Aug. 18, 2009 by Ben Somberg

Bottled Water in the News

If you haven't caught it yet, Mother Jones magazine's cover article on Fiji Water, by Anna Lenzer, is an impressive, provocative bit of reporting ("How did a plastic water bottle, imported from a military dictatorship thousands of miles away, become the epitome of cool?"). Fiji responded, and Lenzer responds to that.

Aug. 17, 2009 by Holly Doremus

This item cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet.

In April, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked a federal court to vacate a last-minute Bush administration rule relaxing stream buffer zone requirements for dumping waste from mountaintop removal mining. Salazar said that the rule didn’t pass the smell test, and that it had been improperly issued without ESA consultation. Environmental groups which had challenged the rule welcomed Salazar’s announcement, but the National Mining Association, which had intervened in support of the rule, vigorously opposed it. Wednesday, Judge Henry Kennedy of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., denied  Salazar’s motion. Where no court has ruled on the merits, he said, an agency cannot unilaterally repeal a rule without going through the normal notice and comment procedure required by the Administrative Procedure Act.

The ruling is frustrating for opponents of mountaintop removal mining, who are convinced …

Aug. 15, 2009 by Ben Somberg

At Netroots Nation, the annual liberal blogger conference, organizations, candidates, and of course bloggers get together to talk. It's informal. North Carolina's Rep. Brad Miller, among several electeds at the conference, was sporting jeans by Friday.

The focus among the environmental folks, not surprisingly, is climate change. The enviros here have qualms with the Waxman-Markey bill, but most are in the mindset of trying to get a Senate bill passed.

Speaking on a panel Friday, Rep. Jay Inslee, of Washington, expressed some optimism. He said that he, along with fellow Energy and Commerce Committee members Markey and Boucher, had met with a group of 14 "moderate" Senators, and: "I've never seen this happen before ... There were members of the U.S. Senate actually listening to members of the U.S. House." He said these Senators were, as the saying goes, looking for ways to …

Aug. 14, 2009 by Rena Steinzor

By now, followers of the controversy over the appointment of Cass Sunstein to serve as Obama Administration “regulatory czar” can do little but shake their heads in astonishment. The controversy over the Harvard professor’s nomination to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has taken on a picaresque quality, as one bizarre delay follows another. The latest development in the Sunstein saga is reportedly the placement of another, as-yet unidentified senatorial hold on the nomination, perhaps at the behest of cattle rancher and National Rifle Association interests, with Majority Leader Harry Reid promising to take steps in September to release the nominee from limbo.

Meanwhile, as I have noted before in this space, like other nominees with delayed confirmations, Sunstein appears to be in firm control of his 50-odd person staff at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) where he has worked in …

Aug. 13, 2009 by Rebecca Bratspies

This is one of two posts today by CPR member scholars evaluating NY Gov. David Paterson's recent executive order on regulations; see also Sid Shapiro's post, "New York Governor Channels Ronald Reagan: Governor Paterson’s Flawed Plan to Review Regulations."

It is open season on environmental, health, and safety regulations in New York. Last Friday, August 7, Governor Paterson issued an Executive Order directing his public safety agencies to review all of their regulations with an eye toward eliminating any that are “unnecessary, unbalanced, unwise, duplicative or unduly burdensome.

This language could have been lifted directly from anti-regulation lobbying groups. The Governor's press release actually touts: "Streamlined Regulations Will Better Protect the Health, Safety and Welfare of all New Yorkers." Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Order requires each agency to conduct a 60 day comment period and then select at …

Aug. 13, 2009 by Sidney Shapiro

This is one of two posts today by CPR member scholars evaluating NY Gov. David Paterson's recent executive order on regulations; see also Rebecca Bratspies' post, "Paterson's Executive Order: Win for Industry, Loss for Public Health and Safety."

Who knew? With his newly announced plan to require New York departments and agencies to look back at proposed and existing regulations, Governor Paterson placed himself squarely in the anti-regulatory tradition of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. Like Governor Paterson, these presidents created a look-back process to identify regulations that they said needed to be reformed. The history of White House look-backs suggest the New York is at a minimum misguided and could well be harmful to New York residents.

Shortly after being elected, President Reagan created the Task Force for Regulatory Relief, headed by then Vice-President George Bush, to create a …

Aug. 11, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones

One of the ongoing tensions in environmental law is the conflict between uniformity and flexibility, constancy and change. Many of the environmental successes over the past thirty years derive from uniform standards that are straightforward to administer and enforce. The Clean Water Act’s requirement, for example, that all industrial polluters are obligated to utilize the same end-of-pipe, technology-based pollution controls is responsible for dramatically cleaning up our waters.

There are, of course, still more low-hanging fruit to be addressed under our existing laws, but building upon the environmental gains we have made is also challenge. The remaining problems are often complex, the pollution sources more dispersed, ecosystems change. Developing policies to clean up or prevent a particular mess is one thing, but developing policies that respond to new scientific information and promote ecosystem health more broadly is quite another. Environmental managers, regulators, and policymakers are thus …

Aug. 11, 2009 by Holly Doremus

This item cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet.

When it comes to climate change, lawyers and policymakers (and scientists too) have been guilty of emphasizing greenhouse gas emission reduction, almost to the exclusion of everything else. Adapting to climate change has taken a distant back seat, even as it has become increasingly clear that the world is already committed to some pretty dramatic changes.

That’s beginning to change. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Global Change Research Program issued a major report detailing the present and expected future impacts of climate change in the U.S. Scientific studies with troubling data continue to pile up, like this one published this week by researchers from the US Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center finding that large-diameter trees are declining in Yosemite National Park, an effect they attribute primarily to water stress and expect to accelerate as …

Aug. 10, 2009 by Matthew Freeman

CPR's Sid Shapiro is interviewed in this week's edition of Living On Earth, the environment-focused public radio show heard in 300 markets around the nation.  The subject is David Michaels's nomination to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.   Says Shapiro:  "David Michaels has his job cut out for him. I think it's fair to say that OSHA is one of the most dysfunctional agencies in Washington. For example, Congress had a plan how to regulate toxic chemicals in the workplace. And OSHA has been almost unable in the last ten years or so to fulfill that plan. In fact, it's only issued three health regulations in roughly the last 10 to 15 years."   Text of the interview is here.  It's downloadable, here.  And streamed, here.

Aug. 10, 2009 by Wendy Wagner

On Wednesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center's Science for Policy Project released its report (press release, full report) on the use of science in regulation-making. I was on the panel and thus am a bit biased, but I think the report makes a terrific contribution. It significantly narrows the range of positions that can be credibly debated about the appropriate level of oversight needed to ensure the quality of regulatory science. At the same time, it introduces some important new ideas for improving science-policy, like creating incentives for scientists to provide stronger peer review. In the process of finalizing the report, we all had to make some concessions. Rather than feeling that the resulting recommendations were of the lowest-common-denominator type, however, I believe the entire panel felt that the report contains a lot of specific details that, if implemented, would be dramatic improvements on the status quo …

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