Dec. 12, 2009 by Daniel Farber

legal planet test

Has the U.S. "exported" its carbon emissions to China by relying on China to manufacture so many of our goods?  There seems to be growing support for the idea that carbon emissions should be tied to consumption of goods rather than their manufacture, as the NY Times reported recently.  There is a grain of truth to the idea.  But consumer responsibility should be considered secondary.  The primary responsibility rests with producers.

Most of the debate has been about climate change.  But it may be easier to think through the issue in a less contentious context.  Consider the problem of water pollution in the Mississippi River, which results in the infamous dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.  Agricultural runoff in the Midwest is a big part of the problem.  A significant portion of the U.S. corn and soybean crops are exported to Asia.

Does this mean that Asians have a responsibility to help us solve our water pollution problem, maybe by paying Midwestern farmers to adopt more sustainable practices?  Have the Chinese "exported" their agricultural pollution problem to the U.S.?  This idea seems dubious.  It seems obvious that it is Americans who have the primary responsibility for …

Dec. 12, 2009 by Rena Steinzor

CPR President Rena Steinzor today responded to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's newly announced regulations for bring the state into compliance with the Clean Water Act requirements with respect to the Chesapeake Bay:

Governor Hogan's revised phosphorus regulations are a disappointment. The principal difference from Governor O'Malley's plan is that they will result in slower compliance with the requirements of the Clean Water Act and more pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. There's no avoiding the need to get pollution from agriculture under control if we're to save the Bay, and no good reason to slow down an already long-delayed effort.

Dec. 12, 2009 by Erin Kesler

U.S. EPA plans to conduct fewer in-person inspections and bring fewer cases against industrial rule-breakers over the next five years, the agency said in a recent document outlining its goals.

The agency aims to carry out 30 percent fewer inspections and evaluations than the past five years. It will seek to initiate 40 percent fewer civil cases, and it will keep criminal goals mostly static with 2012.

Officials have hinted at this shift in the past, but last month, it showed up in writing, when the agency released its draft strategic plan for 2014 through 2018. The 86-page document lays out all the expected goals -- address climate change, prevent pollution, protect waters -- with some new ideas for accomplishing them.

When it comes to enforcement, the agency wants to target the biggest problems first, which it argues will mean a decrease over time in "conventional performance measures …

Dec. 12, 2009 by Erin Kesler

Cornerstone of a Movement

Dec. 12, 2009 by Ben Somberg

CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro will be on the Leslie Marshall Show at 7:20ET this evening discussing regulatory failures, from the BP oil spill to the Katrina disaster of five years ago, and the lessons learned. The program is syndicated on TalkUSA and

streams live


Dec. 11, 2009 by Rena Steinzor

Dear Cass:

As you know, we picked a spat with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) last week over Randy Lutter’s supposedly temporary detail appointment to your office. It’s not the first time we’ve criticized the workings of OIRA, and almost certainly won’t be the last. 

I’ve spoken to a number of people in the media and elsewhere who have expressed surprise that progressive organizations like CPR are such relentless critics of a progressive Administration. I’m sure Administration officials feel this frustration as well. That dynamic is at work in OIRA’s case because you have a reputation as a progressive thinker on many issues.

I won’t try to speak for all progressives, but I can assure you that very few of us criticize the Administration lightly. Nor do we do it with any sense of pleasure. The …

Dec. 11, 2009 by David Hunter

As the first week of formal negotiations at the Copenhagen Climate Summit comes to a close, the United States and China are exchanging barbs and little progress is being made … but behind the scene many negotiators remain confident that at least some form of a political agreement can be reached that will move global climate governance significantly forward.

Beginning on Sunday I will join fellow CPR Member Victor Flatt (see his preview on offsets and adaptation) as a credentialed non-governmental observer at the Copenhagen negotiations. I and six of my students from the American University Washington College of Law will be supporting the work of the Center for International Environmental Law and the Climate Law Policy Project, as well as other organizations. We will be looking at issues relating to the future financial architecture for responding to climate change; the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest …

Dec. 10, 2009 by Ben Somberg

The below item is written by Celeste Monforton and cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

The first regulatory agenda under OIRA chief Cass Sunstein was published Monday in the Federal Register (link to its 237 pages.)  The document includes a narrative of Labor Secretary Solis’ vision for worker health and safety, mentioning these specific hazards: crystalline silica, beryllium, coal dust, airborne infectious agents, diacetyl, cranes and dams for mine waste.   The document purports to “demonstrate a renewed commitment to worker health,” yet the meat of the agenda tells a different story for particular long-recognized occupational health hazards.

Take, for example, MSHA’s entry on respirable coal mine dust, a pervasive hazard associated with reduced lung function, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, progressive massive fibrosis, and more.  Despite an announcement last week by Labor Secretary Solis and MSHA Asst. Secretary Joe Main saying they want to “end new cases of black …

Dec. 9, 2009 by Ben Somberg

A few notes on the Chinese drywall issue from the past weeks:

The CPSC announced that it was expanding its investigation to include some American-made drywall, following some reports of similar problems -- bad odors and pipe corrosion. But meanwhile, the Bradenton Herald asked "Is scope of Chinese drywall problem exaggerated?" Reporter Duane Marsteller notes that "100,000" has become an often-repeated number for how many homes are affected, but that in fact it's quite unclear.

About 300 people rallied in Florida over the weekend calling for a stronger response to the issue. Floridians and Louisianans, and their members of Congress, remain upset over the speed of CPSC's response. Last week, a deadline passed for joining the big class action suit against Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. -- set to be heard in a U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans in February. The judge ordered the complaint …

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Copenhagen in a Nutshell

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