April 28, 2010 by James Goodwin

Recent Obama Administration Open Government Milestone; Tearing the Wall of Separation Between the American People and Their Government Isn't Easy

As the Obama Administration ought to know by now, open government isn't easy. There are a lot of constituent elements in the wall that separates the American people and their government. Getting open government right requires planning and dedication.  Moreover, resource and legal constraints can thwart even the best-intentioned efforts by government agencies to operate in a more open fashion.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced a number of new developments related to its Open Government Initiative, suggesting that the Administration is taking seriously many of the important barriers to open government.

First, all of the Cabinet agencies released their open government plans, detailing steps they'll take to make “transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration part of the way they work.” The EPA's plan says it will make more of the data it uses available to the public. For example, the agency has committed to publishing a “Green Vehicle Guide,” a searchable database that brings together information on the emissions and fuel economy of all makes and models of cars that have been manufactured since 2001.

The plan also describes more abstract, but no less important measures that the agency intends to take, such as “creating and …

April 27, 2010 by Daniel Farber

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

Libertarians are, of course, deeply suspicious of government regulation. This may lead to a reflexive rejection of climate change mitigation.   But Jonathan Adler, who provides a refreshingly distinctive view of environmental law from the Right, argues otherwise.  In a forthcoming article (only the abstract is available on SSRN), he contends that libertarians are making a mistake in opposing climate mitigation:

Even if anthropogenic climate change is decidedly less than catastrophic – indeed, even if it net beneficial to the globe as whole – human-induced climate change is likely to contribute to environmental changes that violate traditional conceptions of property rights. Viewed globally, the actions of some countries – primarily developed nations (such as the United States) and those nations that are industrializing most rapidly (such as China and India) – are likely to increase environmental harms suffered by less developed nations – nations that have not (as of …

April 26, 2010 by Yee Huang

This is the April installment of CPRBlog’s series of posts highlighting legal developments in other countries and in international environmental law.

Last month the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted a hearing to the residents of Mossville, Louisiana, based on their petition asserting that the U.S. government has violated their rights to privacy and racial equity by failing to address toxic pollution in their community. Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, the legal advocacy organization that filed the petition on behalf of the Mossville residents, says this hearing represents the first time IACHR has granted a hearing on complaints of environmental racism by the United States.

Located in southwest Louisiana, Mossville is a small community of roughly 375 residents, the majority of whom are African American. Fourteen industrial facilities—ranging from an oil refinery and a vinyl manufacturer to …

April 23, 2010 by Victor Flatt

On Monday, the Environmental Defense Fund announced that it had reached a settlement with Tenaska Inc. to withdraw opposition to that company’s proposed “Trailblazer Energy Center,” a 600 megawatt coal fired power plant in West Texas. In return for dropping its objections, the EDF signed an agreement with Tenaska that the company will sequester 85% of the CO2 it produces, selling much of the gas to companies who will use it for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in the West Texas Permian Basin oil field.

The agreement is stunning on many levels. Trailblazer is the first large-scale proposal (and presumably will be the first operational coal fired power plant) to sequester significant amounts of the CO2 it produces. It is also the first large-scale use of enhanced oil recovery as a market for captured CO2. Last, it firmly and finally illustrates the reality of the fate of …

April 22, 2010 by Yee Huang

Earlier this month an Oklahoma jury awarded $7.3 million to current and former poultry growers for fraud, negligence, and violations of a state consumer protection act committed by Tyson Foods, Inc. This verdict is not surprising as Tyson, like other major poultry processors, wields considerable economic clout in its relationship with poultry growers. This imbalanced relationship suggests that the “independent contractor” status of poultry growers that Tyson and other major poultry processors describe is a trick for the companies to disclaim any responsibility for the highly pollutant-concentrated poultry waste, which contaminates waterways around the country.

Like other corporate poultry processors, Tyson relies on a network of poultry growers around the country. The growers enter into a contract with the company, which retains nearly total control of the growers’ poultry operations. Tyson provides the physical materials for the poultry operations—from chicks to feed—and specifies the …

April 22, 2010 by Patrick MacRoy

Guest blogger Patrick MacRoy is Director of Community-Based Initiatives and RRP Training Program Manager for the National Center for Healthy Housing. He launched the first “train-the-trainer” program to help increase the supply of accredited RRP training providers and has been working on related policy issues.

Today marks a major milestone in the century-long battle against childhood lead poisoning in the United States: the EPA will be officially implementing the Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule. Known as the RRP rule, the regulation is designed to prevent the contamination of nearly four million homes a year with toxic lead dust created from the disturbance of old lead-based paint during rehab or maintenance work in older homes. Mandated by Congress nearly two decades ago, the rule has long been a source of controversy and will continue to require attention from advocates to ensure it reaches its full potential.

As part …

April 21, 2010 by Ben Somberg

Former CPR Member Scholar Christopher Schroeder was confirmed today by the Senate for his position as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy. Schroeder, most recently a professor at Duke University School of Law, was nominated for the post in May 2009.

April 21, 2010 by James Goodwin

On March 19, OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein issued the office's first Review Letter of the Obama Administration, telling the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to redo their studies on how to design the labels for the agency’s new “Tire Fuel Efficiency Consumer Information Program.” (For background on Review Letters and the other types of OIRA letters, see here.) Those new studies will delay implementation of the tire efficiency regulation by at least half a year, and likely longer.

Under the tire efficiency program, NHTSA must develop a system for setting tire fuel efficiency ratings and design a label for tire manufacturers to affix to their products that convey these ratings to consumers, so that consumers can consider the fuel-efficiency effects of different tires when deciding which to buy.

When NHTSA sent its draft final rule to OIRA in December, it appeared that the rule …

April 21, 2010 by Matthew Freeman

The tagline that the producers of Food, Inc. are using to promote their Academy Award-winning documentary is “You’ll never look at dinner the same way.” They’re quite right. The film airs on many PBS stations this evening (and on others throughout the course of the next week). See for yourself.

I came to it expecting that I’d end up feeling guilty about being part of the industry-consumer web that subjects farm animals to “nasty, brutish and short” lives, before slaughtering them for hamburger. I did feel guilty, and still do, days later. But more than that, you come away from Food, Inc. convinced that in the interest of maximizing profits for the food industry, we’ve introduced hazards into the food we eat, created an obesity problem, and allowed mega-corporations to run roughshod over family farmers.

I won’t spoil the story, but the …

April 20, 2010 by James Goodwin

For the past 6 months, OIRA has hosted an all-out assault on EPA’s proposed coal ash waste rule, as a parade of representatives from King Coal and the coal ash reuse industry have walked in to attack any and every aspect of the hybrid approach the agency reportedly proposed. (Under the hybrid approach, EPA would regulate coal ash waste as a “hazardous” substance, unless it was dedicated to certain forms of beneficial use, in which case it would be regulated as “non-hazardous”.) Because these attacks were being conducted behind OIRA’s closed doors, it's impossible for the public to discern what, if any, effect they were having on EPA and its preferred hybrid approach. As OIRA’s review has stretched months beyond the maximum time limit allowed by Executive Order 12866, we've become more and more concerned.

An important story from Dawn Reeves of …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 28, 2010

Recent Obama Administration Open Government Milestone; Tearing the Wall of Separation Between the American People and Their Government Isn't Easy

April 27, 2010

The Libertarian Case for Controlling Climate Change

April 26, 2010

Inter-American Spotlight on the United States: Louisiana Residents Take Pollution Case to International Court

April 23, 2010

Tenaska Deal Signals Sea-Change in Climate Change Regulation, but Itself May be Too Good to be True

April 22, 2010

Tyson Taken to Task: Oklahoma Jury Awards Poultry Growers $7.3 Million

April 22, 2010

EPA's Rule on Lead Paint a Cause for Celebration, but Challenges Remain

April 21, 2010

<i>Food, Inc.</i> Airs on PBS; Put Your Hands on the Table and Step Away from the Hamburger