July 6, 2010 by Rena Steinzor

Out of the Scrum, a Bad Deal for the Chesapeake Bay

Desperate to move a funding bill for Chesapeake Bay restoration out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, progressive Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) went into the scrum with one of the body’s most conservative members, James Inhofe (R-OK). After a struggle of uncertain intensity and duration, the two emerged, with Inhofe, who openly ridicules the idea of global climate change, firmly in control of the ball. 

Cardin agreed to put his name on a dispiriting proposal that misses a crucial opportunity to enforce a central requirement of the Clean Water Act. The Act began cleaning up the nation’s waters by requiring those who discharge pollution into rivers, lakes, and streams to install the “best available control technology” – for example, equipment that removes the pathogens in raw sewage. This primary approach worked well for years, but as the population and industrial development grew exponentially, and U.S. waters became unacceptably dirty, other provisions kicked into action. 

The second approach was the application of “water quality standards” that set the maximum level of pollution that could exist in “receiving waters” where the plants emptied their pipes. So, for example, if I run a big sewage treatment plant that discharges …

July 5, 2010 by Matthew Freeman

In an op-ed in this morning's Raleigh News & Observer, CPR Member Scholar Victor Flatt describes why it is that BP was allowed to drill its Macondo 252 deepwater well -- the one that is now spewing oil into the Gulf -- without conducting a serious analysis of the risks of a blowout, and providing a detailed and realistic plan describing what it would do in such a scenario. Flatt writes:

The National Environmental Policy Act requires that federal agencies analyze the environmental risks before they agree to permit activity under their jurisdiction (like drilling and operating a deepwater oil well). We know that in the Deepwater Horizon case, the MMS Minerals Management Service approved the drilling and operating permits without undergoing full NEPA analysis, instead allowing the permitting under a NEPA exception known as a categorical exclusion, an exception to be used only when there are definitively …

July 2, 2010 by Celeste Monforton

Cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

Cong. George Miller (D-CA) is a man of tough talk and swift action. Today, along with 15 other House members, he introduced H.R. 5663 a bill to upgrade provisions of our nation's key federal workplace health and safety laws. Every year, tens of thousands of workers are killed or made ill because of on-the-job hazards, and this year the toll of death made headline news. The Deepwater Horizon disaster and the Upper Big Branch mine explosion alone cut short the lives of 40 workers, with their coworkers' and families' lives changed forever.

H.R. 5663 will modernize whistleblower protections for workers who express concerns about safety and health, raise the maximum civil penalty amount that can be proposed by OSHA for serious, willful and repeat violations, and allow for criminal sanctions against employers who knowingly violate safety regulations that contributed …

July 2, 2010 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

The media have paid a lot of attention to the cavalier attitude of the former Minerals Management Service (now called the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement) toward the National Environmental Policy Act (I blogged about it here and here and Dan weighed in here). Less has been said, so far, about the Endangered Species Act. (One conspicuous exception is Keith Rizzardi’s ESA Blawg, which called on May 29 for a review of ESA implementation.)

As more oil nears shore, the impacts of the spill on sea life are becoming more obvious. The most recent report from the federal response team lists a total of 1240 oiled birds collected, 359 of them dead, 113 oiled sea turtles (11 dead), and 5 oiled marine mammals (3 dead). That’s undoubtedly only a small total of the affected wildlife, since many animals …

July 1, 2010 by Matt Shudtz

With the strong support of their new Administrator, last year the EPA staff who administer TSCA came up with a novel idea for jump-starting a moribund regulatory program. They started publishing Chemical Action Plans (CAPs) for a selection of chemicals “that pose a concern to the public.” Having selected chemicals that are found in consumer products, produced in large volumes, have particular concerns for children’s health, or meet other criteria, EPA staff published action plans for the chemicals that provide a clear and concise profile of each chemicals’ hazards, exposures, and risks and lay out regulatory actions EPA might take in the near future. The documents are truly excellent pieces of work in that they provide a summary of complex and controversial science within the context of the agency’s duties and powers under existing law, and they do so without getting bogged down in scientific …

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The New Consumer Protection Agency and Bureaucratic Reality

July 27, 2010

EPA's New Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice in Rulemaking a Welcome First Step

July 27, 2010

Auto Safety Bill Takes Some Bruises in the Senate; Automakers Try for More

July 26, 2010

Using Disclosure as a Smokescreen: How Behavioral Economics Can Deflect Regulation

July 23, 2010

At Thirty Five, Endangered Species Treaty Has Mixed Record

July 23, 2010

Climate Change: The Ball's Bounced Back to the States, EPA, and DOE