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April 29, 2016 by William Andreen

Climate Change Increases Need for Reform of Nonpoint Source Pollution and Stream Flow Approaches

The Clean Water Act has been a success in many ways. The discharge of pollutants from both industrial and municipal point sources has plummeted, the loss of wetlands has been cut decisively, and water quality has improved broadly across the entire nation. Despite all of that progress, many of our waters remain impaired. The primary reason for this lies in the failure of the Clean Water Act to effectively tackle two significant sources of water pollution: nonpoint source pollution (diffuse runoff from, for example, fields and logging operations) and hydrologic modifications (such as water withdrawals and dams).

In contrast to the Act’s approach to point source discharges and the loss of wetlands, Congress left control of both nonpoint source pollution and hydrological modifications primarily in state hands. While some states have responded well to the challenge, most have not been up to the task. New approaches are needed to deal more effectively and more comprehensively with both problems, the magnitude of which is staggering: over 40,000 nonpoint source-impaired waters and thousands of flow-impaired water bodies.

Climate change will exacerbate both problems. Heavier rainfall events have been increasingly common all across the nation, and this trend will likely intensify …

April 28, 2016 by Matt Shudtz
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Today, a lot of numbers will be thrown around – the staggering number of workers who died gruesome deaths on the job last year, the paltry fines that employers responsible for those deaths paid, the months and years we've waited for Congress to revisit the Occupational Safety and Health Act to make it more relevant to our modern workforce.

There's good reason to reflect on those numbers. They tell us something important about our society and our relationship to work. They tell us that we have a long way to go before the real value of workers' time, effort, and dedication to their jobs is respected and honored.

40,000 Verizon workers are on strike. The contract dispute is complicated, but one of the core issues is the company's threat to move jobs from one location to another, like so many interchangeable, faceless component parts …

April 28, 2016 by James Goodwin
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Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Joel Mintz submitted written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law ahead of its hearing this morning on yet another ill-advised bill, the misleadingly named "Stop Settlement Funds Slush Funds Act of 2016." The bill would place arbitrary limits on how the federal government can use funds it obtains through settlement agreements that arise from enforcement actions brought against companies that have violated federal laws and the regulations that implement them. 

Mintz's testimony focuses on one particularly harmful effect this bill would have: its restrictions on the ability of agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to include Supplemental Environmental Programs (SEPs) as part of the settlement agreements it reaches for violations of environmental laws like the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act. As he explains, the EPA's SEPs …

April 22, 2016 by Mollie Rosenzweig
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Just as we predicted back in December, foods created with CRISPR technology (short for clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats) are entering the food supply beyond the reach of federal regulators. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would not regulate white button mushrooms that scientists altered to stop them from browning. The agency's confirmation that it is unable to regulate CRISPR-modified foods confirms that the current statutory scheme for genetically modified foods is not sufficient. 

In the simplest terms, genetically modified plants are created when scientists add foreign DNA (usually DNA from bacteria) to a plant to give it a designated trait, like resistance to a virus or to a pesticide. CRISPR (pronounced “crisper”), a newer technology, does not rely on foreign DNA. Instead of combining genetic material from different species, scientists edit the organism’s existing genetic code to achieve …

April 21, 2016 by Brian Gumm
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Lisa Heinzerling, a Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and Georgetown University Professor of Law, published a piece this week on The Conversation that explores the ongoing political debate over environmental regulations. 

In particular, Heinzerling calls out the often misleading claims about the costs of safeguards that protect our air, water, health, and wild places: 

Specifically, the 2010 Small Business Administration regulatory costs study misinterpreted a World Bank database and drew unsupportable conclusions from it. The study also included the costs of rules that did not exist because either agencies or courts pulled them back. It relied on a 1974 study by the National Association of Manufacturers to estimate the cost of workplace safety regulations today, and double-counted rules in estimating costs. 

Even when performed more carefully, estimates of regulatory costs have often proved too high. For example, the actual costs of the national emissions trading program …

April 21, 2016 by Robert Glicksman
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Yesterday, I joined four other witnesses in testifying about the Endangered Species Act (ESA) at a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing. Most of the witnesses and House members who attended focused on a variety of complaints about the ESA's provisions governing listing and delisting of species and called for changes to the law and the ways in which it is administered. In doing so, they missed the larger point about efforts to save endangered and threatened species: we need the type of systemic, nationwide approach envisioned by the framers of the ESA, and we need fully funded agencies that are empowered to protect habitats and ecosystems, not just individual species. 

As I noted in my testimony, the ESA has achieved considerable success in meeting its conservation goals. Without it, animals like the bald eagle and the alligator may have been pushed past the brink …

April 20, 2016 by Matthew Freeman
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Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar (and board member) Rob Glicksman is on Capitol Hill testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s subcommittee on the Interior this afternoon at 2 pm ET. The hearing will focus on “barriers to delisting” of species under the Endangered Species Act.

He’ll cover four major points in his testimony, which he summarizes thusly:

First, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has achieved considerable success in achieving its conservation goals. Second, budgetary constraints have prevented the two agencies that oversee implementation of the statute, the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), from compiling an even better track record. Third, citizen participation in ESA implementation has played an important role in promoting the statute’s goals. Fourth, Congress in 1973 had good reasons for allocating to the federal …

April 19, 2016 by Evan Isaacson
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Yesterday, the Chesapeake Bay Program released its latest estimate of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Bay watershed. The annual model run of the program's Watershed Model shows that the estimated nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads decreased by three percent, three percent, and four percent, respectively, compared to 2014 levels. These are important improvements, but much work lies ahead to improve water quality in the Bay and boost the fisheries, wildlife, and recreational activities it supports.

The estimated decrease in nitrogen loads of nearly 7 million pounds brings the Chesapeake Bay a bit closer to the 2017 interim target under the restoration plan known as the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL). However, the watershed as a whole – including the six Bay states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, plus the District of Columbia – remains significantly off track.

The latest annual …

April 19, 2016 by James Goodwin
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Several weeks ago, Sen. Elizabeth Warren delivered perhaps the most important speech on the U.S. regulatory system in recent memory at a forum on regulatory capture organized by the Administrative Conference of the United States. In it, she described how the regulatory system was not working for the people as it should be – or as Congress had intended. Instead, she described how corporate influence over the regulatory process has become so far-reaching and so overwhelming that it has become fundamentally "tilted" to generate results that favor corporate profit at the expense of crucial safeguards necessary for protecting people and the environment. 

Put differently, Warren's speech described how corporate interests had gone beyond capturing discrete agencies – a phenomenon that policymakers and political scientists have recognized for decades – and now have successfully captured critical components of the process by which agencies do their work. 

This new approach …

April 18, 2016 by Eric Panicco
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Eric Panicco, a candidate for Master of Arts in Sustainability at Wake Forest University, is undertaking an independent study for CPR Member Scholar Sidney Shapiro.

On August 3 of last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan. It was a historic moment for President Obama, one he commemorated by observing, "We're the first generation to feel climate change, and the last one that can do something about it."

Should it survive the inevitable court challenge launched within days of its release, the Clean Power Plan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) as an important part of a strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, because of the GHGs that humans have already released, we will have to address the effects of climate change that are already well underway. Mitigation efforts such as the Clean Power Plan are important to keep …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
April 29, 2016

Climate Change Increases Need for Reform of Nonpoint Source Pollution and Stream Flow Approaches

April 28, 2016

Reflections on Workers' Memorial Day

April 28, 2016

CPR's Mintz Outlines Flaws of House Bill That Would Undercut SEPs

April 22, 2016

Genetically Modified Mushroom Moves Forward with No Oversight

April 21, 2016

Heinzerling Calls Out Misleading Cost Claims on Environmental Regulations

April 21, 2016

Saving Endangered Species Requires a Systemic, Nationwide Approach

April 20, 2016

CPR's Glicksman Testifies on Endangered Species Act