Sept. 30, 2016 by Matthew Freeman

'Super Polluters' Under the Microscope

In a story published yesterday, the Center for Public Integrity takes a deep dive into the public health impact of the nation’s “super polluters,” a collection of industrial polluters that account for an outsized share of toxic air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Produced in collaboration with USA Today and The Weather Channel, the story focuses in on Evansville, Indiana, a city of 120,000 nestled in the southwest corner of the state and ringed by no fewer than seven coal-fired power plants within 30 miles. According to the story, they collectively pump out millions of pounds of toxic air pollution and emit greenhouse gases comparable to those produced by Hong Kong.

At the heart of CPI’s piece is an Information Age equivalent of shoe-leather journalism: the Center merged data from two EPA datasets – the Toxics Release Inventory and the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program – and identified the nation’s top 100 polluting industrial complexes for toxics and greenhouse gases, respectively. Comparing the two lists, they note that 21 facilities are on both, and four are among those surrounding Evansville.

From there, the story goes on to paint a powerfully specific picture of the health …

Sept. 29, 2016 by Jeremy Baker

Larry Hogan promised to be the "best environmental governor that's ever served" in Maryland. But three recent policy developments call that claim into question. 

Earlier this year, the Hogan administration vetoed the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would have raised Maryland's renewable energy portfolio standard – the share of electricity that energy providers must derive from renewable sources – from 20 percent by 2022 to 25 percent by 2020. A stronger commitment to renewable energy could have had a tremendous effect on the state economy, attracting clean energy providers and other environmentally conscious companies. Moreover, according to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, the act would have raised monthly utility bills by only $1 to $2. 

With the veto, the governor declined to increase the renewable energy goal and shorten the time period for achieving it, despite being in a position to do so. Instead, he threw …

Sept. 26, 2016 by Amy Sinden

Originally published on RegBlog by CPR Member Scholar Amy Sinden.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Michigan v. EPA last term, a number of commentators have revived talk of something called the "Cost Benefit State." It is supposed to be a good thing, although it makes some of us shudder. The phrase was originally coined by Cass Sunstein in a 2002 book by that name. It describes a supposedly utopian government in which agencies and courts apply to all regulatory decision-making a formal cost-benefit analysis (CBA) grounded in welfare economics.

Sunstein and other eager proponents of CBA have seized on language in the Michigan case that, in the course of striking down the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) mercury rule, gestured toward the existence of a presumption favoring the consideration of costs in regulatory decision-making. Sunstein heralded the opinion …

Sept. 23, 2016 by William Buzbee

Next Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear four hours of argument over the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Federalism-linked statutory, regulatory, and doctrinal law has been and will be crucial to the CPP's fate, and several issues of federalism will play a key role.

In designing the CPP, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency built on states' actions in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in recent years through use of GHG trading regimes, and nudging or requiring power plants to produce energy through cleaner or renewable sources. The CPP's core requirements – capped pollution targets for each state – are built on EPA's assessment of what "best systems of emission reduction" have been "adequately demonstrated," and derives the targets from that assessment.

States were able to make such progress during recent decades due both to their longstanding powers to …

Sept. 21, 2016 by Katie Tracy

Federal contractors that violate labor laws not only cheat workers by disregarding their rights to fair pay and safe workplaces, but they also tend to run into unexpected costs and delays during performance of the contracts they're awarded. With this in mind, in 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13673, which seeks to improve cost savings and efficiency in government contracting by requiring prospective contractors to disclose labor law violations and obligating contracting agencies to review those violations before awarding contracts. The E.O. also requires federal contractors to provide employees with wage statements that include certain information so that workers can verify the accuracy of their paychecks. 

Consistent with the E.O.'s directives, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council and Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule and guidance, respectively, in the Federal Register on Aug. 25. The Center for Progressive …

Sept. 20, 2016 by

The Chesapeake Bay watershed and its restoration framework under the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) are so large and complex that it can be a real challenge to study, much less write about, the problem and the ongoing restoration efforts. This is why the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment of the tiny Beck Creek watershed in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania is so valuable. The same activities that have fouled Beck Creek and the restoration practices that are working to revive it are the same problems and solutions familiar to all of us who study the Chesapeake Bay.

The biggest contributing source of nitrogen pollution in the Bay watershed is agriculture, and Pennsylvania sends the most nitrogen pollution into the Bay of any state in the region. Because of this, the small, agriculture-dominated watershed surrounding Beck Creek is literally the epicenter of the problem, making …

Sept. 19, 2016 by Alice Kaswan

California's recent climate legislation is noteworthy not only for its toughest-in-the-nation carbon reduction goals – 40 percent below 1990 emissions by 2030 – but also for continuing the state's tradition of linking climate and environmental justice goals. AB 197, which accompanied a carbon reduction bill known as SB 32, prioritizes direct emission reductions likely to improve air quality; increases public access to information about carbon, conventional, and toxic emissions; and establishes a new cross-cutting legislative oversight committee to systematically monitor California's multi-faceted climate programs.

The environmental justice movement has long recognized the connection between climate policies and environmental justice. Advocates have supported stringent carbon reduction targets because poor and marginalized communities are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts like heat waves, drought, and economic disruptions to agriculture and tourism.

Climate policies also have important implications for the traditional pollutants that pose the most immediate threats …

Sept. 15, 2016 by James Goodwin

Last night, the House of Representatives, in an almost completely party-line vote, passed the Regulatory Integrity Act (H.R. 5226), a bill that would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other agencies from engaging the public on their pending efforts to address climate change, prevent foodborne illness, and otherwise act in the public interest. Center for Progressive Reform Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin offered the following reaction to the bill's passage: 

Poll after poll shows that the more the American people hear about individual regulatory safeguards, the more they support them. So it's no surprise that House conservatives, acting at the behest of their corporate benefactors, want to muzzle the agency experts who help develop these crucial protections. 

Make no mistake, this bill is about preventing agencies from making the public aware of proposed health, safety …

Sept. 13, 2016 by Brian Gumm

Every year, Thomson Reuters and West Publishing compile a set of significant and influential articles from a number of legal scholars who focus on land use and environmental law. The Land Use & Environment Law Review represents some of the best scholarship on these issues, and peer reviewers recently included five pieces on environmental law published in 2014 and 2015. 

Among the selected articles are two from CPR Member Scholar Hannah Wiseman, Professor at Florida State University College of Law, and one from Member Scholar Alejandro Camacho, Professor at the UC-Irvine School of Law. 

The reviewers also designated a longer list of authors and articles as finalists, and CPR Member Scholars were well represented. Robin Kundis Craig, Daniel Farber, Robert Glicksman, Dave Owen, Amy Sinden, and Wendy Wagner all had articles included on the finalist list. 

You can find both lists and links to the scholars' articles …

Sept. 8, 2016 by David Driesen

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Clean Power Plan (CPP) relies, in part, on a pollution reduction strategy – generation shifting – that is at issue in the ongoing lawsuit over the rule. Generation shifting involves increasing use of relatively clean natural gas and renewable energy and reducing use of relatively dirty and expensive coal-fired power plants. Although the technique has lowered power plant emissions significantly in recent years, opponents of the CPP have argued in legal briefs that section 111 of the Clean Air Act precludes relying on generation shifting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. They claim the technique somehow does not lead to reductions at a pollution source, but their argument doesn't hold up under scrutiny. Generation shifting does reduce emissions at each pollution source that takes advantage of the technique and therefore passes muster. 

Some explanation of section 111 and the CPP …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Sept. 30, 2016

'Super Polluters' Under the Microscope

Sept. 29, 2016

Maryland's Environmental and Energy Policy Moving Backward under the Hogan Administration

Sept. 26, 2016

Supreme Court Remains Skeptical of the 'Cost-Benefit State'

Sept. 23, 2016

Federalism Games in the Clean Power Plan Battle

Sept. 21, 2016

Federal Contracting Gets Safer Thanks to New, Common-Sense Regulations

Sept. 20, 2016

New EPA Assessment Shines a Light on a Cause of Chesapeake Bay Woes

Sept. 19, 2016

Landmark California Law Links Emissions Reductions and Environmental Justice Goals