Reports & Papers

CPR White Papers and Issue Alerts offer timely and thoughtful analysis on current policy issues, spanning the full range of environmental, health, safety and regulatory issues.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s New Office of Public Participation: A Promising Experiment in 'Energy Democracy'

It is past time for federal regulatory agencies to better engage the public and incorporate their unique on-the-ground perspectives to inform their work and make better, fairer decisions. To its credit, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is taking steps to do so and has created a new leadership role focused on environmental justice and equity. A major structural change is also underway: after decades of delay, FERC is now creating a new Office of Public Participation (OPP) to empower the public through more inclusive and responsive policymaking processes. This report provides core constituencies — agency policymakers, advocates for energy justice, and members of the public who are concerned about our energy future — with the information they need to ensure the OPP achieves its goal of promoting greater energy democracy at FERC. It begins by describing FERC’s role in energy policy and how its actions impact Americans; it then reviews FERC’s progress thus far in constituting the OPP. Finally, it offers recommendations to ensure the OPP achieves its goals and lessons to enhance regulatory democracy and equity across all federal regulatory agencies.

Type: Reports (April 27, 2022)
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Author(s): Shelley Welton, Hannah Wiseman, James Goodwin, Alexandra Klass
Private Courts, Biased Outcomes: The Adverse Impact of Forced Arbitration on People of Color, Women, Low-Income Americans, and Nursing Home Residents

A tidal wave of corporate contract provisions has forced consumers and workers into arbitration. Millions are now subject to such “agreements.” Most are unaware that they have lost the right to file a case in court; even those who are aware likely have no choice but to accept a ban on going to court because so many corporations impose forced arbitration. Congress must end forced arbitration and restore the capacity of individuals and the courts to hold businesses accountable for illegal and irresponsible actions that disproportionally harm historically marginalized communities. Congress must also restore access to class action lawsuits, which is how historically marginalized communities can effectively hold corporations accountable for widespread discrimination and other harms. And Congress must restore the authority of federal judges to enforce laws protecting women and people of color from discrimination and workers from wage theft, to guarantee these laws provide the protections intended.

Type: Reports (Feb. 9, 2022)
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Author(s): Sidney Shapiro, Michael C. Duff, Thomas McGarity, M. Isabelle Chaudry
Tanks for Nothing: The Decades-Long Failure to Protect the Public from Hazardous Chemical Spills

Throughout most of the U.S., the public is not protected from spills and other disasters involving storage of hazardous chemicals — including toxic and flammable substances — in aboveground tanks. For decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and most states have refused to act to protect the health and safety of workers and communities, as well as water and natural resources, from the threat of hazardous chemical tank fires, spills, and explosions. In the absence of federal action, 10 states have established comprehensive programs that impose registration, inspection, and design and siting requirements to prevent releases from aboveground chemical storage facilities. Some of these state programs were enacted by lawmakers in response to catastrophic incidents, like a fatal explosion in Delaware or the Elk River leak in 2014 in West Virginia that contaminated drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents. Several years ago, Virginia studied the issue of unregulated chemical storage and found that aboveground storage tanks pose a threat to the safety of Virginians and their drinking water. At that time, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recommended action, but policymakers chose instead to wait on an EPA rule that never came.

Type: Reports (Dec. 8, 2021)
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Author(s): David Flores, Darya Minovi, Johnathan Clark
The False Promise of Carbon Capture as a Climate Solution in Louisiana and Beyond

Carbon capture use and storage (“carbon capture”), heavily promoted by the coal, oil, and gas industries, is now at the center of the national climate policy debate. Today when industries burn fossil fuels, the resulting carbon dioxide and methane soars into the atmosphere, traps heat, and contributes to climate breakdown. Using carbon capture technology, industries claim they will recover post-combustion carbon dioxide from their flues and smokestacks and either “store” the gas permanently underground in sedimentary rock or “use” the gas to recover oil or make other products. Proponents claim it’s a win-win — benefiting both the planet and the fossil fuel industry. But, on closer inspection, the large-scale roll-out of such technologies is a false promise.

Type: Reports (Dec. 1, 2021)
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Author(s): Katlyn Schmitt, Robert Verchick, Karen Sokol, David Flores
Preventing "Double Disasters"

It’s past time to address “double disasters” — hazardous chemical releases by industrial facilities that are worsened by inadequate action in the face of conditions of climate change and natural disasters. As the global climate crisis intensifies, coastal and inland communities are increasingly at risk of natural disasters. When industrial facilities in these communities fail to adequately prepare for extreme storms, wildfires, earthquakes, heat waves, floods, rising sea levels, and other natural disasters, hazardous chemicals stored onsite can ignite, explode, and there may be dangerous and even catastrophic releases that threaten the health and safety of workers and the public. This can lead to a cascading series of harms, including toxic chemical exposures, on top of the effects of the storm itself. This brief spotlights this urgent issue, proposes policy solutions, and calls on federal leaders to take bold and prompt action to solve this problem.

Type: Reports (July 7, 2021)
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Author(s): David Flores, Darya Minovi
CPR Climate Justice Initiative: Charting a National Path Forward through the California Example

Commitments to ensure an equitable clean energy transition are gaining traction, with some states dedicating a portion of clean energy funding to historically marginalized communities and the Biden-Harris administration proposing to dedicate 40 percent of federal climate funds to achieving climate justice. These commitments are essential to realizing an energy transition for communities that would otherwise be left further behind and can help alleviate longstanding inequities. As these initiatives take shape, CPR is tapping the expertise of our climate and environmental justice scholars and our body of work on climate justice. Over the next two years, we'll dig into the California example, researching the state's track record in implementing climate justice programs.

Type: Reports (April 19, 2021)
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Author(s): Alice Kaswan, Minor Sinclair
Voters Strongly Support Government Regulation to Protect Climate, Health, and Future Generations

A poll conducted by the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) and Data for Progress in January 2021 finds broad public support for a progressive climate agenda that relies on regulatory action, even if it means slower economic growth. It also shows that the public opposes the process the government currently uses to assess the costs and benefits of regulations because it undervalues clean air, safe water, and a healthy climate. Poll results and analysis are available below.

Type: Reports (Feb. 25, 2021)
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Author(s): James Goodwin
Restoring Scientific Integrity to the Regulatory System Means Overhauling Cost-Benefit

In his latest article on the need for regulatory reform, James Goodwin writes that overhauling cost-benefit analysis is crucial to restoring scientific integrity. He writes, "blind-to-reality calculations are sadly commonplace in the practice of the unique form of cost-benefit analysis that now dominates in the U.S. regulatory system. Defenders of the approach claim that it makes regulatory decision-making more 'rational' and insulates the process against improper political or subjective considerations. Yet ... the methodological techniques this form of cost-benefit analysis uses can be arbitrary, unscientific, ethically dubious, and at times even absurd."

Type: Reports (Oct. 28, 2020)
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Author(s): James Goodwin
Tainted Tap: Nitrate Pollution, Factory Farms, and Drinking Water in Maryland and Beyond

CPR's close look at nitrate pollution in drinking water on Maryland's Eastern Shore raises serious safety concerns. According to county data in the region, tens of thousands of residents are drinking water with elevated nitrate levels, almost certainly due to animal waste from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) nearby. Moreover, the state's lax requirements for well water testing makes it impossible to know just how widespread the problem is.

Type: Reports (Oct. 21, 2020)
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Author(s): Katlyn Schmitt, Darya Minovi
Climate, Energy, Justice: The Policy Path to a Just Transition for an Energy-Hungry America

With the nation approaching a pivotal election, 19 CPR Member Scholars contributed to a series of white papers proposing policy solutions for a just transition from carbon-based energy to renewables, with a particular focus on the environmental justice implications.

Type: Reports (Oct. 14, 2020)
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Author(s): Shalanda H. Baker, William Buzbee, Alejandro Camacho, Daniel Farber, Robert Fischman, Victor Flatt, Robert Glicksman, Alice Kaswan, Alexandra Klass, Christine Klein, Sarah Krakoff, Joel Mintz, Uma Outka, Dave Owen, Dan Rohlf, Karen Sokol, Joseph Tomain, Hannah Wiseman, Sandra Zellmer

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