Sept. 30, 2009 by Victor Flatt

Boxer-Kerry an Improvement over ACES on Offsets

This post is first in a series from CPR Member Scholars examining different aspects of the Boxer-Kerry bill on climate change, which was released today.

With respect to offsets, the Boxer-Kerry bill is a distinct improvement over the ACES. It allows a relatively strong approach to offset integrity, avoiding negative social or environmental effects, and facilitating possible integration with other systems. It also addresses some issues that will be important to the functioning of a trading market, but still leaves some uncertainties that could cause problems in the market.

Probably the most important difference between the bills is that the Boxer-Kerry bill does not specify which agency would be in charge of administering and ensuring the integrity of any offset program. In the House bill, a last minute compromise switched all of the administration of biological sequestration offsets to the USDA from the EPA, a change widely criticized by environmentalists because of the belief that the USDA would not be as effective in regulation. The Boxer-Kerry bill doesn’t specify any agency, instead referring to the executive branch actor only as “the President” (which means it could be delegated to one or more different agencies). Of particular interest is that …

Sept. 30, 2009 by Ben Somberg

The full 821-page bill is up here.

That's not to be confused with the 801-page pre-draft everyone was checking out yesterday, or the 684-page one earlier yesterday.

They’ve also got a section-by-section outline of the bill.

We'll have much more soon.

Sept. 30, 2009 by Yee Huang

This post is part of CPR’s ongoing analysis of the draft reports on protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay. See Shana Jones' earlier "EPA's Chesapeake Bay Reports: A First Look"

One of the continuing obstacles to cleaning up the nation’s waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay, is the pollution caused by non-point sources (NPS). In the recently released draft reports on protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay, the EPA attempts to address NPS in part by reinvigorating the “reasonable assurance” standard, and on this specific issue, the reports need improvement. Under the language in the draft report, EPA would fall short, as it has in the past, of fulfilling the promise of the standard. While an improvement on past efforts, EPA’s new definition of “reasonable assurance” provides only modest assurance that pollution from NPS will abate.

Unlike point sources (PS) of pollution that originate …

Sept. 29, 2009 by Shana Campbell Jones

Today PennFuture released a report finding that the amount of liquid manure applied to farms in Pennsylvania’s Octoraro watershed has increased by 40 percent over the past five years to 108 million gallons annually. The amount of nitrogen produced by livestock in the watershed is equal to the amount generated by approximately 370,000 people each year.

Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in the Octoraro watershed doesn’t stay in the watershed. The watershed, which includes parts of Lancaster and Chester counties, drains into the Susquehanna River, the Chesapeake Bay’s largest tributary. According to the report, 99 percent of all liquid manure produced in the Octoraro watershed is applied on fields within the watershed.

Everyone who follows Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts knows that the federal and state partners in the Bay Program make promises they don’t intend to keep because, ultimately, the states will …

Sept. 29, 2009 by Ben Somberg

Much of the battle to preserve and protect water resources happens at the state and local levels – in any number of policy choices advocated and made by individuals, organizations, companies, and governments. In recent years, water activists have begun to deploy a new tool geared to shape these decisions. Long-established in legal jurisprudence, the public trust doctrine holds that certain natural resources belong to all and cannot be privately owned or controlled because of their intrinsic value to each individual and society.

Restoring The Trust: Water Resources & The Public Trust Doctrine, A Manual For Advocates, by CPR Member Scholar Alexandra Klass and Policy Analyst Yee Huang, explores the specific application of the public trust doctrine to the protection of surface water and groundwater resources. The Manual introduces water and environmental advocates to both the opportunities and limitations of applying the doctrine to water protection efforts and …

Sept. 28, 2009 by Ben Somberg

This just in: trying to stop climate change will cost the world about $50 trillion a year, but the impacts of climate change will only cost about $1 trillion a year, so the choice is clear! That's the thesis of Bjorn Lomborg's op-ed in Monday's Washington Post.

Presumably the flooding of much of Bangladesh doesn't count for much, since those lives are totally worth less than ours, etc.

Update: For more on this, see Joe Romm and Miles Grant.

Sept. 25, 2009 by Ben Somberg

The Chemical Safety Board released its report Thursday on the 2008 explosion at the Imperial Sugar plant in Georgia, finding that the incident was "entirely preventable" (Reuters article, full report). Ken Ward Jr. gave helpful context for the announcement and followed up afterward with the criticism from unions for the Chemical Safety Board's "decision to not repeat its previous recommendations that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration write tough standards regulating combustible dust in America’s workplaces." Celeste Monforton applauded Georgia Senators Chambliss and Isakson for calling on OSHA to issue regulations on combustible dust.

Also on Thursday, a study by PEER announced that "Workplace Exposures Rise as OSHA Health Inspections Fall" --

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration is doing fewer health inspections despite more workplace exposures to toxic and hazardous substances, according to an analysis released today by Public Employees for Environmental …

Sept. 25, 2009 by James Goodwin

Issues of national security have always enjoyed a free pass when it comes to the use of cost-benefit analysis (CBA) as the primary form of making decisions.  For example, no military official or politician interested in keeping his job would ever dare publicly question whether the additional money spent on extra armor for tanks to keep soldiers safer could be put to better use somewhere else.

There are plenty of reasons why we are willing to accord national security decisions this special treatment.  For one thing, as Ezra Klein noted recently, “we're uncomfortable subjecting military demands to traditional economic analysis.”  Using CBA for military decisions necessarily puts us in a difficult ethical position:  It seeks to prioritize the goal of “efficiency” over values that many Americans hold truly sacred, such as the duty of protecting the lives of our soldiers.  These values often represent moral absolutes on …

Sept. 24, 2009 by Christine Klein

The interstate water wars have gone underground. For more than a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has been the arbiter of last resort to settle fights between states over the right to use surface streams that cross state lines. But now, the high Court may be asked to settle a long-standing feud between Mississippi and Tennessee over a vast underground formation—the Memphis Sand aquifer, which underlies about 10,000 square miles of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

The stakes are high, and the rhetoric inflammatory. Mississippi sued the City of Memphis, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and claiming that Memphis is stealing Mississippi’s “share” of the aquifer. The problem is that no one has ever determined the two states’ respective “shares” of the aquifer, and that Tennessee (and not merely Memphis) must be part of any lawsuit that makes such a …

Sept. 23, 2009 by Alice Kaswan

The Second Circuit's ruling Monday in State of Connecticut, et al. v. American Electric Power Company Inc., et al. revived a public nuisance lawsuit against the nation’s five largest electric power companies. The case opens the door to a potential judicial remedy for the alleged harm and increases the pressure on Congress and the Executive Branch to devise a more comprehensive solution to our greenhouse gas problem.

In an ideal world, would we give the task of designing facility-specific climate controls to the courts? Of course not. But we don’t live in an ideal world. Congress is paralyzed and EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act has not yet been translated into concrete limits on greenhouse gases. The Second Circuit’s decision maintains the courts’ traditional common law powers to adjudicate claims that one party’s actions are harming another. The other two …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Sept. 30, 2009

Boxer-Kerry an Improvement over ACES on Offsets

Sept. 30, 2009

Full Boxer-Kerry climate bill is up

Sept. 30, 2009

Reasonably Assured? The Chesapeake Bay and Reasonable Assurances

Sept. 29, 2009

PennFuture: Manure Increasing in Key Region Draining into Chesapeake Bay, Despite Pledges

Sept. 29, 2009

CPR Releases Manual on Water Resources and the Public Trust Doctrine

Sept. 28, 2009

WashPost Prints Lomborg

Sept. 25, 2009

Workplace Safety News This Week