Aug. 31, 2010 by Sidney Shapiro

Boehner's Attack on Regulation Runs Afoul of Lessons From BP and Katrina

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post.

Eager to blame the state of the economy on the Administration, House Minority Leader John Boehner recently tried to argue that the Administration's regulatory agenda is standing in the way of recovery. Sadly for Boehner, he tried to make that case shortly before the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and while the smell of the BP oil spill still lingers in the Gulf. By any reasonable measure those two incidents are among the costliest and most devastating examples of the human and monetary costs of lax regulation.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, Boehner criticized the Administration's plans to implement 191 rules with potential economic costs greater than $100 million, arguing that "uncertainty" in the business community about the fate of the regulations is "contributing significantly to the ongoing difficulty our economy is facing." Apparently, Boehner and other opponents of regulation are betting that we'll forget the cost of regulatory failure as they repeat their mantra that regulation costs a lot of money, and that it cannot be good for the economy.

This claim is false on two counts. First, it ignores the reality that the costs associated with regulatory failure …

Aug. 31, 2010 by Ben Somberg

CPR Member Scholar Douglas Kysar has an opinion piece in the Guardian making the case for Carbon Upsets. Upsets, you ask? That is:

Rather than award credits based on development that moves us toward a cleaner but still very dirty future, why not award credits to legal and political actions that have more dramatic impact? For instance, rather than bribe fossil fuel companies to stop flaring natural gas, why not reward indigenous groups that entirely block new exploration activities? Rather than transfer money to logging operations for incremental replanting programs, why not award credits to forest-dwelling communities that successfully fight to stop logging altogether?

Check it out.

Aug. 30, 2010 by Rena Steinzor

The below is testimony (PDF) given today by CPR President Rena Steinzor at the EPA's public hearing on coal ash regulation. The hearing, in Arlington, VA, is the first of seven; the public comment period has been extended to November 19. See CPR on Twitter for updates from the hearing.

We are all familiar with the psychological studies that have become a cottage industry at American universities. Consider this one. A presumably dead cockroach is “medically sterilized”—and I honestly do not know what that means—and then dipped into a glass of juice in front of a group of people. The purpose: to gauge the test subjects’ willingness to drink the juice after the cockroach is removed. To the researchers apparent surprise, the people—all victims of an irrational phenomenon known as “stigma effect”—would not drink the juice, although they were willing to take …

Aug. 30, 2010 by Ben Somberg

CPR Member Scholar Frank Ackerman had an op-ed in the Des Moines Register the other day, "Atrazine ban would not ruin the Corn Belt."

The chemical in question is a weed-killer, and also a known endocrine disruptor. The Bush Administration's EPA determined that atrazine does not cause negative effects to human health. The Obama Administration's EPA is currently conducting a review of that assessment (stay tuned).

Ackerman responds to arguments that banning atrazine would cause huge economic harm, writing:

How great is the economic benefit of using atrazine? Several studies have estimated that atrazine boosts average corn yields by 6 percent or less. A database of field trials, maintained by consultant Richard Fawcett and relied on by atrazine supporters, shows that it increases corn yields by an average of 3 to 4 percent. The most comprehensive national study, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture …

Aug. 27, 2010 by Liz Borkowski

Cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

The Iowa-based company Wright County Egg is recalling 380 million eggs, which were sold to distributors and wholesalers in 22 states and Mexico, due to concerns about salmonella contamination. The eggs have been sold under several different brand names, so if you've got eggs in your fridge you can check FDA's page for info. Salmonella-infected eggs traceable to this producer may have caused as many as 1,200 cases of intestinal illness in at least 10 states over the past several weeks. A second producer, Hillandale Farms, has also issued a recall 170 million eggs that have been shipped to 14 states.

Before getting into what's wrong with our food-safety system, I want to note the recall might not have happened at all if it weren't for surveillance and investigation activities at the state and national levels.

Officials identified the problem because …

Aug. 26, 2010 by Joel Mintz

The past year has certainly had disappointments for people who care about protecting the environment. A major international conference on global climate change yielded no sweeping agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. The United States Senate declined to pass comprehensive climate change legislation, and residents of Louisiana and other states bordering the Gulf of Mexico suffered the ill effects of a long-running, disastrous offshore oil spill. One recent—far more sanguine—development development should not be overlooked, however: the decision of a special district in Florida, the South Florida Water Management District, to purchase a large tract of land for use in the treatment and storage of surface water. The deal was approved by the District earlier this month and cleared one of its final legal challenges on Monday.

The “sugar deal,” as it is known to many Floridians, represents a significant victory for the environmentalists and scientists …

Aug. 23, 2010 by Yee Huang

a(broad) perspective

No single substance is more necessary to humans than water. For people in developed countries, clean, potable water arrives with the simple turn of a faucet knob. For much of the world’s population, however, getting access to clean water is much more complex, if not impossible, and not having clean water leads to a host of diseases and conflict and is intimately tied to poverty.

In late July, the 192-member General Assembly of the United Nations adopted, without opposition (though not unanimously), a resolution on the human right to water. Specifically, the General Assembly declared that “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”. The resolution notes that approximately 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and that more than 2.6 billion …

Aug. 19, 2010 by Shana Campbell Jones

Last week, the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy published New Directions in Environmental Law, a symposium issue featuring articles from six CPR Member Scholars.   The articles explore how lessons learned from first generation environmental statutes should be applied to future legislation in order to accomplish the original goals of the environmental movement.

  • Dan Tarlock, in Environmental Law: Then and Now, describes how the symposium was organized to analyze first generation environmental statutes to raise provocative questions about the future of environmental law.   Tarlock concludes that environmental law in the United States “remains locked in the transition phase of protecting the earth from discrete threats to human and natural well-being.”  “The major themes running through this symposium are that we require a richer theory of the appropriate scale and mix of government participants (monitored by NGOs), management strategies that use information both to set protection targets …

Aug. 18, 2010 by Yee Huang

In June, the Food and Drug Administration issued Draft Guidance on the Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals. The FDA recognizes in the guidance that the “overall weight of evidence available… supports the conclusion that using medically important antimicrobial drugs for production or growth enhancing purposes… in food-producing animals is not in the interest of protecting and promoting the public health.” The public health concern arises where bacteria in these animals develop resistance to the drugs and then are transmitted to food workers and consumers, who then introduce the drug-resistant bacteria into their communities. 

In a new book, Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA, journalist Maryn McKenna details the emergence of one of the most common and increasingly prevalent drug-resistant bacteria, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). While MRSA was once primarily found in hospitals, McKenna traces the emergence of community-based strains of the bug that …

Aug. 17, 2010 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

On Monday the White House Council on Environmental Quality issued a report on the NEPA analysis that preceded exploratory drilling at the ill-fated Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, together with recommendations for improving NEPA analysis in the future. According to CEQ, the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (successor to the disgraced Minerals Management Service) has already agreed to implement the recommendations.

The report offers a detailed look at the chaotic and uncoordinated NEPA procedures that were apparently routine at the old MMS. The major outlines of the story were already well known: MMS did a cursory, over-optimistic oil spill analysis at the 5-year program and lease sale stages, then applied a categorical exemption to applications for exploration plans. Separately from that environmental analysis, BP prepared an oil spill response plan which considered the possibility of a much larger catastrophic spill …

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

Not Carbon Offsets, but Carbon Upsets

Aug. 31, 2010

Boehner's Attack on Regulation Runs Afoul of Lessons From BP and Katrina

Aug. 30, 2010

The Atrazine Debate in Perspective

Aug. 30, 2010

At Coal Ash Hearing, Poisoned Waters and the 'Stigma Effect' on the Agenda

Aug. 27, 2010

What the Egg Recall Says About Our Food Safety System

Aug. 26, 2010

Some Encouraging News About Everglades Restoration

Aug. 23, 2010

A Look at the UN's Resolution on Water as a Human Right