This op-ed was originally published in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
"I'm not convinced it's real. I think it's nothing more than the flu. If I die from the virus, it was just meant to be," Thomas Seale, an attendee at the Sturgis Motorcycle rally, reportedly said of COVID-19.
An estimated 460,000 people who love motorcycle culture and the company of like-minded people attended the huge rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, population 7,000, for 10 days in August 2020. They rode around, had races, attended bike shows and concerts, and drank beer. Face masks were rare.
People told New York Times reporter Mark Walker about the core importance of the event: they met their spouses at earlier rallies, referred to their fellow participants as family, or had attended the rally for decades. When asked about the pandemic, the attendees explained they were not concerned enough to stay away or wear a mask, either because they did not believe that the virus was serious or they thought that if they got the disease, that outcome was intended.
As the country prays for relief from the global pandemic, what have we learned that could help us protect the environment better? Most alarming, I would argue, are COVID-19's revelations about the power of conspiracy theories and the antipathy they generate toward scientific experts.
Take "America's Doctor" and the dark rumors percolating on right-wing websites. Anthony Fauci is a "Deep-State Hillary Clinton-loving stooge." He was paid off to the tune of $100 million by Bill Gates, who has invested heavily in the development of vaccines for COVID-19 and corruptly opposes chloroquine, a life-saving cure. The genesis of the pandemic was a Chinese virology lab, where scientists deliberately created …
If you were the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as news of the coronavirus pandemic hit, what would you do to implement your mission to protect public health?
The best answer has three parts: first, determine what specific categories of pollution could exacerbate the disease; second, assemble staff experts to develop lists of companies that produce that pollution; and, third, figure out how the federal government could ensure that companies do their best to mitigate emissions.
Rather than take that approach, EPA enforcement chief Susan Bodine issued a memo late last month offering businesses assurance that EPA would overlook certain regulatory violations for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Public interest groups, already alarmed by the possibility that regulatory rollbacks at the agency would continue at a relentless pace despite the pandemic, were apoplectic …
Originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
As the United States slogs through year three of a deregulatory implosion, one truth has become clear: As practiced by the Trump administration, cost-benefit analysis has become a perversion of a neutral approach to policymaking.
To be forthright, I was never a fan of the number crunching. I thought it created the false impression that numerical estimates were precise, drastically understated benefits, buried controversial value judgments behind barricades of formulas, and depended on unreliable indicators of how much real people valued risk. But I understood it was here to stay when Cass Sunstein persuaded President Barack Obama to embrace it. The task for people like me became understanding how the methodology was practiced by economists so that we could make arguments critiquing its harsh applications.
The first sign of a crumbling structure was the shift among congressional conservatives …
This post was originally published as part of a symposium on ACSblog, the blog of the American Constitution Society. Reprinted with permission.
Now that they have a fifth vote, conservative justices will march to the front lines in the intensifying war on regulation. What will their strategy be? Two tactics are likely, one long-standing and one relatively new. Both have the advantage of avoiding the outright repudiation of Chevron v. NRDC, 467 U.S. 837 (1984), although, as a practical matter, the outcome will be the same.
The first is to pull most cases into Step One of Chevron, granting unto judges the exclusive authority to say what regulatory statutes mean when they use faux plain meaning words like (in)appropriate, (un)acceptable, and (in or un)feasible. As construed in multiple lower course opinions applying Chevron, such terms signify congressional intent that agencies gap-fill, making science-based …
Tens of thousands of thoughtful — and not so thoughtful — words have been written about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s substantive positions on issues the court will face. At least one question has not been addressed, however: Is Judge Brett Kavanaugh so ideological about certain topics that he veers toward sloppiness?
As a law professor, I spend a lot of time around first-year law students, introducing them to the professional standards that define a good lawyer. My advice includes three things they must never do: ignore inconvenient language in a law to distort its meaning; rocket off on tangents that have little to do with the subject at hand; and cite one law to support a conclusion in another area to which it does not apply.
Kavanaugh has done all three things in D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals opinions …
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt recently opened another front in his battle to redirect the agency away from its mission to protect human health and the environment. This time, he cobbled together a proposed rule that would drastically change how science is considered during the regulatory process.
Opposition soon mobilized. In addition to the traditional forces of public interest groups and other private-sector watchdogs, the editors of the most prominent scientific journals in the country raised the alarm and nearly 1,000 scientists signed a letter opposing the proposal.
This essay offers a contextual explanation of the reasons why scientists, who are typically loathe to enter the regulatory fray, are so alarmed.
In normal times, when agencies must evaluate the scientific evidence that informs a significant policy decision about health or environmental hazards …
On June 5, a 19-year-old construction worker named Kyle Hancock was smothered to death when a deep trench where he was working collapsed. R.F. Warder Inc., the construction company that hired Hancock to help fix a leaking sewage pipe, and the bosses it employed are responsible for his death, plain and simple. Their failure to shore the trench to prevent a collapse was grossly negligent, readily foreseeable, eminently preventable and, therefore, criminal.
The scene of the incident was gruesome. To recover Hancock's body, emergency responders from the Baltimore Fire Department first shored the trench to protect themselves and then worked painstakingly until 1:30 a.m., digging with hand shovels 20 feet down. Before they began the rescue effort, they had to order two other workers out of the hole. We can assume from this fact that Hancock …
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
The spirited conservative attack on regulatory guidance is both puzzling and hypocritical. Admittedly, agencies sometimes issue guidance to avoid the quicksand of informal rulemaking. But the law makes clear that without full-dress procedure, guidance can never replace rules and statutes in enforcement actions. Remedying agency overreach in the rare circumstances when enforcement cases are based primarily on guidance is a straightforward legal matter—defendants have only to tell their problems to a judge. Given the acute problems of hollow government and browbeaten civil servants these days, an irate defendant likely need only threaten to sue to compel an agency’s general counsel to back down.
The attack on guidance, like many other aspects of the latest chapter in the ongoing war on regulation, is also hypocritical. A huge swath of regulation was designed and is implemented to protect …
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has wasted little time portraying himself as the prosecutor-in-chief of street — as opposed to white collar — crime, rejecting this month even a broadly bipartisan effort to reduce sentences for nonviolent crime supported by a coalition that spans the Koch brothers and the NAACP.
Civil enforcement has also fallen off, as documented in investigative reporting by The New York Times and others. Both trends will almost certainly continue given the more subtle sabotage of corporate enforcement implemented in a series of largely overlooked policy changes announced by memoranda and speech.
The campaign began last June, when Sessions wrote a memorandum to U.S. attorneys and DOJ senior managers instructing them not to enter into any settlements that provide for a "payment or loan to any non-governmental entity." His targets were the nonprofit groups enlisted to provide counseling …