Feb. 28, 2012 by Sidney Shapiro

What Does It Mean that the Public Overwhelmingly Supports Specific Types of Regulation, But Questions 'Regulation' in General?

A new Pew public opinion poll published last week shows substantial public support for specific types of regulation, but skepticism about regulation in general. While 70-89% of the public would either expand or keep current levels of five specific types of regulation, 52% say government regulation of business usually does more harm than good as compared to 40% who think regulating business is necessary to protect the public interest. The five types of regulation were car safety and efficiency, environmental protection, food protection and packaging, prescription drugs, and workplace safety and health. These poll results generally echo previous polling, including an earlier poll by Pew.

It may be, as cynics are likely to point out, you can’t underestimate the power of the American people to hold two contradictory ideas at once. Perhaps, but the polling results do offer insight into how the public thinks about regulation.

For one thing, there is little enthusiasm for the radical cutbacks in regulation that many conservative seem to favor. The proportion of people saying that they favored reducing regulation was as follows: car safety and efficiency (9%), environmental protection (17%), food protection and packaging (7%), prescription drugs (20%), and workplace safety and health …

Feb. 27, 2012 by David Hunter

a(broad) perspective

Today’s post is first in a series on a recent CPR white paper, Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership: Why the United States Should Ratify Ten Pending Environmental Treaties.  Each month, this series will discuss one of these ten treaties. 

Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels Adopted and Opened for Signature on June 19, 2001 Entered into Force on February 1, 2004 Number of Parties: 13 Signed by the United States, June 19, 2001 Sent to the Senate on September 26, 2008, and January 16, 2009

Albatrosses and petrels are oceanic birds with a unique natural history:  they typically breed on remote, barren islands and spend most of their time flying long distances over the ocean.  Some species may not return to land for many years after birth and then only briefly to reproduce.  This highly migratory natural history means that these birds …

Feb. 23, 2012 by

On February 28, the Supreme Court will hear argument in Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum, a case with far-reaching implications for efforts to hold corporations accountable when they commit or are complicit in abuses of human rights. 

For over fifty years, Shell has extracted oil from Nigeria, causing great harm to the environment and people of the Niger delta.  The Ogoni people living in the delta protested Shell’s operations, and in response the Nigerian government harshly oppressed them.  Most infamously, in 1995 it executed the author Ken Saro-Wiwa, together with eight other leaders of the protests.     

Esther Kiobel, the widow of one of the executed men, as well as other affected Ogoni, sued Shell in U.S. federal court, claiming that it aided and abetted the Nigerian government in its violations of human rights law.  The plaintiffs relied on the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a law …

Feb. 22, 2012 by Rena Steinzor

Imagine for a moment that you’rethe chief executive of a company that manufactures chemicals used in plastics that become consumer products, especially plastic picnic ware.  The head of your product development lab reports that she has just gotten some troubling results regarding one of your biggest sellers—a chemical agent that makes it possible for plastic utensils to maintains their decorator colors.  The study shows that this agent causes severe neurological damage in rats.  The Toxic Substances Control Act, commonly referred to as T(O)SCA, requires you to turn all “health and safety” studies over to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  You tell her to do so, but order that the name of the suspect substance be replaced with a so-called “generic chemical name” that makes it impossible for anyone to understand the implications of the study.  You further instruct that your company name be …

Feb. 22, 2012 by Robert Verchick


Mardi Gras Float, 2011

Well, another magnificent Mardi Gras has ended, and at this point, I’d normally be slouched on the sofa sipping a tomato juice (neat) and sorting beads. But not this year.  That’s because next week, squadrons of lawyers, journalists, petroleum engineers, and fisher folk are scheduled to descend on New Orleans, squeeze into a federal courtroom, and begin on Monday what the media have modestly called, “The Trial of the Century,” otherwise known as the BP Oil Spill litigation.

Whatever the rest of the century holds, it seems fair to say that this legal dispute, if it does not settle, will be the most complicated environmental trial anyone has ever seen.  With a thousand plaintiffs, a galaxy of witnesses, and 20,000 exhibits, this spectacular has more moving parts than a Madonna half-time show. As the trial unfolds, I’ll provide you …

Feb. 21, 2012 by Kirsten Engel

On Feb. 28 and 29, the D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear arguments on a suite of industry-led challenges to EPA-issued greenhouse gas rules.  While attention has focused on industry’s challenge to EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases (GHGs) endanger the environment, industry’s challenge to the greenhouse gas permitting “tailoring” rule – a rule limiting the CAA’s application to only the largest GHG sources – is just as important, and just as interesting a battle.  At issue is constitutional law’s most hard-fought doctrine in environmental litigation: standing to sue. 

In its September 2011 brief, EPA contends that the Tailoring Rule is designed to alleviate the burden that the CAA would otherwise impose on a wide variety of stationary GHG sources.  Because it is alleviating, not imposing, a burden, the Tailoring Rule does not create the “injury” that industry must demonstrate to have standing to …

Feb. 20, 2012 by Daniel Farber

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

Governor Romney has endorsed an idea called regulatory budgeting, but it really means capping protection for public health. Romney’s position paper explains the concept as follows:

To force agencies to limit the costs they are imposing on society, and to provide the certainty that businesses crave, a system of regulatory caps is required. As noted, the federal government has estimated that the existing regulatory burden approaches $1.75 trillion. We cannot afford those costs to go any higher. . . .

. . . .In the first term of a Romney administration, the rate at which agencies could impose new regulations would be capped at zero. What this means is that if an agency wishes or is required by law to issue a new regulation, it must go through a budget-like process and identify offsetting cost reductions from the existing regulatory burden.

Most of the EPA’s major …

Feb. 17, 2012 by Rena Steinzor

The Economist’s February 18 edition offers a cover package of five articles on “Over-regulated America” (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Our British friends want you to know there’s a problem here in the States that needs fixing:

A study for the Small Business Administration, a government body, found that regulations in general add $10,585 in costs per employee. It’s a wonder the jobless rate isn’t even higher than it is.

You can almost feel The Economist’s pain: the jobless rate should be a lot higher than it is, if the premise about the costs of regulations is correct. Surely if the regulatory burden were actually 12 percent of GDP – that’s what the SBA numbers say, if you draw them out – things would be far worse than they are. Ideologically unable to consider the obvious alternative – that regulations don’t add …

Feb. 17, 2012 by Matt Shudtz

Today EPA released the first part of its long-awaited reassessment of the human health risks posed by 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, a chemical considered to be the most toxic of the dioxin compounds and the stuff that made Agent Orange so bad for its victims.  It’s bittersweet news: on the one hand, the decades-long stretch between EPA’s first look at dioxin and this document is something we don’t like to see, while on the other, today marks an enormous step forward. The document released today focuses only on non-cancer effects and sets an oral reference dose—the level of exposure below which key health impacts are unlikely to occur.  Past EPA assessments looked only at dioxin’s carcinogenic risks, so it is an important development that today’s release looks at the many other adverse health outcomes that might occur, such as “chloracne, developmental …

Feb. 16, 2012 by Sandra Zellmer

Last month, President Obama denied TransCanada’s permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline because a congressionally mandated deadline did not allow enough time to evaluate the project once Nebraska completed its analysis for re-routing of the pipeline around the Sand Hills.

A January 26-29 poll from Hart Research Associates found that, after hearing arguments for and against the pipeline, 47% of voters in four Presidential battleground states polled agree with President Obama’s decision while 36% disagree with it.  Yet just this week, the U.S. Senate is considering whether to add language to an unrelated highway authorization bill to force the President to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

The pipeline rider has the backing of 44 Republicans and one Democrat in the Senate.  Passing it is a bad idea on several levels.  For one thing, riders like this one short-circuit the congressional process …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Feb. 28, 2012

What Does It Mean that the Public Overwhelmingly Supports Specific Types of Regulation, But Questions 'Regulation' in General?

Feb. 27, 2012

Extending Protection to Wildlife: Why the United States Should Ratify the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Feb. 23, 2012

Can Corporations Violate Human Rights? In <i>Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum</i>, the Supreme Court May Say Yes ... or No

Feb. 22, 2012

Mardi Gras, Check. BP 'Trial of the Century' Here We Come.

Feb. 22, 2012

The Age of Greed: What the Chemical Industry Doesn't Want You to Know

Feb. 21, 2012

EPA's Standing Argument: A Sleeping Giant in the Tailoring Rule Litigation?

Feb. 20, 2012

Placing a Ceiling on Protection for Public Health