Dec. 7, 2009 by Victor Flatt

Copenhagen: What Progress on Offsets and Adaptation?

Today, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opens in Copenhagen. I will be a credentialed observer from non-governmental academic and research organizations including the Center for Progressive Reform and the Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources (CLEAR) at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

In this space I have particularly focused on the carbon trading market and the use of offsets in the context of domestic legislation; in Copenhagen, I will continue to focus on the implications of any decisions regarding offsets and the carbon market, and whether or not this will in turn affect the U.S. debate and legislation. Because offsets raise concerns of co-harms and benefits, and because much of this harm or benefit will occur in the developed world I will be examining issues concerning adaptation as well.

The conference is a huge undertaking that is less predictable than might seem at first blush. Officials of the 192 parties to the UNFCCC (the United States is represented by the State Department, and various lawmakers will also attend) will meet in two groups: the official Conference of the Parties and an implementation …

Dec. 7, 2009 by Daniel Farber

Today, EPA made its long-expected official finding: climate change is real, and we human beings are the cause.

More than two years after the Supreme Court ordered EPA to address the issue, EPA has now formally ruled that greenhouse gases cause climate change that endangers human health or welfare. EPA also found that motor vehicles contribute significantly to levels of greenhouse gases. These findings trigger regulation under the Clean Air Act for motor vehicles. Similar findings are likely in the near future under a different section of the statute relating to stationary sources such as factories.

This development has been inevitable since the Supreme Court ruled that EPA must make a decision based solely on the scientific evidence. Despite all the recent brouhaha about hacked emails, the scientific evidence on climate change is just as solid as the evidence behind DNA identification, the ill effects of cholesterol …

Dec. 4, 2009 by Frank Ackerman

Once upon a time, EPA and other agencies labored under the yoke of a cruel regime that was contemptuous of the “reality-based community,” but intimately aware of the needs and desires of the energy industry. Climate policy didn’t really happen in those days. Then the world changed.

In the first year of the new regime, EPA and NHTSA proposed a standard for tailpipe emissions, including an estimate of the “social cost of carbon,” or the value of the incremental damages caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Someone needs to tell the authors of this standard that we are free at last to take climate change seriously; you don’t have to keep censoring yourself, as you may have in the past. And once we start exercising that freedom, we will find that the social cost of carbon is much larger than the EPA/NHTSA estimates, which include …

Dec. 4, 2009 by Ben Somberg

CPR Member Scholars Victor Flatt and David Hunter, along with several guest contributors, will be writing for CPRBlog from the climate talks in Copenhagen. Stay tuned.

Dec. 3, 2009 by Rena Steinzor

As reporters dug deeper on our post yesterday about the return of Randy Lutter, chief economist at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the George W. Bush Administration, to “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein’s office, OMB spokesman Tom Gavin worked to downplay the significance of Lutter’s reappearance. Gavin confirmed that Lutter was in fact ensconced in OIRA, as reported by Inside EPA this morning, but said he was merely “on detail” from the FDA as a career civil servant who would report up the chain of command to Sunstein. The implication, of course, is that Lutter would have little influence on policy.

How heartwarming that argument must have been for civil servants at OIRA and elsewhere. As my colleague Sid Shapiro and I argue in a forthcoming book (The People's Agents and the Battle to Protect the American Public, arriving in spring), civil servants are …

Dec. 2, 2009 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

Precisely what the Clean Water Act requires of point sources that discharge to already-polluted waterways has long been a point of confusion. Now, according to Inside EPA, EPA may revise the rules it applies to new permits on impaired waterways. A rulemaking seems far from certain at this point — the story quotes an EPA spokesperson as saying the agency is “considering the possibility” — but if EPA does launch one it should make sure that any regulatory revisions serve the Clean Water Act’s goal of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.

It may seem odd that new permits are ever allowed on impaired waters. The Clean Water Act requires that states set water quality standards for the waters within their borders. All NPDES permits (the permits issued for point source discharges by EPA or state …

Dec. 2, 2009 by Rena Steinzor

For a number of days now, we’ve been hearing rumors that Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s “regulatory czar,” was on the verge of hiring conservative economist Randall Lutter to join him at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Few personnel developments could be more discouraging to those hopeful that the Obama Administration will fulfill its many commitments to revitalize the agencies responsible for protecting public health, worker safety, and natural resources.

The best thing that can be said about the prospect of hiring Randall Lutter, a Cornell-educated economist who cut his teeth at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), is that he is a straightforward traditionalist. No “soft” or “humane” cost-benefit analysis for him, he likes his de-regulatory policy nice and raw. Lutter was the senior economist at the benighted Food and Drug Administration during the George W. Bush Administration, and now he brings his …

Dec. 1, 2009 by Matt Shudtz

Yesterday came and went with no announcement from the FDA on the safety of BPA in food packaging. The agency had created a self-imposed November 30 deadline for releasing a new finding, and in the intervening months, a number of new studies on the health effects of BPA have been released and FDA has brought in an outside expert to head up the review. These developments have understandably slowed the review process.

The question before FDA is whether BPA is safe for its intended use in food contact applications -- the lining inside cans, for example. So Kaiser Permanente’s recent headline-grabbing study that showed an increased likelihood of erectile dysfunction and problems ejaculating among workers who were highly exposed to BPA in a Chinese plant might not be very useful in making that determination. But the many studies showing correlations between various exposures to BPA and other …

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Dec. 23, 2009

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Dec. 22, 2009

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