May 7, 2010 by Yee Huang

New CPR Briefing Paper Recommends Next Steps on Chesapeake Bay Policy

Today the Center for Progressive Reform releases a briefing paper on Chesapeake Bay policy in anticipation of the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration. The Choose Clean Water Coalition also today sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stressing that EPA's strategy for the Bay must have robust requirements and tough consequences.

By next Wednesday, one year to the day after the Executive Order, the Federal Leadership Committee—made up of representatives from a range of federal agencies—is required to release its final Strategy for Restoration and Protection of the Chesapeake Bay. The final Strategy will integrate the draft reports issued under section 202 and the draft Strategy issued under section 203, all of which were previously released for public comment (See our comments from January). In the coming months, the future of Chesapeake Bay restoration will take shape. In addition to the release of the final Strategy, Bay states will begin to submit their preliminary Phase I Watershed Implementation Plans and EPA will finalize the Bay-wide Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Collectively these developments promise to do what past Bay restoration efforts have not: to hold Bay jurisdictions …

May 7, 2010 by Rena Steinzor

This post is written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and CPR Policy Analyst James Goodwin.

President Obama appointed Lisa Jackson to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 15, 2008. Confirmed by the Senate on January 22, 2009, she is a Cabinet-rank member of the Administration and the first African American to serve as the public face of environmental protection for any administration. Whether she wears an EPA baseball cap and windbreaker to tour the waterfront of her native New Orleans, now threatened by the BP oil spill, or she sits in the witness chair with television lights in her face to testify before any one of the dozen congressional committees claiming a piece of her agency, Jackson rises or falls on her own merits. And she has mostly been rising, driving her 18,000 member staff to new levels of activity and invention.

How lamentable …

May 6, 2010 by Rebecca Bratspies

Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls.

Today's New York Times update on the Deepwater Horizon disaster opens with BP’s failed efforts to control the remaining two leaks via concrete, or remote control robots. Strangely, the article makes no mention of the missing remote shut-off valve called an acoustic switch. This $500,000 device might well have prevented this whole catastrophe. But, the United States does not require that deepwater oil rigs install an acoustic switch, and BP and Transocean decided to forego it. The United States considered requiring these switches in 2000, but Bush administration nixed the idea after industry pushback. My guess is that Vice President Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force had a hand in that, but since the Task Force operated entirely behind closed doors, we may never know the truth of how the United States made this ill-considered choice. Apparently, the Times does not …

May 6, 2010 by Matt Shudtz

Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli II has taken his climate change vendetta to a new low, announcing that he will use Virginia's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act to force officials at UVA to spend months digging through a decade of university records in search of evidence that Dr. Michael Mann "defrauded" the Commonwealth by seeking funds to explore the boundaries of climate science.

Tuesday's article in the Washington Post gave the attention-seeking politician all that he needed from the civil investigative demand issued to Dr. Mann's former employer.  Now Cuccinelli will move on to his next headline-grabbing venture without a care for the disruptions he's left in his wake.

As others have pointed out, threatening academics with legal penalties sets a terrible precedent that will stifle the innovation and progress that are the hallmarks of the United States' great research universities.  It was bad enough …

May 5, 2010 by Celeste Monforton

Cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

Beginning in December 2006, I’ve written five blog post commenting on the content of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) regulatory agenda for worker health and safety rulemakings.  Most of my posts see links below have criticized the Labor Secretary and senior OSHA and MSHA staff for failing to offer a bold vision for progressive worker protections.  Now that the Obama & Solis team have been on board for more than a year, I’m not willing to cut them any slack for being newbies.  Regrettably, as with the Bush/Chao agendas, my posts today will question rather than complement the OSHA team (and any bigger fish up the food chain) who are responsible for this plan.

I’ll start with the good news from OSHA’s reg agenda.   In the month of July, OSHA projects it will issue two final …

May 4, 2010 by Victor Flatt

Monday April 26 was supposed to be the day that the much anticipated Kerry-Graham-Lieberman climate change bill was to be proposed in the Senate. Hopes had gone up that there could be a legislative solution to putting a price on carbon. The carbon markets themselves had responded, pushing up the price of allocations on RGGI in the hopes that these would be allowed to qualify for the expected federal cap and trade. Then over the preceding weekend, it fell apart. Senator Graham criticized the call from Majority Leader Reid to also take up a comprehensive immigration reform bill, claiming that it was driven by Senator Reid’s own political needs to increase his chances of retaining his Nevada Senate seat.

There is no doubt that this played an important piece in the very difficult political dance that has surrounded the emergence of the KGL plan. Senator Graham …

May 4, 2010 by Rena Steinzor


EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was in a tough position on coal ash. If you are African American and low-income, you have a 30 percent greater chance of living near a big pit of this toxic brew than a white American, so Jackson correctly decided that such an important environmental justice issue should be at the forefront of the Obama Administration’s agenda. But Jackson was also taking on Big Coal, a special interest historically near and dear to swing voters in Ohio and Illinois. Nevertheless, this sturdy “eco-warrior,” as she was recently dubbed by Rolling Stone, marched forward, right into the basement of the White House and the chilling influence of Cass Sunstein and the economists at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Jackson’s tough, but as yet secret, regulatory proposal arrived in crisp fall weather, only to be greeted by a tsunami of industry …

May 4, 2010 by Ben Somberg

EPA is making an announcement right now. We'll have more soon.

Update: EPA's announcement is up.

May 4, 2010 by Ben Somberg

CPR President Rena Steinzor has issued this statement on today's coal ash news.  She says:

Because EPA is actively considering these two very different approaches, it has not actually proposed anything from a regulatory perspective. The EPA will almost certainly have to go back and get another round of public comment before making a final decision, which is not what Jackson wanted when she walked into OIRA’s door. ... The White House has met with industry representatives on this issue literally dozens of times, and it's no surprise those meetings netted a delay. The administration could and should have moved ahead months ago with one strong proposal to tackle toxic coal ash.

May 3, 2010 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the nation’s look-before-you-leap environmental law, intended to make sure that we understand what environmental problems we might result before we act. To that end, federal agencies must prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) before they take, authorize, or provide funding for actions that may have significant adverse environmental impacts. Useful as NEPA analysis is, the Deepwater Horizon disaster vividly illustrates the need to fix one of its shortcomings.

The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) oversees NEPA compliance. It has issued regulations prescribing how agencies should prepare EISs and what should be in those documents. The regulations are almost unchanged since they were originally issued during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, with one conspicuous exception. Where the impacts are uncertain or unknown, the regulations used to require that the EIS “include a worst case …

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