July 29, 2011 by Aimee Simpson

EPA Moves Forward Toward Test Rule for BPA; Effects on Humans Still Primarily Outside Scope of Process

EPA made further progress this week in its efforts to move forward with a potential Bisphenol-A (BPA) Test Rule, publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in the Federal Register. Overall this progress is good news, though it’s not without its flaws.

EPA completed a draft of the ANPRM in December and sent it over to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review, pursuant to Executive Order 12866. Despite a 10-working-day deadline for review of ANPRMs, OIRA spent more than seven months on its review. OIRA’s edits were also released this week and placed in EPA’s docket.

Mind you, this ANPRM is not a notice for the actual BPA Test Rule, but rather a solicitation for comments and input on whether such a rule is necessary, and, if so, what procedures, target test sites, testing standards, and protocols would best serve the intended purpose of such a rule. The actual chemical test rule, authorized by section 4 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), would impose specific exposure monitoring and toxicity effects testing requirements on the processors, manufacturers, and importers of the subject chemical. For example, a sewage treatment plant might have to …

July 29, 2011 by Amy Sinden

This post was written by Member Scholar Amy Sinden and Policy Analyst Lena Pons.

This morning President Obama will make an announcement about upcoming fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2017-2025. The announcement will reference the Administration’s plan to propose a standard to reach 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. These standards will set the pace at which automakers improve the fuel economy of cars for many years to come, and help to determine how quickly advanced technologies – plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles – will be available in showrooms.

But the planned announcement is troubling because the number the President will roll out was the result of raw political wrangling, not the rational policymaking process that the Administration purports to pride itself on. The White House has been haggling with the automakers for …

July 28, 2011 by James Goodwin

House Republicans are fond of accusing the Obama Administration of trying to “regulate when it cannot legislate.” With a slight modification, a similar accusation can be hurled at House Republicans: They are trying to appropriate when they cannot legislate. This accusation has the benefit of actually being true.

The Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bill for the EPA and the Department of Interior, currently being debated in the People’s House, is loaded down with dozens of anti-environment and anti-public safety policy riders.   Several of these riders are virtually identical to bills that have been considered or are being considered in the House, but which have no chance of passing the Senate or surviving a presidential veto. These riders include a measure that prohibits the EPA from regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste (Section 434), blocks the EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases (Section 431), exempts …

July 26, 2011 by Aimee Simpson

Being a parent is not easy, but some of the most difficult moments arise when you know what needs to be done to protect your child and your child has other sentiments. Call it a temper tantrum, a battle of wills, or disobedience, it all evokes a sense of frustration, exhaustion, and, let’s face it, self-doubt. There is that brief moment when you think to yourself, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to let them have their way? Maybe I am being too harsh or paranoid? Is it really going to hurt them?” Unfortunately, for the EPA, these questions and many more weave their way into the complex and detailed decisions that the agency must make on a daily basis in its quasi-parental role. At its core, EPA exists to protect us from dangerous toxins, pollution, and multitudes of health hazards that plague our environment. The …

July 25, 2011 by Carl Cranor

In Daubert v. Merrell-Dow Pharmaceutical,  General Electric. v. Joiner, and Kumho Tire v. Carmichael the U.S. Supreme Court sought to bring principles for reviewing expert testimony in line with the Federal Rules of Evidence. The opinions sought  to ensure that legal arguments would better comport with the pertinent science needed for the legal cases at issue. To achieve this goal the court gave trial judges a greter duty to review expert testimony for relevance and reliability before plaintiffs could bring their case to a jury. Despite these goals, lower courts have struggled with reviewing scientific testimony and evidence. Some courts so restricted expert testimony and its scientific foundation that scientists found it difficult to present basic scientific evidence about the toxicity of chemicals in a courtroom.

An outstanding decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals this March in Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products (639 F …

July 22, 2011 by Holly Doremus

No one seems to like the idea of regulation these days. Nudges, alternatives that try to get people to voluntarily alter their behavior by changing the context in which they make decisions, have been widely touted as a better approach. Cass Sunstein, Obama’s “regulatory czar” in the Office of Management and Budget, is a leading proponent of the “nudging” idea, and the co-author of a popular book promoting the concept that people should be gently helped to make better decisions for their health and welfare, rather than ordered to do so.

No one is against incorporating nudges into policy, at least no one I know. But the proponents of nudging sometimes make it sound like nudging should entirely replace more coercive approaches. A new report from the UK’s House of Lords Science and Technology Committee throws some cold water on that idea. The report concludes …

July 21, 2011 by Frank Ackerman

This item, cross-posted from Triple Crisis, was written by CPR Member Scholar Frank Ackerman and fellow Stockholm Environment Institute-U.S. Center economist Elizabeth A. Stanton.

Your house might not burn down next year. So you could probably save money by cancelling your fire insurance.

That’s a “bargain” that few homeowners would accept.

But it’s the same deal that politicians have accepted for us, when it comes to insurance against climate change. They have rejected sensible investments in efficiency and clean energy, which would reduce carbon emissions, create green jobs, and jumpstart new technologies – because they are too expensive.

While your house might not burn down, your planet is starting to smolder. Extreme weather events are becoming more common, and more expensive: in the first half of 2011, Mississippi River floods cost us between $2 and $4 billion, while the ongoing Texas drought has cost us …

July 21, 2011 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

After a three-and-a-half month delay for White House review, EPA has finalized its guidance for review of mountaintop removal mining permits in Appalachia. I needn’t have worried that the White House would roll EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on this one. The final guidance maintains the strong stand EPA took last April when it issued the interim guidance it finalized today.

The thrust of this final version, like the interim guidance, is that EPA will actually exercise its oversight authority to make sure that permit decisions follow the law. That hasn’t exactly always been the case for mountaintop removal mining, or really for many Clean Water Act permits.

Mountaintop removal mining operations typically require two types of Clean Water Act permits:  NPDES permits under § 402 for dumping pollutants into the nation’s waters, and wetlands filling permits under § 404. The Clean Water …

July 20, 2011 by Rena Steinzor

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

Few incidents better illustrate the Bush Administration’s outright hostility to politically inconvenient science than its 2008 rule updating the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). In the run-up to that rule, Bush’s EPA ignored the unanimous recommendation of the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC), an independent and well-respected advisor to the EPA on clean air issues, that it set the standard in the range of 60 to 70 parts per billion (ppb) to replace the existing standard of 84 ppb. Instead, the final rule—issued in the waning days of the Bush Administration—set the standard at 75 ppb, well above CASAC’s recommended range.

The ozone standard was so bad that soon after it was issued in 2008, CASAC took the unusual step of publicly criticizing Bush’s …

July 20, 2011 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

Melinda Taylor at the University of Texas School of Law and I have just put out a white paper on Habitat Conservation Plans and Climate Change: Recommendations for Policy.  It can be accessed here through Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment, or here through UT’s Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law.

A lot of attention has been paid lately to what role, if any, the Endangered Species Act should play in addressing greenhouse gas emissions.  Much less attention has been paid to the ways that climate change complicates implementation of the Act’s established tools, such as habitat conservation planning.

The ESA prohibits the “take,” broadly defined, of endangered and most threatened animal species. Nonetheless, the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service can issue “incidental take permits” allowing some take incidental to …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
July 29, 2011

White House Flouts Agency Heads, Rolls Out Backroom Deal on Fuel Economy Standard

July 29, 2011

EPA Moves Forward Toward Test Rule for BPA; Effects on Humans Still Primarily Outside Scope of Process

July 28, 2011

Amidst GOP Anti-Regulatory Budget Riders, a Familiar Plan for Paralysis by Analysis

July 26, 2011

Holding its Legal (and Parental) Ground: EPA Responds to the American Chemistry Council's Request for Correction of the BPA Action Plan

July 25, 2011

Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products: How the First Circuit Opened Courthouse Doors for Wronged Parties to Present Wider Range of Scientific Evidence

July 22, 2011

UK Report: Behavioral Change Takes More Than a Nudge

July 21, 2011

Facing up to the Real Cost of Carbon