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March 31, 2022 by Brian Gumm

Center for Progressive Reform Honored with Wisconsin-based Peace Award

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled back to my home state to accept an award on behalf of the Center for Progressive Reform. The first-ever De Prey Peace Awards, named for Sheboygan, Wisconsin, peace activist Ceil De Prey, honor individuals and organizations whose work, volunteerism, and advocacy contribute to peace, a stronger democracy, and a better, more inclusive world for future generations.

Over the course of her life, De Prey has advocated for peace and worked to improve the lives of those around her. This included her past work as a medical researcher and volunteer efforts in every community she lived in. In just one example, for many years, First Congregational United Church of Christ of Sheboygan served what it called “Ceil’s Meal,” which brought together area residents from all walks of life to share meals. Many of the dishes featured at the events were based on De Prey’s own recipes. De Prey is also a cancer and stroke survivor.

The De Prey Peace Awards were coordinated by the local Giving Back Campaign to preserve De Prey’s legacy, and they were presented in conjunction with her 87th birthday celebration on March 19.

While the Center for …

Feb. 28, 2022 by Daniel Farber
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This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.

The environmental justice movement began with a focus on neighborhood struggles against toxic waste facilities and other local pollution sources. That focus now includes other measures to ensure that vulnerable communities get the benefit of climate regulations. The most powerful tool for assisting those communities, however, may be the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The NAAQS (pronounced "knacks") are supposed to be the maximum amount of air pollution consistent with protection of public health and welfare.

Air pollution is the biggest threat to low-income communities and communities of color. As the American Lung Association has said:

    "The burden of air pollution is not evenly shared. Poorer people and some racial and ethnic groups are among those who often face higher exposure to pollutants and who may experience greater responses to such pollution. Many studies have …

Feb. 23, 2022 by Allison Stevens
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A native of southeast Los Angeles, Laura Cortez was exposed to a heavy dose of toxic pollution as a child. She grew up near an oil refinery, industry warehouses, and railroad tracks, with trains barreling through at all hours of the night. Her elementary school was located near a major highway — a passthrough for tens of thousands of trucks every day — and her high school was also sited next to train tracks. 

Now co-executive director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, a grassroots advocacy group, Cortez is working to protect residents of her community and others in the region from the harmful effects of pollution on health and well-being. She shared her story last week with members of Congress to call attention to environmental racism and build support for landmark legislation that would begin to address it. 

“My reality is not an exception,” she told members …

Feb. 17, 2022 by Jake Moore
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Land and Emergency Management recently released its draft Environmental Justice Action (EJ) Plan. What's inside?

First, some background: After entering office, President Biden signed a pair of executive orders directing federal agencies to pursue environmental justice. The first focuses on narrowing entrenched inequities furthered by standing agency policy, and the second orders agencies to shrink their climate-harming footprints. Together, these orders offer the public an immense opportunity to combat environmental injustice.

The EPA has since directed its Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) to evaluate current and best practices to meet the requirements of each executive order. As the office charged with overseeing the primary programs managing and containing hazardous substances, its policies hold great potential in mitigating risks faced by at-risk communities.

The office's EJ Action Plan lays out four goals to guide and motivate …

Jan. 12, 2022 by Johnathan Clark
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On the morning of January 9, 2014, residents of Charleston, West Virginia, noticed an unusual licorice-like odor in their tap water. Within hours, a federal state of emergency was declared as 300,000 West Virginia residents were advised to avoid contact with their tap water, forcing those affected to rely on bottled water until the water supply was restored over one week later.

Even after service was restored, traces of the chemical remained detectable in Charleston's water supply months after the spill. The economy of the region was brought to an abrupt halt and nearly 400 people sought emergency room care with symptoms of nausea, headaches, and vomiting.

The cause of the contamination was methylcyclohexane methanol (“MHCM”), a chemical used in industrial coal processing. Roughly 11,000 gallons of the substance had leaked from a severely corroded aboveground storage tank located a mile and a half north …

Dec. 8, 2021 by Darya Minovi, David Flores
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The Clean Water Act turns 50 next year.

This landmark law has led to some great environmental successes — waterways that were once basically open sewers have been returned to their former scenic beauty, capable of supporting aquatic life and providing drinking water to millions of Americans.

It has also made possible countless water protection careers in public service and private industry, as well as many types of pollution control technologies.

In at least one area, though, public protections related to the Clean Water Act have not advanced at all — despite Congress’ 1972 mandate to the contrary.

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of aboveground storage facilities containing hazardous chemicals — such as arsenic, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene — are not subject to state or federal rules designed to prevent and mitigate spills. These storage tanks sit along our industrialized waterfronts and at agricultural supply depots in our rural communities, threatening …

Dec. 1, 2021 by Katlyn Schmitt
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Carbon capture use and storage is at the center of the national climate policy debate, promoted by the oil and gas industry, the private sector, and even some environmental organizations as a solution to the climate crisis.

The federal infrastructure package that President Biden recently signed into law appropriates more than $10.3 billion for the nationwide buildout of carbon capture infrastructure. Preliminary deals on the Build Back Better Act also contain expansions of the primary federal tax credit incentivizing carbon capture (45Q Tax Credit). The fossil fuel industry is targeting Louisiana as an emerging hub for carbon capture, mainly because of the large concentration of industrial facilities that emit carbon dioxide in the stretch of land between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

While Louisiana must move quickly and aggressively in pursuit of climate change solutions, deploying carbon capture to reach net-zero emissions is not the answer …

Sept. 30, 2021 by Clarissa Libertelli
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Hurricane season hit Maryland hard this year, and even as it comes to a close, heavy rains continue to cause highway shutdowns and spread toxic floodwater. With the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) currently updating its rules and permits regarding stormwater, Marylanders have an opportunity to protect their communities against one of the most pernicious problems climate change poses for the region. 

Stormwater pollution occurs when heavy rain or snow is not absorbed by the ground due to oversaturated soil or impervious surfaces. The runoff sometimes reaches dangerous volumes, turning roadways into rivers and causing flash floods.

It also pollutes our environment: When runoff flows over rooftops, streets, and storm sewers, it collects trash, chemicals, bacteria, sediment, and other toxic and harmful substances that are carried into our waterways. Along the way, the polluted water passes through communities, evaporating and coating the surrounding environment with toxins …

Sept. 30, 2021 by Lisa Heinzerling
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This post was originally published on LPE Blog and is part of a symposium on the future of cost-benefit analysis. Reprinted with permission.

President Biden has made climate change and racial justice central themes of his presidency. No doubt with these problems in mind, he has signaled a desire to rethink the process and substance of White House review of agencies' regulatory actions. On his very first day in office, Biden ordered administrative agencies to ensure that this review does not squelch regulatory initiatives nor brush aside "racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations." At the same time, however, Biden reaffirmed the "basic principles" of a Clinton-era executive order on White House regulatory review, subjecting agencies' major rules to a cost-benefit test.

These twin inclinations – toward acting boldly on climate change and racial justice, and toward judging regulation using cost-benefit …

Sept. 2, 2021 by James Goodwin, Robert Verchick
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This op-ed was originally published in The Hill.

A few weeks ago, the Army Corps of Engineers made a startling announcement: It would give Sharon Lavigne and her neighbors in St. James Parish, La., a chance to tell their stories. The fact one of the world’s largest chemical companies has fought for years to keep Lavigne quiet tells you how commanding her stories are. Those stories may stop this particular company from building a multi-billion dollar chemical plant surrounding her neighborhood.

For this, we can thank a simple law, signed by President Nixon in 1970, called the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Unlike other environmental laws, NEPA doesn’t tell agencies what choices they must make — like where to erect a levee or whether to permit a plastics plant. But it does insist their choices be informed. So, before the Army Corps can approve a company …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
March 31, 2022

Center for Progressive Reform Honored with Wisconsin-based Peace Award

Feb. 28, 2022

Air Quality as Environmental Justice

Feb. 23, 2022

A Matter of Life and Death: Advocates Urge Congress to End Environmental Racism

Feb. 17, 2022

EPA's Environmental Justice Plan Needs Improvement and Community Review

Jan. 12, 2022

States Should Act to Protect People and Our Environment from Unregulated Chemical Tanks

Dec. 8, 2021

Aboveground Chemical Storage Tanks Threaten Our Communities. It’s Time for EPA and States to Act.

Dec. 1, 2021

The False Promise of Carbon Capture in Louisiana and Beyond