April 29, 2014 by Erin Kesler

CPR Scholars Respond to Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of EPA's Cross-State Pollution Rule

The Supreme Court today upheld, by a 6-2 vote, the EPA's cross-state air pollution rule.

Below are reactions from Center for Progressive Reform scholars Thomas O. McGarity and Victor Flatt.

According to McGarity:

After two decade's worth of litigation, the Supreme Court has finally held that EPA may require polluters in one state to protect air quality in downwind states through a sensible combination of emissions thresholds, cost-effective pollution reduction technologies, and emissions trading.  

While this is good news to residents of downwind states, they cannot yet breathe easy.  Much time has passed since EPA promulgated the "cross-state" rule in 2011, and both EPA and the states must now make up for lost time in putting the rule's protective provisions into place.  

To achieve a successful implementation, EPA must resist the inevitable demands for exceptions, exemptions, and time extensions from upwind states that have thus far successfully forestalled the Clean Air Act's "good neighbor" policy.

According to Flatt:

The majority got it exactly right in reversing the DC Circuit Court and upholding the EPA's painstakingly crafted cross state air pollution rule. The majority was correct that the formula promulgated by the EPA was well within …

April 24, 2014 by Joel Mintz

In a very thoughtful CPRBlog piece, dated April 14, 2014, Rena Steinzor presents a powerful critique of the enforcement aspects of EPA’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. As Professor Steinzor rightly points out, EPA’s projected cutbacks in source inspections, civil judicial enforcement, administrative enforcement actions, and other enforcement work will likely encourage air and water pollution by small and medium-sized polluters that will have harmful effects on human health and the environment. At the same time, however, when one compares the final Strategic Plan’s enforcement components with the enforcement sections of the draft Strategic Plan that the Agency released for public comment last November, it becomes evident that the final Plan contains a modest silver lining in an ominous dark cloud.

The Agency’s initial draft Strategic Plan sought public comment on some proposals for changing the system by which EPA measures the success or failure …

April 21, 2014 by Christine Klein

Landowners flooded by the Missouri River in 2011 have sued the Corps of Engineers for a Fifth Amendment “taking” under the U.S. Constitution.  Their attorneys hope to rake in over $250 million in claims for their clients and at least $1 million in expenses and fees for themselves.  They’re likely to be disappointed.

Lawsuits seeking recovery of flood damages from the federal government almost always fail.  First, the United States is immune from suit for negligent construction or handling of flood control structures under the sovereign immunity shield of the 1928 Flood Control Act, as plaintiffs whose lives were destroyed when levees failed during Hurricane Katrina quickly discovered.  My co-author Christine Klein and I have called for a repeal of this provision in our article and book on Unnatural Disasters, but it hasn’t happened.

In hopes of avoiding the immunity problem, the Missouri River …

April 16, 2014 by Rena Steinzor

It’s basic common decency:  If you know people are about to stumble into a dangerous situation without realizing the risk, you should try to warn them before harm occurs.  For example, you might warn someone that a frying pan is hot before they pick it up or that a handrail is broken before they try to descend a staircase.

For too many companies, though, concerns about profit margins and quarterly earnings reports leave little room for common decency.  These days, when a company becomes aware that the activities it undertakes or the products or services it offers put its workers or consumers in harm’s away, it often decides that its economic best interests are best served by keeping the public in the dark.  By turning a blind eye, companies hope to avoid footing the costs necessary for eliminating the harms they are creating.  This strategy …

April 15, 2014 by Rena Steinzor

It’s hard to find someone who is not appalled at the news that General Motors knew the ignition switches on some 2.6 million of its automobiles were defective and yet did nothing to fix the problem, instead recommending that its customers stop using keychains.  It also lied repeatedly to its regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the media, and its customers. The company’s deliberate lies saved about 90 cents per car, but the defect, apparent for many years, cost lives. So far, GM admits to 13 deaths caused by the sudden failure of the ignition switches, shutting down the cars’ electrical systems, and with it, power brakes, power steering, and airbags.  But judging from the number of people who have filed lawsuits, the death toll could climb much higher, not to mention the non-fatal accidents caused by the problem, conveniently ignored by …

April 14, 2014 by Rena Steinzor

Since the year began, the Environmental Protection Agency has resolved enforcement actions against 12 different companies in the Chesapeake region for failure to comply with environmental laws.  In one case, EPA found that the U.S. Army had failed to inspect more than a dozen underground tanks at one of its Virginia military bases containing hundreds of thousands of gallons of jet fuel, diesel fuel, and gasoline.  A D.C. hospital was not properly checking for carbon monoxide leaks.  A solvent processing facility in Cockeysville, Maryland, was storing industrial waste in a room with a leaky floor.

The Army paid $41,000; the hospital forked over $15,000; the solvent processing facility was out $80,650.  Collectively, the 12 settlements amounted to nearly $325,000 in penalties.  Compared with the $5.15 billion the Texas oil company Anadarko Petroleum Corp. agreed to pay this month for a …

April 9, 2014 by James Goodwin

This week the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)—the obscure White House Office charged with reviewing and approving agencies’ regulations—took an important and much-appreciated step in the direction of greater transparency by updating and improving its electronic database of lobbying meetings records that the agency holds with outside groups concerning the rules undergoing review.  As detailed in a 2011 CPR report, corporate interests have long used OIRA as a court of last resort for seeking relief from regulatory requirements they find inconvenient; these lobbying meetings provide them with a powerful and secretive forum in which to push for substantive changes to critical agency safeguards that would ensure the public continues to bear the cost of their polluting activities.  With the improved database, the public, policymakers, and the media will be better able to track the efforts of corporate interests to exploit the OIRA review …

April 9, 2014 by Erin Kesler

Yesterday, The Hill published an opinion piece by CPR scholars Christine Klein and Sandra Zellmer.

According to the piece:

President Obama recently signed a controversial bill that will directly affect the safety of millions of Americans. The fine print is so complicated, though, that it’s hard to predict exactly how our safety will be affected.

Some say that the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 brings desperately needed relief to property owners who face ruinous increases in their premiums for federal flood insurance. To supporters like Senator Schumer (D-N.Y.), the law preserves the American dream of homeownership from ill-conceived intervention by “an irrational Washington force.”

Others see the new law as election-year pandering and a cowardly reversal of course. Just two years ago, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 in direct response to catastrophic damage from Superstorm Sandy. The 2012 …

April 3, 2014 by Erin Kesler

Today, CPR Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz will be testifying at OSHA’s hearing on the proposed silica rule.

According to Shudtz:

The testimony raises some concerns about how OSHA arrived at its proposal to provide limited medical surveillance for silica-exposed workers.  It also covers issues related to enforcement and small business impacts.  But most importantly, the testimony reiterates the need to get this rule finalized quickly.  As we have noted many times in this space, millions of workers are exposed to silica dust at levels that cause high rates of silicosis, lung cancer, renal disease, COPD, and other health problems.  The faster this rule is put in place and enforced, the faster these workers will be able to breath safer air.

To read the testimony in full click here.

April 2, 2014 by James Goodwin

Yesterday, 13 Member Scholars of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) sent a letter to the U.S. Senate expressing their concern about S.J. Res. 30, a Congressional Review Act (CRA) “resolution of disapproval” introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that seeks to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Air Act New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) to limit greenhouse gas emissions from future fossil-fueled power plants. Drawing on their many years experience in administrative law, the Member Scholars make the case that McConnell’s proposal is at odds with the CRA, because it seeks disapproval not of a final regulation, but of a regulation that has merely been proposed.  “By attempting to subject a proposed rule—as opposed to a final rule—to this process,” they write, “S.J. Res. 30 is contrary to the statutory language and could raise questions …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 29, 2014

CPR Scholars Respond to Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of EPA's Cross-State Pollution Rule

April 24, 2014

EPA's Final Enforcement Strategic Plan: A Small Silver Lining in a Very Dark Cloud

April 21, 2014

Missouri River Floodplain Owners Seeking a “Double-Take” from the Taxpayers

April 16, 2014

The Age of Greed: Keeping the Public in the Dark About Dangerous Products

April 15, 2014

What's Good Enough for General Motors…

April 14, 2014

The Victims of EPA's Retreat from Enforcement

April 9, 2014

Better Late Than Never: OIRA's Meeting Logs Just Got a Lot More Transparent