus on issues related to energy. Keep reading for a summary and to listen to Episode 1: Fight the Powers That Be.

In 2020, the world banded together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in 2021, the world continues to change, and we seem to be progressing forward. In turn, the spotlight shifts to another great calamity: climate change. The environmental crisis has made headlines with the Biden administration making climate mitigation and renewable energy top priorities.

With these advancements, researchers, corporations, innovators, and activists around the world are being tasked to follow suit. To stay united and take on another challenge: the transition to clean energy. But what does that entail exactly? How does a shift to renewables affect the average American household?

Scientists and …

April 20, 2021 by Minor Sinclair
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Racism runs much deeper than policing and law enforcement. Racial injustice is deeply embedded in our nation’s past and present. It is systemic, institutional, and interpersonal, but it is not insurmountable. It’s time for a national reckoning that takes racism and white supremacy seriously and delivers fully enforceable policies that stamp out discrimination in policing and all other institutions in our country. Black Americans and other marginalized people are entitled to the same tenets of life and liberty as guaranteed to white people. Systemic racism and lawlessness by state actors make that impossible.

Today, a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in May 2020. This is one small step toward accountability for those who perpetrate violence against Black people and other marginalized people. Still mourning the loss of George Floyd and calling out the names of Adam and …

April 20, 2021 by Darya Minovi
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Since President Joe Biden assumed office, environmental justice has been at the front and center of his administration. One key initiative: developing better mapping tools to identify communities that may bear a disproportionate burden of toxic pollution and climate change impacts. Biden’s environmental justice (EJ) plan emphasizes the value of these tools and the need to improve them.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current tool — known as EJSCREEN — dates to 1994, when President Bill Clinton issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to collect, maintain, and analyze information on environmental and human health risks borne by low-income communities and people of color.

The EPA published EJSCREEN in 2015. It integrates demographic data (such as percent low-income, under the age five, over age 65, etc.) and environmental pollution measures at the block group or census tract level nationwide. The mapped data provide a visual …

April 14, 2021 by Alina Gonzalez, Allison Stevens
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Scholars and advocates of color last week hailed the Biden administration’s efforts to ensure that disadvantaged communities reap the benefits of federal climate investments — but added that the administration must be held accountable for following through on it.

“This is our moment,” said Shalanda Baker, deputy director for energy justice at the U.S. Department of Justice and a Member Scholar with the Center for Progressive Reform who is on leave while serving in the administration. 

Others said the administration’s efforts don’t go far enough and instead called for an overhaul of governance, philanthropy, and an economy that exploits people of color and the planet.

The comments came during a day of dialogue among public officials and climate justice scholars, organizers, and funders representing the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community. Participants emphasized the importance of climate justice and culturally responsive climate …

April 13, 2021 by Katlyn Schmitt
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At midnight on April 13, Maryland’s 2021 legislative session closed out with the passage of a law (House Bill 1069) that will provide meaningful drinking water protections for tenants who rely on well water. The measure, sponsored by Del. Vaughn Stewart (D-Montgomery County), passed with bipartisan support in the Maryland Senate but faced hurdles in the House due to a last-minute filibuster attempt.

Public drinking water is regularly monitored and tested to meet certain safety standards set out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Safe Drinking Water Act. The safety of drinking water from a private well or smaller community system, on the other hand, is solely up to the owner of that well or system.

In CPR’s recent report, fellow Policy Analyst Darya Minovi and I found that Maryland lags far behind most states in terms of protections for well …

April 6, 2021 by Sarah Krakoff
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This commentary was originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.

A citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, Deborah Haaland is the first Native American woman to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Haaland will oversee the federal agencies that manage nearly 480 million acres of federal public lands, while the head of the U.S. Forest Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) manages the remaining 190 million acres.

Haaland and her colleague, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, have a tall double-order ahead. In his flurry of first-day executive orders, President Joe Biden announced the entwined goals of addressing racial, economic, and other forms of injustice, as well as tackling the country's most serious environmental challenges. Reflecting these goals, during his confirmation hearing, Vilsack pledged to address "discrimination in all its forms across USDA agencies," and "to root …

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