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May 7, 2012 by Holly Doremus

40 Years Hasn't Taught Some Agencies Much About NEPA

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

You would think that by now federal agencies would have the NEPA process pretty well down. After all, it’s been the law since 1970, requiring that every federal agency prepare an environmental impact statement before committing itself to environmentally harmful actions. And it’s not that hard to do. Agencies just have to describe the action, alternatives to it, and their effects on the environment relative to not taking the action. Pretty straightforward, really, but a new decision from the 4th Circuit shows that there are still some agencies (and some federal judges) that don’t, or won’t, get it.

Back in the day, the architects of NEPA knew that some agencies would resist giving any real consideration to the environmental costs of their actions. So they designed the EIS requirement to force agencies not only to document the expected environmental impacts of proposed actions, but to release that information to the public, providing an opportunity for the political process to correct any overzealous pursuit of their primary missions.

With the help of citizens who were ready to litigate when NEPA’s procedures were bypassed, most federal agencies learned relatively quickly that they now …

May 4, 2012 by Chris Wold
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In the nearly 20 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into force, the linkages between trade and environmental harm have become clearer than ever.  Trade agreements can lead to significant adverse environmental impacts, particularly when countries do not have sufficient environmental laws, policies, and institutions—and trade alone will not increase the demand for higher environmental standards.  Instead, free trade agreements (FTAs) may lead to significant increases in pollution and serious adverse impacts from certain economic sectors. 

CPR Member Scholars Carmen Gonzalez, David Hunter, John Knox, and I sent a letter today to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to express our concerns. We argued that when the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative drafts trade promotion authority legislation to implement the Trans Pacific Partnership and other future trade agreements, it should include strong environmental protection provisions.   We make eight recommendations for …

May 3, 2012 by Rena Steinzor
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By CPR President Rena Steinzor and Media Manager Ben Somberg

Internal EPA emails obtained by CPR through a FOIA request reveal EPA officials’ frustration regarding the White House’s efforts to triangulate House Republicans’ ferocious attacks on regulations. A White House letter last year emphasizing regulatory costs but barely describing the lives saved and injuries avoided by strong protections angered environmental and public health advocates.  The newly released emails show that top EPA officials – who were not even consulted – were also not pleased.

On August 26 of last year, Speaker of the House John Boehner sent President Obama a letter requesting that the Administration provide a list of “planned new rules that would have an estimated economic impact of more than $1 billion.” The goal, of course, was to continue the GOP’s focus on the costs of regulations (the headline of Boehner’s press release: “Citing …

May 2, 2012 by David Hunter
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On one level, President Obama’s Executive Order issued Tuesday, “Promoting International Regulatory Cooperation,” seems benign enough.  After all, who would be against international cooperation and a desire to “reduce, eliminate or prevent unnecessary differences in regulatory requirements”?  Moreover, the Order on its face does little more than set out priorities and procedures for enhancing international regulatory cooperation.

Unfortunately, this Order is a one-way regulatory ratchet that leads only to deregulatory changes in the United States that at best will provide no new protection to U.S. citizens or the environment.  The Order is motivated solely to eliminate “unnecessary” differences in regulatory requirements that “might impair the ability of American businesses to export and compete internationally.” 

The priority for regulators is clear. Scour our regulations and compare them to those of our trading partners—or better yet simply let the U.S. Chamber of Commerce lead you …

May 1, 2012 by Noah Sachs
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a(broad) perspective

Today’s post is third in a series on a recent CPR white paper, Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership: Why the United States Should Ratify Ten Pending Environmental Treaties.  Each month, this series will discuss one of these ten treaties.  Previous posts are here.

Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal Adopted and Opened for Signature on March 22, 1989 Entered into Force on May 5, 1992 Signed by the United States on March 22, 1990 Sent to the Senate, May 17, 1991, and approved by the Senate on August 11, 1992

Loaded with toxic ash from Philadelphia waste incinerators, the Khian Sea, a cargo ship, left port in 1986 – and spent two years wandering at sea attempting to dispose the ash.  Some of the ash was dumped in Haiti as so-called “topsoil,” and the remaining ash disappeared …

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