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Feb. 17, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones

Cap-and-Evade: Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and the Clean Air Act

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: climate change is different from traditional environmental problems. It’s global, for one thing. Carbon dioxide isn’t a traditional pollutant, for another. It doesn’t cause cancer. It doesn’t kill fish. Plants use it in photosynthesis; every human and animal emits it. The problem is that combustion creates it, too, which is why our modern, engine-loving world has too much.

 

CO2 is also fungible. One ton of CO2 is as good or bad as any other. So, the thinking goes, trading greenhouse gas emissions makes good sense: under such a program, sources will either reduce their emissions or pay to emit, but as long as the cap is stringent enough, emissions will decrease overall. And those localized concentrations of pollution that environmentalists ordinarily worry about when it comes to trading regimes, those pesky hot spots? Not a problem, because CO2 is harmless in large concentrations. Unlike a thick cloud of benzene or mercury, a hot spot of CO2 won’t kill you.

 

But climate change isn’t different from traditional environmental problems in some important ways, too, and this crucial point is missing …

Feb. 16, 2009 by Matthew Freeman
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Editor’s Note: Following is the last of four posts focused on federal preemption issues and featuring CPR Member Scholars Thomas McGarity and William Buzbee. In December, both published books on the issue. (The first blog post in the series includes some background on the issue. The second discussed the very real impact the outcome of the debate has on individuals. The third looked at the prospects for progress on the issue under the Obama Administration.) McGarity’s book is The Preemption War: When Federal Bureaucracies Trump Local Juries. Buzbee’s is Preemption Choice: The Theory, Law, and Reality of Federalism's Core Question, and features chapter contributions from 15 experts, including Buzbee and McGarity, as well as a number of other CPR Member Scholars. We asked Professors McGarity and Buzbee to discuss the books and the issue, and here's the final installment of that conversation …

Feb. 13, 2009 by Matthew Freeman
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Editor’s Note: Following is the third of four posts focused on federal preemption issues and featuring CPR Member Scholars Thomas McGarity and William Buzbee.  In December, both published books on the issue.  (The first blog post in the series includes some background on the issue.  The second discussed the very real impact the outcome of the debate has on individuals.)  McGarity’s book is The Preemption War: When Federal Bureaucracies Trump Local Juries.  Buzbee’s is Preemption Choice: The Theory, Law, and Reality of Federalism's Core Question, and features chapter contributions from 15 experts, including Buzbee and McGarity, as well as a number of other CPR Member Scholars.

We asked Professors McGarity and Buzbee to discuss the books and the issue, and here’s the third installment of that conversation:

 

What's the outlook on preemption? Do we think the Obama Administration will take a …

Feb. 12, 2009 by Yee Huang
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From the airspace over the Indonesian gold mine Batu Hijau, it might seem as though the mythical King Midas has been resurrected in a modern, and twisted, form.  Where King Midas of Greek lore was granted the touch of gold, the modern King Midas assumes the form of a global mining company that, in a myopic and endless search for gold, turns everything it touches into a dull, deserted, and toxic wasteland. 

The National Geographic’s January issue investigates the modern gold rush, undertaken not by pioneers headed out to the North American west but by thousands of individuals in mostly developing countries, hoping to eke out a better existence.  With the current financial market in shambles, investors are turning to gold as a safe investment, driving up prices and exacerbating the frenetic pursuit.  In 2007, India purchased 20 per cent of the world gold market at …

Feb. 11, 2009 by Margaret Giblin
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Both versions of the economic stimulus package – that passed by the House and by the Senate – include funding for the National Park Service.  The bill the House passed last month would allocate $1.7 billion to the National Park Service for “projects to address critical deferred maintenance needs within the National Park System, including roads, bridges and trails,” operation of the National Park System, and for “projects related to the preservation and repair of historical and cultural resources” in the parks.  The bill passed by the Senate includes $747 million for the Park Service to use for operation and construction, after $55 million for historic preservation in the parks was cut from a previous version of the bill as part of a compromise amendment. 

The discrepancy in the amount of funding will have to be revisited in conference committee, but whether the ultimate amount is $1.7 …

Feb. 10, 2009 by Rena Steinzor
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We’ve written a great deal about Cass Sunstein, the Harvard law professor who is expected to get the nod to be the “regulatory czar” for the Obama Administration.   In a nutshell, our concern is that Sunstein will stifle the efforts of health, safety, and environmental protection agencies to struggle to their feet after eight long years of evisceration by the Bush Administration’s regulatory czars, John Graham, and his protégé, Susan Dudley.

 

But, we got to thinking, just because the 30-year tradition of regulatory czars is to kill regulations, leaving people to fend for themselves in the “free” market, should not mean that regulation-killing is the only thing in the job description.   What if “regulatory czar” was the person ultimately responsible for making sure the Executive Branch produces good and needed regulations, cracking the whip to make sure we had rules to make sure kids don …

Feb. 9, 2009 by Robert Verchick
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About thirty miles from my front door, heavy barges are dumping rocks into Louisiana's Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO), hoping to permanently plug the de-commissioned shipping channel before the end of the next hurricane season. It's a big plug. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that the structure will weigh 430,000 tons, "with a base 450 feet wide, tapering to 12 feet wide at the top." The rock wall "will jut 7 feet from the water's surface and be 950 feet long. It will cover 10 acres of the channel bottom." The MRGO--or as locals say, "Mr. Go"-- opened some 45 years ago as a shipping shortcut – sort of like a highway bypass that, in this case, allows commercial river barges to avoid a winding part of the Mississippi and instead zip straight to New Orleans. Activists have been trying to close it down for …

Feb. 6, 2009 by Margaret Giblin
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One logical response to the constant news of the economic recession is cutting back on discretionary purchases and developing a household budget.  That is, if we know that times are tough and that we may encounter difficulties sustaining the lifestyle we’ve grown accustomed to, we take stock of our circumstances and plan for the future.  We look at our current income and expenses, project our future income as best as we are able, and adjust future expenses in the budget to match future income.

What if, instead, in the face of all the economic indicators that tough times are ahead, we stuck our heads in the sand, continued spending as always (or even increased spending) and hoped for the best?  Most would probably agree that at best, it would seem a risky path to tread. 

And yet, that’s the path we’ve chosen to take …

Feb. 5, 2009 by Matt Shudtz
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More evidence that EPA is starting to find its bearings after eight years of hibernation: in an interim report on the year-old Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program, EPA admits that asking companies who work on nanomaterials to voluntarily conduct and disclose research on health and environmental hazards isn’t producing much useful information. As a result, the agency is going to start considering how to use its powers under the Toxic Substances Control Act to require data submission.

 

The Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program “was developed to help provide a firmer scientific foundation for regulatory decisions by encouraging submission and development of information for nanoscale materials.” It is comprised of two parts: the Basic Program (which asks companies to voluntarily report any information they have about the nanomaterials with which they work); and the In-Depth Program (which asks for volunteer companies to sponsor research into the health and environmental …

Feb. 4, 2009 by James Goodwin
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Observers concerned with the current dysfunctional state of the U.S. regulatory system will be letting out a collective sigh of relief following the publication of Executive Order 13497.  Among other things, this Order officially revokes the controversial Executive Order 13422, issued during George W. Bush Administration.

 

Issued in 2007, Executive Order 13422 amended President Clinton’s September 1993 Executive Order 12866, which established an institutional framework for centralized regulatory review.  Generally speaking, under this framework, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)—an obscure but influential bureau in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB)—is authorized to review all major federal regulations and to do so through the lens of cost-benefit analysis.

 

Since its original publication, Executive Order 13422 has been criticized by many environmental, public health, and safety advocates, CPR Member Scholars among them, for creating an unnecessary barrier to the …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Feb. 27, 2009

OMB Seeks Public Input on New Executive Order on Regulatory Review

Feb. 26, 2009

Another Twist in the Mercury Air Pollution Saga

Feb. 25, 2009

Midnight Regulations: Congress Lends a Hand

Feb. 24, 2009

Water Footprints - Silently Splashing Along

Feb. 24, 2009

Time Magazine on Cass Sunstein/Cost-Benefit

Feb. 23, 2009

Milwaukee Reporters Earn Journalism Award for BPA Reporting

Feb. 20, 2009

The Backdoor Discrimination of Cost-Benefit Analysis