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Feb. 15, 2021 by David Flores, Katlyn Schmitt

It's Time to Update Maryland's Outdated Water Pollution Laws

As a coastal state, Maryland is especially vulnerable to climate and ocean change — but important environmental protections are woefully out of date, endangering Marylanders' health, safety, economic welfare, and natural resources.

Maryland could take a step to rectify that this year. State lawmakers are advancing important legislation that would bring outdated water pollution rules up to speed and protect Marylanders and the environment.

Senate Bill 227 would require stormwater design standards and permits to reflect current rainfall patterns and put the state on a trajectory to assess and regularly update them in the future. We need appropriately designed stormwater practices to capture and treat greater rainfall volumes to reduce pollutants, like nitrogen and phosphorus, that contaminate water when it rains. And we need the standards to mitigate flooding and other physical impacts.

Hurricanes are increasing in frequency, size, strength, and rainfall volume, and they're following increasingly northward tracks into the mid-Atlantic.

Sea levels are rising, causing billions in property and road damages. In Maryland, levels are likely to rise between 0.8 and 1.6 feet — and possibly as much as two feet — by 2050. One foot of rise alone over that period would cost the state $2.5 billion …

Feb. 2, 2021 by Hannah Wiseman
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As President Biden continues to roll out executive orders prioritizing climate change, it is increasingly clear that there will be a relatively rapid U.S. shift toward renewable energy from the sun, wind and other sources.

Indeed, many states are already pushing ahead with ambitious renewable and clean energy policies. These policies will reduce air pollution, spur extensive economic development in rural areas and make progress on the climate front.

This “revolution,” as Biden calls it, is critical. But the bulk of renewables that have been built in the United States are large, centralized projects requiring thousands of miles of transmission lines — primarily in rural communities. A revolution that continues to prioritize these projects risks failure. It threatens to create an infrastructural path dependence like the one that “master builder” Robert Moses sparked in the 1950s. The federal highway …

Feb. 1, 2021 by Daniel Farber
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CPR Member Scholar Daniel Farber originally wrote this commentary for The Appeal.

Introduction

Big Tobacco’s Master Settlement Agreement in 1998 was the largest civil settlement in the nation’s history and a transformative moment in the industry’s control. The accord reached by 46 states, five United States territories, and the District of Columbia required tobacco manufacturers to pay the states billions of dollars annually in compensation for the public health crisis their products had created.

Today, an even bigger crisis looms, with increasing demands for accountability. Over a dozen federal cases have now been filed against oil companies, seeking damages for their role in causing climate change. With one exception, the cases have been brought by states or local governments that claim they and their citizens are suffering harm from climate change. (The exception is a case brought by Pacific Coast fishing companies for harm …

Dec. 11, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

A recent Ninth Circuit ruling overturned approval of offshore drilling in the Arctic. The ruling may directly impact the Trump administration's plans for oil leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). By requiring agencies to consider emissions when fossil fuels are ultimately burned, the Court of Appeals' decision may also change the way agencies consider other fossil fuel projects, such as gas pipelines.

In Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, environmental groups challenged the Interior Department's approval of an offshore drilling and production facility on the north coast of Alaska. In its environmental impact statement, the agency refused to consider the effects of the project on carbon emissions outside the United States.

On its face, as the court was quick to point out, the agency's position makes no sense. It's like assuming that if you …

Nov. 20, 2020 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

Without a Democratic majority in the Senate, President Biden will have to rely on administrative action to do the heavy lifting. It's clear that EPA has a central role to play in climate policy, but EPA does not stand alone. Other agencies also have important roles to play. Fortunately, the Biden transition team seems to have come to this realization.

A multi-agency approach is especially important because bold actions by EPA will face a skeptical audience in the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court. Thus, a diverse portfolio with many different actions from many agencies is prudent. Moreover, EPA is much more in the political spotlight, so any bold action on its part is sure to be met with a political firestorm. Other agencies may fly more under the radar.

The final reason for multi-agency action is that …

July 21, 2020 by Alexandra Klass
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Reprinted by permission of MinnPost.

Minnesota has a proud history of holding bad corporate actors accountable — from tobacco companies to opioid manufacturers — when they knowingly conceal damaging information about their products from regulators and the public. This is particularly true when that secrecy results in harm to public health, private property, and public resources.

In late June, Attorney General Keith Ellison acted in Minnesota’s tradition of guarding the public interest when he filed a consumer protection lawsuit against three of the nation’s largest fossil fuel entities — ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute (API). In the lawsuit, he seeks to recover civil penalties and restitution for the harm to Minnesotans caused by these companies’ decades-long efforts to intentionally mislead the public about the relationship between fossil fuels, the climate crisis, and the resulting harm to public health, agriculture, infrastructure, and the environment.

Described ‘potentially …

May 5, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, public health data continues to show that the virus’s worst effects are felt by communities already weighed down by the burden of multiple social and environmental stressors. As of May 3, in CPR’s home city of Washington, DC, African Americans account for 79 percent of coronavirus deaths, despite making up only 45 percent of the city’s population and 47 percent of diagnosed cases. This inequitable trend appears to be playing out across the country.

Widely cited research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has also connected long-term air pollution exposure and coronavirus mortality, prompting researchers to explore this link in their own communities. Using Harvard’s data, Tulane University’s Environmental Law Clinic mapped particulate matter emissions against parish-level health and COVID-19 data in Louisiana. Their findings confirmed the suspicions of local …

April 16, 2020 by Darya Minovi
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On April 29, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) will host a webinar to discuss the public health and policy implications of COVID-19 and to highlight the many policy parallels between the pandemic and climate change. The speakers include:

  • Daniel Farber, JD – CPR Member Scholar and Sho Sato Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Law, Energy, and Environment at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Monica Schoch-Spana, PhD – Senior Scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Senior Scientist in the Department of Environmental Health & Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH – Director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School

While data on COVID-19’s effects continues …

April 1, 2020 by David Flores
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Hundreds of thousands of Americans, from the southern California surf town of Imperial Beach to the rowhouse-lined blocks of Baltimore, are banding together to bring lawsuits against several dozen of the most powerful and wealthy corporations in the world. What do these residents and those from various coastal cities; the state of Rhode Island; Boulder, Colorado; and members of the West Coast's largest commercial fishing trade organization have in common?

All of these communities and businesses have been harmed – and are likely to experience future harms – as a result of global climate change, attributed to decades of production, promotion, and disinformation by multinational fossil fuel corporations. Government and business leaders are suing to hold these fossil fuel producers accountable, seeking compensation and other forms of redress, in state courts using tort law.

While residents may all suffer some harm from increased flooding driven by more intense rainfall …

March 19, 2020 by K.K. DuVivier
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This post is part of a series related to the March 12 Conference on Public Lands and Energy Transitions that was hosted by the George Washington University Law School's Environment and Energy Law Program.

Offshore wind holds huge promise as a renewable electricity source. Using existing turbine technologies, the U.S. potential is 2,058,000 megawatts (MW), enough to generate double the electricity demand of the entire United States in 2015. About 80 percent of that electricity demand is along the coasts, so getting the power to the public could prove easier than transmitting it from wind-rich midwestern states. Utilities from eight states up and down the East Coast from Maine to Virginia have committed to procuring 22,500 MW of offshore wind so far, and wind power appeared poised to take off when the Department of the Interior awarded 11 commercial offshore leases in 2016 …

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