March 18, 2010 by Shana Campbell Jones

Climate Change Adaptation Progress: Administration Releases Interim Report on Strategy for a Strategy

Tuesday, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an Interim Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, a group charged by President Obama in Executive Order 13514 to develop (by Fall 2010) recommendations for the federal government for adapting to climate change. More than 20 federal agencies, departments, and offices are participating in the task force.

The progress report notes that some agencies are taking action toward implementing programs and policies to deal with the changes and risks climate change will bring. But it also notes many significant gaps remain, including:

  • Coherent research programs to identify and describe regional impacts associated with near-term, long-term, and abrupt global climate change;
  • Relevant climate change and impact information that is accessible and usable by decision-makers and practitioners;
  • A unified strategic vision and approach;
  • Understanding of the challenges at all levels of government;
  • Comprehensive and localized risk and vulnerability assessments;
  • Organized and coordinated efforts across local, State and Federal agencies;
  • Strong links between, and support and participation of, Tribal, regional, State, and local partners;
  • A strategy to link resources, both financial …

March 17, 2010 by Yee Huang

This week Water Policy Report (subs. required) reported on EPA’s exercise of residual designation authority (RDA) over stormwater discharges and a pilot stormwater-reduction trading program in Massachusetts. Together, these actions have the potential to significantly reduce stormwater discharges into local waterways. If successful, this pilot trading program could be a template for similar trading programs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and across the country.

Stormwater discharges occur when impervious surfaces such as roads, rooftops, and parking lots channel high volumes of contaminated water into a nearby waterbody. In the absence of impervious surfaces, the water would be absorbed or stored in the ground and then slowly released back into the water cycle. EPA implemented two phases of stormwater regulation in 1990 and again in 1999. Today, three categories of stormwater are regulated: certain municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) that serve populations of 100,000 or …

March 16, 2010 by Ben Somberg

A few congressional hearings today we're keeping an eye on:

  • Catch Shares. The House Natural Resources' Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife will discuss "catch shares" as a fisheries management policy. Previously, CPR Member Scholar Rebecca Bratspies discussed the limitations of catch shares, and in December applauded NOAA for moving forward cautiously.
  • Protecting America's Workers Act. The House Education and Labor's Workforce Protection Subcommittee will discuss HR 2067, which would amend the OSH Act to protect more workers and increase penalties for employers who break the law.
  • Federal Rulemaking and the Regulatory Process POSTPONED. No new date announced. . The House Judiciary Commiteee's Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative law will hold a hearing on our favorite topic -- the doings of the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. 


March 15, 2010 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

As Cara and Dan have explained, ocean acidification is the other big climate change problem. As atmospheric CO2 levels rise, more CO2 dissolves in the oceans. That in turn increases ocean acidity, which changes the ecology of the seas, most obviously by reducing the ability of corals and a variety of other marine organisms to build their “skeletons” and protective shells from calcium carbonate.

Ocean acidification is a pollution problem, just as acid rain and climate change are. So just as the Clean Air Act ought to have something to say about atmospheric dumping of greenhouse gases, the Clean Water Act should have something to say about the accumulation of CO2 in the oceans. (Note: I’m not saying these first-generation pollution control laws are the best way to deal with climate change, but they do provide some tools that are worth trying …

March 15, 2010 by Ben Somberg

The Wall Street Journal had what seemed like a major scoop over the weekend:

A federal safety investigation of the Toyota Prius that was involved in a dramatic incident on a California highway last week found a particular pattern of wear on the car's brakes that raises questions about the driver's version of the event, three people familiar with the investigation said.


During and after the incident, Mr. Sikes said he was using heavy pressure on his brake pedal at high speeds.

But the investigation of the vehicle, carried out jointly by safety officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Toyota engineers, didn't find signs the brakes had been applied at full force at high speeds over a sustained period of time, the three people familiar with the investigation said.

The brakes were discolored and showed wear, but the pattern of friction …

March 15, 2010 by Ben Somberg

A year after the contaminated drywall story went big, a "test trial" over damages from the material begins today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The court has posted documents regarding the case here, and outlets covering the case include the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Bradenton Herald, and Palm Beach Post.

March 12, 2010 by Rena Steinzor

In a rare public appearance at the Brookings Institute Wednesday, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein is quoted by BNA’s Daily Report for Executives saying that his ambitious plans for revamping Executive Order 12,866 – the document that governs much of the process of regulating, and particularly OIRA’s role in it –have been tabled for the time being as he and his staff study the lengthy comments presented by a broad range of industry and public interest groups. “So what we’ve been doing under the existing framework is working to implement the President’s agenda in a way that is also alert to the content of the comments we’ve gotten,” he explained.

Meanwhile, outside the event, a small group of demonstrators, including one dressed as Sesame Street character Oscar the Grouch, demonstrated against “Ash Sunstein,” whom they accused of …

March 12, 2010 by Ben Somberg

This item, by Liz Borkowski, is cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

Exactly one year ago, President Obama issued a memorandum on scientific integrity that gave the Office of Science and Technology Policy 120 days to “develop recommendations for Presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch” based on six principles that Obama specified. OSTP solicited public input to inform its drafting of the recommendations.

It’s now been 365 days, and OSTP hasn’t released its recommendations. Why the delay? Since President Obama issued the scientific integrity memo during his first hundred days in office, this is evidently an important issue for him.

Although advocates for scientific integrity have welcomed many of Obama’s decisions and appointments, threats to the integrity of government science haven’t disappeared. As I noted last week, my colleagues and I have just released a report on scientists in …

March 10, 2010 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

When government decides that private economic activity needs to be restricted in order to preserve some part of nature, there are two basic ways to get that result — by demanding cooperation through regulation or by buying it through economic incentives or outright purchase. The second approach is often politically easier, but environmentalists have long been skeptical of relying too heavily on it.  Two major concerns have repeatedly been expressed. First, paying for conservation suffers from obvious fiscal constraints, especially in times of tight government budgets. Second, it may contribute to what economists call “moral hazard” — the tendency of those who anticipate a government bail-out to ignore the extent to which their activity may pose personal or societal risks.

A lengthy story about a conservation deal in the Everglades in Monday's New York Times highlights a third concern: the private side might clean …

March 9, 2010 by Matt Shudtz

In response to a question at a National Press Club appearance on Monday, Lisa Jackson said that the EPA would be finalizing an action plan on BPA in the "very near future."

As I noted here in January, the EPA had announced in September that it would be releasing action plans on a number of chemicals, including BPA, but when the first group of plans was released in late December, BPA was not among them. I raised a red flag because EPA had sent six draft chemical action plans to White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on December 14, OIRA hosted a meeting with BPA industry lobbyists a week later, then the BPA action plan was absent from the list of plans released on December 30. OIRA had no business reviewing the chemical action plans in the first place since they are not …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
March 31, 2010

Big Chicken Plays Chicken Little in Maryland While Assaulting Academic Freedom and Access to Justice in the Meantime

March 29, 2010

50 OIRAs? Another State (New Jersey) Drinks the Regulatory Review Kool-Aid

March 26, 2010

EPA Proposes to Veto Mountaintop Removal Project

March 26, 2010

If Not at Yucca Mountain, then Where?

March 24, 2010

New Health and Safety Journalism Publication Launches Today

March 24, 2010

Incorporating the Best of Cantwell-Collins into KGL: Don't Forget the Missing Instrument

March 23, 2010

Republicans Senators Target Fee Recoveries in Public Interest Suits Against Federal Agencies