Oct. 29, 2010 by Ben Somberg

The Economics of California's Climate Law

Over at Grist, CPR Member Scholar Frank Ackerman explains why the economic calculations used by the Yes on 23 campaign in California are rather fishy.

Oct. 28, 2010 by Yee Huang

On November 7, the National Geographic Channel is premiering Great Migrations, a seven-episode series that chronicles the movements of animals on every continent, from the magnificent monarch butterfly migration from Mexico to northern Canada to the impressive wildebeest migration across the plains of the Serengeti.

A report by the United Nations concluded that climate change will impact population sizes, species distribution, the timing of reproduction and migration events, and the increased vulnerability to disease and predation. Compounding these effects are additional human-induced changes to the natural environment, including habitat degradation and destruction, water and air pollution, and the spread of invasive species. Of all the organisms on the planet, migratory species are among the most affected by climate change, which has the potential to affect each step of their life cycle.  A Kenyan newspaper recently reported that this year’s wildebeest migration was abruptly shortened, possibly due …

Oct. 27, 2010 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

The Minerals Management Service within the Department of Interior was responsible for overseeing offshore oil development in federal waters from its creation in 1982 until its demise earlier this year. MMS was always a troubled agency, to put it mildly, dogged by scandals and a revolving door with the industry it regulates. After the Deepwater Horizon incident made its failings obvious, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reorganized MMS out of existence, promising that the new management structure would “improve the management, oversight, and accountability of activities on the Outer Continental Shelf.”

Salazar replaced MMS with the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (an awkward name that produces the even more awkward acronym BOEM or BOEMRE, which I’m told people in the Gulf have already taken to pronouncing as “bummer”). In order to try to reduce perceived conflicts of interest, BOEMRE …

Oct. 26, 2010 by William Andreen

Since my post last week ("Convictions for Violations of the Clean Water Act Continue to Ebb"), a number of significant things have occurred. On October 20, the EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Cynthia Giles, announced that the Director of the Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training was retiring and that the Director of the Criminal Investigation Division had decided to pursue new challenges within the agency. In addition to this personnel shake-up, Assistant Administrator Giles has pledged to hire 40 more criminal investigators at EPA. The number of investigators had fallen from 205 in 2003 to approximately 160. The agency appears, therefore, to be committed to reinvigorating what seems to have been, at least until recently, a lagging criminal enforcement effort. 

In response to a reporter’s inquiry prompted by my post, EPA disputed TRAC Reports' projection of convictions that would be …

Oct. 20, 2010 by Daniel Farber

On October 14, the White House’s Climate Change Adaptation Task Force released its recommendations to President Obama for how agencies can better prepare the United States to respond to the impacts of climate change.  Once again we are reminded of how important it is to have an Administration that takes climate science seriously.

According to the scientists, even if we curb emissions, global temperatures will continue to rise for decades, bringing along with them rising seas, more heat waves, more severe flooding, and more serious droughts. The Task Force’s report is a solid step forward in preparing the U.S. to deal with the challenges of climate change. There are five key recommendations.

1. Mainstream adaptation as a standard part of agency planning. Agency adaptation plans should prioritize the most vulnerable people, places, and infrastructure. The plans should utilize ecosystem based approaches.  Getting agencies to …

Oct. 19, 2010 by William Andreen

According to the latest data published by TRAC Reports, the number of federal convictions obtained for violations of the Clean Water Act during fiscal year 2010 has continued to follow a recent downward trajectory. Since reaching a high of nearly 70 in FY 1998, the number of convictions has continued to decline toward what may be its lowest level since the early 1990s. During the first ten months of FY 2010, the Department of Justice reported 23 convictions, a pace that would produce 28 convictions for the entire fiscal year—a decline of  60 percent since FY 1998.

This is a disturbing trend since vigorous enforcement activity is a critical component of any credible environmental protection program. Convictions alone, however, do not necessarily reveal how effective a criminal enforcement program may be. A strategic decision to pursue tougher, higher quality cases rather than run-of-the-mill cases would likely …

Oct. 19, 2010 by Matt Shudtz

Today, OSHA released a “proposed interpretation” of its 39-year old noise exposure standards. Talk about making up for lost time. All joking aside, this move truly is a positive step for American workers, and may demonstrate a path of action that could help OSHA address hazards in addition to excessive noise. 

Over the years, the federal courts and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) have muddied the waters of many OSHA regulations, enforcement policies, and rulemaking procedures. Their sometimes contradictory, sometimes ambiguous decisions have left OSHA struggling to write new standards in a cumbersome rulemaking process and unable to stringently enforce existing standards—or even employers’ fundamental obligations under the General Duty Clause. The story of the noise exposure standards, as told in today’s Federal Register notice, is a prime example.

OSHA first promulgated the noise exposure standards in 1971, under its authority to …

Oct. 14, 2010 by Yee Huang

The EPA Region 5 recently published a refreshingly blunt report on the state of concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) permitting in Illinois, and the assessment is disturbing. EPA concluded that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program for CAFOs “does not meet minimum thresholds for an adequate program.” Ouch.

As in many other states around the country, agriculture in Illinois is one of the state’s leading economic drivers and one of the leading sources of water pollution. The state has the fourth largest concentration of large-scale hog confinements in the United States, producing 4.5 million hogs each year. This massive hog production, highly concentrated in CAFOs, comes at a significant environmental cost. According to the state’s 2004 Water Quality Report, more than 85% of Illinois’ public lake acreage is impaired, largely attributable to agriculture. Moreover, the agriculture …

Oct. 14, 2010 by Celeste Monforton

Cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and MSHA asst. secretary Joe Main are proposing new rules to protect U.S. coal mine workers from developing illnesses related to exposure to respirable coal mine dust. The most commonly known adverse health effect is black lung disease, but exposure is also associated with excess risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, progressive massive fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. The proposal, scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Oct 19,* takes a comprehensive approach to the problem. I've not had a chance to read carefully the entire lengthy document, but I see provisions to reduce the permissible exposure limit for respirable coal dust from 2.0 mg/m3 to 1.0 mg/m3 (phased-in over 2 years), change the way miners' exposure to coal dust is measured from an average over five shifts to a …

Oct. 13, 2010 by Rena Steinzor

Whatever happens at the polls this November, President Obama will get a chance to turn the electoral tide in 2012, perhaps without the loadstone of recession around his political neck.  And, while the economy and many other issues will continue to occupy the President for the best and most obvious of reasons, it’s fair for everyone in the country to expect him to multi-task. For progressives who care about the environment, I’d suggest one critical criterion for judging the Administration: Can the President and his senior appointees stop running from the bogus claims that they stand for big, bloated, ineffective government and instead explain to the American people why government makes a vital difference to our daily lives?

Just last week we got another distressing, preliminary answer to this crucial question when the Administration stiffly dismissed the preliminary findings of staff at the bipartisan National …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Oct. 29, 2010

The Economics of California's Climate Law

Oct. 28, 2010

Moving Along: Preserving the Great Wildlife Migrations

Oct. 27, 2010

Meet the New BOEMRE, Same as the Old MMS

Oct. 26, 2010

Update: EPA Releases Full FY 2010 Stats on CWA Convictions

Oct. 20, 2010

The Feds Take On Climate Adaptation

Oct. 19, 2010

Convictions for Violations of the Clean Water Act Continue to Ebb

Oct. 19, 2010

A New Round in the OSHA-OSHRC Fight Over Noise Exposure