June 30, 2010 by Shana Campbell Jones

Senator Cardin's Chesapeake Bay Bill Headed to Mark-Up

Today the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will discuss Senator Cardin’s Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009 (S. 1816), along with a suite of other bills to protect the great waterways of the United States. 

Critically, the bill codifies the Bay-wide Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), requiring it to be implemented and enforced.  To remedy the pervasive lack of accountability in prior Bay restoration agreements, the bill requires states to submit biennial progress reports and to commit to fulfilling biennial milestones and empowers the EPA to withhold funds, develop and administer a federal implementation plan, or require new or expanding dischargers to acquire offsets that result in a net decrease of pollution. The bill makes progress in other significant areas, including:

  • Non-point sources. The Clean Water Act has dramatically reduced pollution from point sources, but nonpoint sources (runoff from farms, forestry activities, overflowing septic tanks, parking lots, golf courses, and mining operations) are left unregulated – even though water pollution from nonpoint sources dwarfs all other sources by volume. Under the Bay-wide TMDL that S. 1816 codifies, EPA must include “enforceable or otherwise binding load allocations” for all nonpoint sources, including some of the major contributors …

June 30, 2010 by Alyson Flournoy

Senate Bill 3516, introduced by Senators Bingaman and Murkowski in response to the BP oil spill to reform the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), proposes many intelligent and much-needed changes (the Energy & Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the bill today). Among these, the legislation would imposea long-overdue mandate for best available technology for oil exploration and extraction, require that proponents of drilling evaluate the possibility of a well blowout and develop a response plan for a blowout, require a review of royalty and bonding requirements, and increase from 30 to 90 days the timeframe for the agency to review exploration plans, with an option for an extension if needed. The legislation would also significantly improve the structure of what was MMS (now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) to separate incompatible functions, enhance the agency’s enforcement and investigative …

June 30, 2010 by Shana Campbell Jones

Senator Cardin's bill to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay program passed a committee vote this morning, though not before significant amendments were made (see Baltimore Sun, E&E).

We'll have more on the specifics in the future. But for now it's worth noting that one of the amendments takes away EPA’s authority to write permits for nonpoint sources, a much-needed tool in EPA’s toolbox to bolster accountability if the states fail to address nonpoint source pollution.

It’s too bad that, once again, the agricultural interests who collectively constitute the largest source of nitrogen pollution to the Bay want to avoid accountability.

June 29, 2010 by Ben Somberg

The second segment of last night's Daily Show interview with David Axelrod featured a couple minutes on the broken regulatory system and questions of trust in government competence in the wake of the BP disaster.

Axelrod: "I think we've tested the proposition of what no regulation means, and what you get is .. the leak, the mine disaster in West Virginia, and you get an economic crisis."

June 28, 2010 by Wendy Wagner

There is plenty of environmental despair right now . . . spreading oil in the Gulf, legislative inaction on climate change and a host of other issues, and the sense that for every step forward, there is a special interest that will take the nation two steps back. 

So, in this downward spiral of disappointments, is there any ray of hope? Rena Steinzor and Sidney Shapiro hit upon one promising possibility in their important new book, The People's Agents and the Battle to Protect the American Public: Special Interests, Government, and Threats to Health, Safety, and the Environment. After cataloging the sorry state of the regulatory institutions tasked with protecting health and the environment, the authors offer innovative suggestions for a set of positive metrics that not only help hold agencies publicly accountable, but also reward agencies for acting proactively. An added, invaluable attribute of these positive metrics is …

June 25, 2010 by Rebecca Bratspies

Cross-posted from IntLawGrrls.

On Thursday Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana refused to delay the effect of the preliminary injunction he issued on Tuesday, overturning the U.S. Department of Interior’s May 28, 2010, Temporary Moratorium on deepwater drilling. (Related court documents available here.)

Several facets of the June 22 decision are truly astonishing.

Nowhere in the decision is there any recognition of the unique, emergency circumstances or the grave threat to the public that the agency was seeking to combat. Nor did the judge pay much attention to the express and explicit congressional intention that offshore oil activities be suspended when necessary to protect against environmental threats. Instead he elevated the desire of private companies to continue their profitmaking activities over the health and safety of an entire region. His decision raises a vital question about …

June 24, 2010 by Frank Ackerman

Is the Gulf of Mexico disaster a reason to pass climate legislation – or is that legislation largely irrelevant to curbing our oil use? A Greenwire article Tuesday quoted a number of economists arguing that the leading proposals in Congress wouldn’t do much to change our dependence on petroleum.

The only reasonable response is “yes, of course.” Climate proposals such as Kerry-Lieberman, Cantwell-Collins, or Waxman-Markey will have limited effects on oil consumption for two reasons: first, they are market mechanisms; second, they are weak market mechanisms.

To start with the good news, reducing carbon emissions from electric utilities is cheaper than reducing oil use. Any market mechanism is supposed to prompt us to do the cheapest things first; that’s the whole point. There are many ways to make electricity with lower carbon emissions than a coal plant; putting a price on carbon makes those alternatives cheaper …

June 23, 2010 by Ben Somberg

OSHA’s pending rule on construction crane and derrick safety cleared OIRA review yesterday.

The cranes rule has been a long, long time in the making and was featured as a case study in our white paper last year on the Costs of Regulatory Delay. It’s good news that this life-saving rule is finally almost set.

Update: Celeste Monforton has more on this at The Pump Handle:

First, OIRA has completed its review of OSHA's final rule on cranes and derricks. The notation on the website says "consistent with change," a phrase that has meaning only to those who have the secret decoder ring. Because the internal deliberations between OMB and the affected agency are considered confidential, (a policy dating back to OIRA's creation under President Reagan) we don't know whether the "change" required by OMB are good, bad or indifferent …

June 23, 2010 by Yee Huang

a(broad) perspective

Across the Atlantic Ocean is another catastrophic, persistent, and pervasive oil disaster, ongoing for the past fifty years with no end in sight. The oil fields in the Niger Delta, occupying the southern tip of Nigeria, are rich with petroleum reserves, natural gas, and other natural resources. What should be a source of immense economic wealth for Nigeria instead turned into a poisonous cocktail of corruption and violence with disastrous consequences for the environment and human rights. The BP Oil Spill in our country has turned the spotlight on other oil disasters in international waters and foreign countries, and today’s international environmental post focuses on the devastation caused by oil operations in the Niger Delta.  

The Niger Delta is one of the most densely populated regions on the African continent, home to 30 million people. The vast majority of this population relies on …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
June 30, 2010

Chesapeake Bay Bill Amended and Passed out of Committee

June 30, 2010

Bingaman-Murkowski Bill on BP Oil Spill Captures Low-Hanging Fruit But Leaves the Environment at Risk

June 30, 2010

Senator Cardin's Chesapeake Bay Bill Headed to Mark-Up

June 29, 2010

Regulatory Policy on Late Night TV

June 28, 2010

Steinzor-Shapiro Metrics on Display in EPA's June 2010 Strategic Plan

June 25, 2010

Judge's Injunction Blocking Moratorium on Deepwater Drilling Discounts Statutory Intent

June 24, 2010

Would Passing Climate Legislation Reduce Our Dependence on Oil?