This commentary was originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
Ten years ago, I wrote an essay referring, in now quaint terms, to the “torrents of E-Mail” arriving on regulatory agency doorsteps, including several rulemakings that drew over 10,000 public comments. I have since argued that agencies needed to take these expressions of public views and preferences more seriously.
Over the last ten years, the volume of rulemaking comments has only grown. In 2021, the Government Accountability Office reported on the many millions of public comments submitted to rulemaking agencies between 2013 and 2017. The 2017 Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rulemaking generated over 20 million public comments, and over 4 million comments were submitted in the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2014 Clean Power Plan rulemaking.
These intermittent tidal waves of comments evidence the public’s hunger to participate in government. They also represent a serious management challenge for agencies, one compounded by reports of comments in certain high profile rulemakings attributed to people who did not submit them or to nonexistent people—not to mention comments submitted by bots. Without question, agencies must filter false and bot comments from their dockets and act to deter …
This op-ed originally ran in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
In an era when most Supreme Court opinions are sharply divided, recently the high court unanimously rejected Mississippi’s claim against Tennessee in a long-running dispute over the groundwater that lies beneath both states in a common aquifer.
The impacts of this case will extend far beyond Mississippi and Tennessee, as states compete with one another over limited water supplies.
When neighboring states fight over shared rivers, the law has been clear for more than a century: They can settle their differences either by negotiated agreements known as “interstate compacts” or they can ask the Supreme Court to divide up the waters through what is known as an “equitable apportionment.”
But until late November, it was not as clear how states should resolve brawls over water when it is found underground in geologic formations known as aquifers.
The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) joined Coming Clean and more than 100 organizations calling for major transformations to the chemical industry — a significant yet overlooked contributor to the climate crisis and toxic pollution in communities.
The groups unveiled new guidance this week for regulators, policymakers, advocates, and industry to phase out chemicals and their adverse impacts. The guidance – contained in the Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals – was first developed in 2004 by grassroots, labor, health, and environmental justice groups and updated this year to strengthen recommendations as the climate changes.
The updated charter includes 10 planks, or priority areas, alongside reports highlighting policy solutions to phase out persistent, toxic, and cumulative chemical pollution. CPR contributed to the background report for Plank #1, which calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), policymakers, and businesses to address the chemical and petrochemical industry’s contributions to climate …
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 …
Watch a 2-minute video from James Goodwin as he explains the regulatory system in an approachable and lighthearted way.
Over the last four decades, small government ideologues have waged a coordinated attack against government. The strategy has paid off: Public approval ratings of all three branches of government are at all-time lows.
Nevertheless, the federal government still manages to get things done on a day-to-day basis, and that is primarily due to the so-called 4th branch of government — the administrative and regulatory state that employs 2 million workers, invests trillions of dollars each year on things like air pollution monitoring and cutting-edge clean energy research, and makes rules that protect us all.
This is not to say …
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 …
Confirming expectations, the Supreme Court on Monday unanimously denied Mississippi’s claim that Tennessee is stealing its groundwater. If Mississippi wants to pursue its groundwater battle with Tennessee, it will have to file a new complaint with the court asking for an equitable apportionment of the Middle Claiborne Aquifer, which lies beneath Mississippi, Tennessee, and other states.
Defying everyone else’s agreement that equitable apportionment was its only cause of action, Mississippi argued before the Supreme Court that Tennessee had invaded Mississippi’s sovereign territory by allowing the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division to pump so much water from the aquifer that it created a cone of depression that extended across the state line and caused groundwater that naturally would have remained under Mississippi to flow into Tennessee. For this …
Less than two months after oral argument, in its first interstate groundwater case, the Supreme Court unanimously decided that Mississippi must rely on a doctrine known as equitable apportionment if it wants to sue Tennessee over the shared Middle Claiborne Aquifer. In an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court squarely rejected Mississippi's claim that Tennessee is stealing Mississippi's groundwater, noting that it had "'consistently denied' the proposition that a State may exercise exclusive ownership or control of interstate waters."
The Supreme Court's decision
As expected, the court's opinion in Mississippi v. Tennessee is short — 12 pages, half of which recount the long history of the case. Nevertheless, in this first opinion about states' rights to interstate aquifers, the court made three important decisions that are likely to guide …
During a historic hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform on October 28, the executives of ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute (API), refused to admit to their decades-long climate disinformation campaign that is now well-documented in publicly available documents uncovered by journalists and researchers.
If that weren’t enough, the executives continued to deny climate science under oath, albeit with a slight twist from their previous disinformation campaign. Instead of denying the science establishing that fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis, they’re now denying the science establishing the urgent need for a rapid transition away from fossil fuels.
In other words, they’re still lying — a strategy that was on full display in this blockbuster hearing.
The ultimate questions at hand were whether the chiefs of the oil and gas industry would:
The reactions are pouring in following the closing of the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow. Generally, while some progress was made, the news across the board is that not enough was accomplished to keep the planet under the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold necessary to stave off climate catastrophe. There was, however, a noticeable shift from years’ past: the U.S. presence.
President Joe Biden rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office, fulfilling a campaign promise immediately and noting to the world, “The U.S. is back.” At the meetings in Glasgow, it was clear the Biden administration wanted to show this return to global leadership by sending an extensive contingency to represent the U.S. government. In addition to Biden’s Climate Envoy John Kerry, 12 cabinet members and senior administration officials were tapped, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer …